Investing with a Digital Rights Lens.

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The Framework

The RightsWise framework helps investors consider five categories of startup capacity to manage digital rights impacts, adding a digital rights lens to decisions about whether to invest, and how to support startups post-investment.

The RightsWise framework also categorizes various practices that startups can implement as they grow to better anticipate and avoid harm, and build stronger companies that are good for society.

Explore the Framework


Why do we need RightsWise investing?

Technology affects nearly every aspect of our lives. Yet, trust in tech is falling. This decline is driven in large part by the power and impunity of Big Tech companies, whose market dominance makes it difficult to hold them accountable for the ways they cause harm to people and society.

By bringing a digital rights lens to product and business model decisions, smart founders and their investors can invest in an ounce of prevention that saves significant time and money down the line.

What’s in it for startups and their investors?

Unlike Big Tech, startups that cause harms to people and society (whether intentionally or not), are more likely to feel a business impact as a result of those harms — either by losing user trust and growing more slowly, getting pulled into crisis communications, spending precious time and money on legal proceedings, or preparing for congressional questioning.

As your company grows, there are foundational practices and governance to put into place to support maturing into a rights-respecting company, while also supporting growth.

Why focus on digital rights impacts specifically?

A core principle of bringing a digital rights lens to startup investing and company building is understanding that digital rights are about people and communities. Specifically, digital rights refer to the ways in which technology affects how people access and exercise their human rights.

What are data and digital rights, exactly?

Digital rights are human rights as they are impacted by digital technologies or appear in the digital context. This model focuses on addressing the umbrella categories of digital rights and human rights in order to help users consider the broad impacts of products and business models on all rights.

What does RightsWise Investing look like in practice?

ASSESS: Evaluate founder/startup commitment to manage digital rights impacts, and progress to date across practice categories.

PLAN: Agree on priorities for RigthsWise capacity building for the next 12-18 months.

OPTIONAL: Document founder/startup commitment in deal docs or otherwise.

Why hasn’t venture capital adopted this?

Ecosystem gaps create barriers to action for investors with limited time and resources. With no one to help investors learn and access the tools or support they need to start taking action, it’s no wonder investors haven’t made much progress in bringing a digital rights lens to their investing.

Three ways RightsWise helps investors take action on digital rights Investing?

  1. Fundraise Faster - LPs increasingly want GPs who consider and manage environmental and social impacts of both their own operations and their portfolio
  2. Win More Deals - Many founders want investors who can help think about their social purpose and how they can innovate responsibly. Some are even willing to spend more time in diligence to find the right investors.
  3. Realize Better Returns - Later stage investors “would be willing to pay about a 10% median premium to acquire a company with a positive record for ESG issues over one with a negative record.” (source ESG Primer for Startups)