Raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Jim grew up with a belief in the power of business to help solve problems in sustainable, scalable ways to improve the lives of the poor and the emerging middle class around the world.
Jim took the lessons he learned in his childhood and and applied them to his career where he learned early on to proactively pursue investments in new markets where he was able to see business opportunities in previously non-commercial fields—a skill that he would later put to work in his impact investing career.
In 2002, after a decade of development and tens of millions of dollars in investment, the company he had built — Sorenson Media — was primed for commercial success just as the dot com bubble burst and halted the markets. Jim found himself leading a company that had a monthly burn rate of $1 million and whose market demand had all but evaporated.
Jim went back to the drawing board and in collaboration with a hearing-impaired family member realized that they could transition the company’s products to enhance communication for the deaf and hard of hearing. Sorenson Media was well positioned to offer a better service than major telecommunications companies resulting in the successful turnaround of the company (later spun off as Sorenson Communications) while also improving the quality of life for millions of deaf people.
That company went on to be the largest private equity transaction in the state of Utah. On top of that, the company was estimated to have increased employment opportunities for the hearing impaired population by approximately four times. Jim was inspired by this company’s ability to not only make a very positive impact on an often underserved population but also operate with an effective business model and profit that ensured ongoing sustainability. He was intrigued with the idea of finding market solutions to meet the needs of underserved communities and since then he has established the Sorenson Impact Foundation, which invests in scalable, innovative social entrepreneurs, as well as the Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah, which is a “think and do tank” focused on social impact and policy.
Today, Jim spends most of his time and energy in the impact investing field through three key elements:
- investing in early-stage enterprises that lack access to commercial capital and are developing products or services that improve livelihoods for people in poor or marginalized markets;
- investing in creative financial structures that unlock greater flows of capital to scalable innovations and;
- building a vibrant impact investing ecosystem.
Impact investments are only part of Jim’s impact investing work; recognizing that building a robust impact investment market requires a healthy supporting ecosystem. Impact investors, just like conventional investors, depend on the work of researchers, advisors, wealth managers, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and others in order to make well-informed, successful investments.