Recently, I along with a group of mid career professionals participated in a 3 day workshop entitled “Break into Impact Investing.”
The workshop consisted of seminars from leading practitioners in the field. They represented organizations such as Village Capital, Accion Venture Lab, Infodev (World Bank), and the Calvert Foundation.
Impact investing is a broad category that addresses many topics of concern around the globe. This workshop devoted much attention go early stage ventures in the developing world.
- The Village Capital seminar for example focused on a case study featuring an a successful entrepreneur turned investor who need to allocate investment dollars between two mission driven startups, and Village capital’s own investment fund and a donation to Village Capital’s non-profit entity.
- Infodev provides funding and support to entrepreneurs in the developing world. The seminar featured a startup in Kenya and dealt with several issues faced by impact investment funds such as how to define success, fund structure, and governance.
- The Accion Venture Lab presentation offered insights on assessing a social venture at its earliest stage.
- The Calvert Foundation discussed fixed income investments in the impact investment context, using vehicles such as the Community Investment Note to fund several kinds of loans to social enterprises, and the Ours to Own campaign to raise capital to revitalize urban centers including Denver, Baltimore, and the Gateway Cities of Massachusetts. The Calvert Foundation is a bit of a departure in that it uses debt instruments for impact investing.
All the presenters gave us frameworks to guide the process of impact investing. They had in common the identification of a value proposition or unmet need, development of a business model, and building a strong management team. It seem the elements of a promising startup are the same regardless of whether or not social impact is a factor.
It is also interesting to note that most of the cases and enterprises discussed were in Asia and East Africa. It was pointed out that Kenya is considered one of the more attractive countries for impact investing. East Africa’s popularity among the impact investment community is largely due to the advanced startup ecosystem in East Africa compared to other parts of the continent. The concerted effort to make Nairobi an African technology hub, plus the impressive regional integration efforts of the East African Community have attracted investment of all kinds including impact investment.
Careers in Impact Investing
In addition to learning about the industry, the workshop included insights on career options in impact investing.
The workshop organizer, Impact Business Leaders is in the talent development business, so the workshop was very much about career development and creating the talent pool for the impact investment industry.
Throughout the weekend career paths were revealed both implicitly and explicitly. Some of them include:
- Portfolio manager – working with financial statements, managing relationships with portfolio companies.
- Analyst/CFO – Overseeing accounting and financial analysis, being a resource to management for understanding financial issues.
- Adviser/Consultant – working directly with entrepreneurs providing advice and technical assistance.