Brief History of Upstart Co-Lab

Since launching in 2016, Upstart Co-Lab has made the case for impact investing in the creative economy; built a coalition of investors who understand the power of art, design, culture, heritage and creativity to drive social impact; and mobilized $45 million of grants and impact capital.


Laura Callanan delivers SOCAP 2013 keynote, spotlighting artists as social entrepreneurs (The Surprise Social Entrepreneur) and explores the resources artist entrepreneurs need to succeed during her 2014 Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship.

As senior deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Laura recognizes the growing number of creatives starting for-profit social purpose businesses across the U.S. requiring access to impact capital.


Upstart Co-Lab launches at an event hosted by cellist Yo-Yo Ma with support from the Ford, Heron, Mellon, Rockefeller, and Surdna foundations.

Impact investing, arts and social sector leaders Catherine H. Clark, Jed Emerson, Jonathan Law, Will Rosenzweig, Surita Sandosham, Joan Shigekawa, Andrew Stern, and Dennis Whittle establish Upstart’s Advisory Board.


Upstart partners with nonprofit real estate developer Artspace using the Calvert Community Investment Note to raise $2.5 million to finance affordable live-work space for artists, demonstrating impact investor interest in art and creativity.

Upstart releases its case statement, A Creativity Lens: Impact investing in the creative economy, and spotlights opportunities in the creative economy with the potential to stabilize threatened communities in Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities, funded by the MacArthur Foundation.


In collaboration with Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Upstart launches the NYC Inclusive Creative Economy Fund to help creative businesses thrive. The fund surpasses its goal by raising $6.2 million.

After reviewing 100+ sustainable and impact funds with $60 billion of aggregate assets, Upstart reports how investing with a creativity lens correlates with diversity, has the potential to deliver market rate returns and an innovative edge (Hiding in Plain Sight: Impact Investing in the Creative Economy).


Upstart publishes research deep dives on impact investing in ethical fashion, sustainable food and social impact media revealing investors are attracted to the creative economy by growing consumer demand for sustainable and ethical business practices – and authentic experiences.

Upstart’s founding partner Laura Callanan is named an ImpactAlpha Agent of Impact for pioneering the Creativity Lens within impact investing.


Upstart’s Member Community advises 10 families, foundations and endowed cultural institutions on impact investment opportunities in the creative economy. 

Starting with 8 museums, a global heritage organization, and an artist-endowed foundation, Upstart opens a Cultural Institution Study Group to help senior leadership learn about values-aligned and mission-related investing, particularly related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Study Group grows to 25 participating cultural organizations in 3 years.

Study Group learnings inform Upstart’s report The Guide: what cultural institutions need to know about investing for values and mission, which address key questions about impact investing and share lessons from first-mover cultural organizations.


To celebrate the United Nations International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, Upstart partners with Nesta’s Arts & Culture Finance (London) and Fundación Compromiso (Buenos Aires) on Creativity, Culture and Capital: Impact investing in the global creative economy, a collection of essays from around the world illustrating how the creative sector delivers social impact and proves that impact investment can support a more just and sustainable global creative economy. Essays by Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation; Sir Ronald Cohen, Chairman of the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment; cellist Yo-Yo Ma; and artist Marta Minujín anchor the report.

Upstart’s 2021 Impact Report details 6 investments closed by the Member Community between 2020-2021.


The Association of Art Museum Directors, The Black Trustee Alliance, and Upstart field the first impact investing survey of U.S. art museums and share findings in Cultural Capital: The state of museums and their investing. Key finding: Only 13% of museums are engaged in impact investing compared to 47% of colleges and universities and 51% of foundations.

The Member Community closes on schedule after 3 years, with Upstart’s 2022 Impact Report detailing the results: $12 million closed and committed in 14 funds and companies. The success of Upstart’s Member Community is highlighted in Forbes, Barron’s and ImpactAlpha.


Upstart publishes The Creator Economy: A guide for impact investors, examining the fast-evolving ecosystem of direct-to-audience platforms and digital tools helping creatives develop, monetize, scale, and maintain control over their work, and outlining how impact investors can ensure diversity, equity, inclusion and access are prioritized as the space grows.

Patricia Farrar-Rivas, Victor Glemaud, Jack Meyercord, Clara Miller, Chris Yeh form Upstart’s new Investment Committee (alongside Laura Callanan) and begin reviewing investment opportunities from Upstart’s proprietary pipeline of 300+ funds and companies.

Upstart launches the Inclusive Creative Economy Strategy, the nation’s first impact investment strategy for the creative economy