It’s no phase, it’s a way of life.
– The Phantoms
In November 2019, during one of my international management courses with Dr. Arie T. Barendregt RM MBA, who exhales strategy like the CO2 he expels, asserts that to know anyone requires a methodic Google search about the person of interest, on social media platforms.
In retrospect, I decided whether it was because I saw this as an opportunity to get educated feedback about my online and social media presence, or the fact that I can help myself to poke every ray of the sun that will permit me to poke them.
So, offering myself as a guinea pig, I feigned a challenge to him to prove his statement by asking him to make a judgment about me from my social media presence, via my Instagram profile.
As he beamed my account to the entire class and scrolled through my Instagram feed, I was assailed with a hurricane of vulnerability, yet I masked my vulnerability, in a cloak of confidence as I asked, “So what can you say about me, so far?”
The Purpose-Seeking Trance
He said, “You love art, you’re a liberal, you probably consider yourself partly a scientist and an artist.” He ended with, “You seem to be looking for purpose, or you’re driven by purpose.”
I was awestruck by his last statement, on ‘purpose’. In truth, before then, I have been tagged and teased that I am purpose-seeking drunk. There has always been a part of me that refuses to believe that I’m created to simply go through the mundane cycle of eating, sleeping, working, and dying.
So, Dr. Arie, if you ever come across this, I believe you, and I thank you for taking on my challenge to prove the practicality in your wisdom.
I have come across very few who understand my purpose-seeking trance. One of the few persons happens to be Amy Abdou, my thesis supervisor, who exercised the most patience I have witnessed yet.
But, here I go again, getting ahead of myself and not taking you, my reader, along.
In my last article, I outlined the series of this article, where this article will focus on Impact Investment. And to do that will require how I discuss the following:
1. My Thesis
2. My Internship
“Wow! Fisayo, that is a grand topic. Will you be able to pull it off?” This was how a friend exclaimed when I answered her question, “What will your thesis be about?”
And, I replied, “My thesis will be about investigating the effects of Climate Change and the rise of Artificial Intelligence on the Global Economy.”
And, for over six months, this was my reply to anyone who asked me about my thesis.
You may ask, “What inspired in me such an intrinsic title?”
Firstly, in the first three months of my MBA, 80% of the headlines I saw, or events I attended had a sustainability theme around them. And, for some reason, I can’t explain, I felt it in my bones, that my decision to get an MBA in Finance, to enable me to help businesses grow, was a decision based on staled information, because, in my first three months, it dawned on me that about 40% of what is regarded as work in Africa is being automated here, in Europe.
Hence, it will only profit me, career-wise, to investigate this in my thesis.
Secondly, I never wrote an academic thesis before, because, during my first degree, which is Computer Science, my final project required that I come up with a real-life software or application, where I had to do this with a classmate. We decided to write a hotel management software. However, since we were two, it felt too easy for me.
So, now that I can choose a topic without considering if the other party will agree or not, I might as well choose a grand topic, which will compensate both my inquisitive mind and my untamed hubris to attempt the difficult.
The Narrow Escape From Procrastination
So, after I had passed all the first semester courses of my MBA, it was time to start working on my thesis. But, in the first week of my second semester, I had a group project to work on with my colleagues. And, this group project happened to be a defining moment in both my professional career and personal life.
This group project was centered around Otto Scharman and Katrin Kaufer’s book, ‘Leading From The Emerging Future, From Ego-System To Eco-System Economies’. Though the group project required that we read only the first three chapters, I was eager to read the entire book.
My exposure to this book, helped me to refine the title of my thesis because I decided to write on ‘Venture Capital roles in an Eco-System Economics,’ as described by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer.
When I was writing the thesis proposal for the above title, I understood the reason why everyone I told about my thesis intention exclaimed. Though I like to think of myself as a wordsmith, an academic paper requires every line to be both fact-checked and relevant to your title.
When I received the score of my research proposal, I sighed, “Phew…” because I scaled the passing grade by just 9%, which was a miracle to me, because I let procrastination get the best of me, and I began writing it 18hrs before the deadline – I’m sure now you understand my “Phew…”
“Apprenticeship is a proven model for developing a skilled workforce.”
– Eugen Scalia
At the end of August 2019, I realized if I was serious about getting into the Venture Capital(VC) industry, it was time I ensured that I get an internship in a VC firm.
So, I came up with a plan, to search out all the VC industries operating in Amsterdam, find people who work in these firms on LinkedIn, find their emails and email them, or send them a LinkedIn message. I planned to send five such emails a day.
But, on the first day of my resolution, by noon, lady luck rewarded my exercise and determination not with an internship, but with mentorship, with a renowned name in the global venture capital space (I didn’t ask his permission to name him in my article, yet), who not only gave me his time to ask all my questions but also recommended to me three books I like to call the textbooks for everyone and anyone in the VC or entrepreneurial industry.
And, before the end of December, I had secured my internship for the first six months of 2020, with the help of a friend of a friend.
On December 20th, I had my internship interview or meeting with the CEO of the Dutch financial Advisory firm that operates in East Africa. The interview ended with me being tasked to read up all I could on impact investment before I resumed on January 6th, 2020.
I spent my 2019 Christmas and New Year holiday reading up on all I could on Impact Investment.
“The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking, don’t settle.” – Steve Jobs
Change, Change, and Change
As always, with new information and awareness comes a change of mind and perspective. Hence, by mid-January of 2020, I knew I had to change my thesis title because from my holiday reading, I realized I was 15 years late to investigate ‘Venture Capital roles in an Eco-System Economics,’ as described by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer.
I discovered that for over fifteen years, Amit Bouri, the leading authority figure of impact investment, and the founder of the Global Impact Investment Network (GIIN), has paved the way for the roles of Venture Capital firms in Eco-System Economies.
Again, fate smiled at me, because when I discussed my dilemma with the CEO, of the company I was doing my internship with, he gave me the option of writing my thesis on the company.
Realizing, that the company’s ultimate goal was to be the go-to financial advisory firm in the African region they operate, I changed my thesis title to a ‘Competitive strategy for (Company Name) in the Impact Investment Sector, in East Africa’. This meant I had to write another thesis proposal of four thousand words.
Knowing that this decision was mine to make, it also required the consent of Amy Abdou, my thesis supervisor. Mind you, by now, the Netherlands was already on lockdown. So, I had to ask for her consent over the phone.
I remember having my fingers crossed throughout that phone call. In summary, we ended that phone call agreeing that I would come up with the first draft of my new research proposal within two weeks.
And, with the understanding of the CEO and my newfound drive, I was able to meet the deadline.
However, by now, this was April, and the entire globe was in lockdown, and businesses globally were adapting to the challenges of work caused by the lockdown. Thus, it was hard for me to follow through on the survey required for my thesis.
And Change Again
So, at the end of May, with just one month left to complete my thesis, and just 38% of my survey answered, I assessed my timeline. I realized that if I was going to meet the deadline of my thesis, which was set for August, it meant I had to choose from two options.
One, change my thesis title and pay for an online service, that helps students with their thesis.
Two, change my thesis title and increase my deadline by another three months.
Well, remembering the ‘why’ of my MBA journey, I chose option two, though I knew it will cost me unplanned or unbudgeted funds to have my visa extended for another three months. It was better than having to pay someone, and rob myself of the gift to complete my own MBA thesis.
And, that’s how the grand topic of my thesis was transformed to the practical title of ‘What are The Critical Success Factors for Venture Capital Firms to Create and Sustain a Competitive Advantage’, which I completed in record time.
I withheld the academic part of this article till the end, with the hope that it will help you have a holistic view of my journey so far. So, now, I will briefly explain the relationship between Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s book, ‘Leading From the Emerging Future’ and Impact Investment.
Summary of Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s Book
This book struck a chord within every molecule in me, because of its simplicity and laser form dissection of what I noticed in the world but did not have the words to express.
The book outlined the major issues of our modern world into three major divides, which are ecological, social, spiritual-cultural divides, where these divides cause eight disconnects within our society.
Also, it stated the evolution of eight disconnects from evolution or stages from 0.0 to evolution 4.0, where stage 0.0 represents human dependence on mother nature and solely lived on his instincts, where the extreme stage of 4.0, represents human awareness of earth’s eco-system, and now realizes that importance for collaboration and co-creation.
Finally, they provided concrete ideas of ways we can create practices and become agents of change at individual levels, and help bring about the emerging future. Thus, enabling us to think in system thinking, and raise our consciousness and awareness to a new way of operating in our economies, organizations, and households.
What is Impact Investment
According to my findings from EBAN, GIIN, several academic papers, and online entries on Impact investment, I can confidently summarize that it is an investment where the investor has a primary focus or preference that the invested capital is used to improve society or the environment and making financial return or profit on the invested capital a secondary focus or preference.
Also, from the GIIN 2018 report, I gathered the following:
1. Over half of the impact investors target both social and environmental objectives.
2. The average return of Impact investments is 13%.
3. Over 228.1 Billion is the value of Assets Under Management of Impact Investment Managers.
4. Investors focused on emerging markets make more investments than investors focused on developed markets.
5. The top locations that raise capital are:
a. United States & Canada.
b. South and Sub-Saharan Africa.
c. Latin America.
Where the major challenges are:
1. Impact washing: This is when financial firms use the term impact investors to mislead investors or the public so that they can gain the status of being responsible in the marketplace.
2. Professionals with relevant skills in Impact Investment.
3. Sophisticated Impact measurement.
I am sure you now see why my research title is ‘Venture Capital roles in an Eco-System Economy,’ as described by Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer because Impact Investment happens to outline the roles that Venture Capital Firms will play in an Eco-System Economy.
On the surface, it might seem that the unknown-unknowns when I started my MBA journey, cut the wings of my hubris of delivering a grand thesis. Embracing these unknown-unknowns has allowed me to be invited as a guest speaker in a webinar, be a guest lecturer to IES students, and also as a guest on a radio show, to talk about Impact investing, and how business can make a social impact, and you can find a webinar I was also invited as a guest speaker to talk on how Businesses can make Social Impact below.
In the next article, I will share with you the effects of Impact Investing in High-Income Countries, Low, and Medium Income Countries. And, in the last article in this article series, you will not only agree that I was created to build the Le Relief Enterprise Platform, but you will see how the LRE platform will improve lives globally, beyond capital provided by impact investments.
Dear reader, thank you, for reading to the end. And, as always, I remain radically open-minded to your comments and suggestions, you have in improving my thoughts. Thanks in advance.