Daniel Kranzler, the Senior Partner under whom I worked for the last 8 months, has a metaphor he likes to use when describing what it is like to be at Capria.
When you are an entrepreneur at an operating company, more often than not you are in the thick of things – engulfed in the mud, the weeds, the jungle, the dense and complex environment of building a business in a dynamic and competitive landscape, constantly focused on building your team, your product, your customer base, and whether you have enough runway to survive to the next round of funding. You’re an expert in your industry and your market. Maybe it’s mobile payments in Indonesia or consumer packaged goods in Ethiopia. Crises are fast and frequent as you struggle for market share, growth, and capital within your geography and vertical.
Zoom out to the next level, that of the of the direct investor, or the General Partner. The General Partner has a broader view of things – seeking to spread risk, they probably focus on a few industries and geographies within their strategy, whether it be debt, venture, or private equity. If they maintain good deal flow discipline, they’ll meet with dozens to hundreds of operators a year, listening to the market and seeking to get ahead of trends and opportunities. While still worrying about the health of their existing portfolio companies, the GP, provided they are at a relatively established firm, is generally engaged in less of a daily life-or-death struggle than the operating entrepreneur.
They can afford to be more generalist, more focused on the larger ecosystem and how macro trends have the potential to affect prospective and existing investments. At the same time, based on interactions with their own investors (the Limited Partners), the GP gets a sense of how the rest of the world is perceiving their market. How are European high net worth individuals thinking about the private equity space in East Africa? How risky do pension fund managers see venture debt investing in Southeast Asia?
Arrive at cruising altitude, the unique place in the ecosystem occupied by Capria Ventures. As a global fund-of-funds focused on identifying, training, and investing in local fund managers in emerging markets, Capria sees the big picture, and working there as a Special Assistant, I was exposed to the highest level of global investing on a daily basis.
Maybe I would wake up before dawn to have a check-in call with a portfolio fund in Zimbabwe. How is the current economic climate affecting their ability to raise capital from development finance institutions? How can we help catalyze fundraising attention with strategic investments into their fund? Next, maybe I would get on a call with a prospective fund from Brazil looking to join the Network – they’re pitching a deal to us so we can gauge how they think about investments in their market.
I’ve read the deck in advance and prepared a few questions on their geography and strategy, and after a productive conversation we decide to advance them to the next level of our investment process. Perhaps next in this hypothetical day at Capria I would get on a network workshop call. Today, 20 fund managers from around the world, from Turkey to Peru, are sharing best practices on how to structure their LP advisory committee. Afterwards, I have a quick coffee break (it’s probably only around 10am at this point), before diving into a call with a potential investor in Capria – it’s the CEO of a family office in Dubai who has recently been hearing a lot of interest in impact investing, so he reached out to understand the state of the global landscape and how they might intelligently make impact-oriented fund investments without sacrificing returns.
As the Earth spins and Europe, Africa, and Asia start to go offline, the pace of calls relaxes and desk work begins. First up is researching some companies in Capria Network fund’s portfolios to identify promising co-investment opportunities. Next, putting together some slides explaining Capria’s impact proposition and how it’s fund investments in India are catalyzing job creation and positive outcomes in health and education. In the afternoon I’ll be reviewing a grant proposal as we look to partner with a corporate foundation in order to expand a program empowering startup accelerators to more effectively build scalable ventures in emerging markets. I close out the day by making some changes to a session on negotiating deals that Capria will be delivering in its upcoming “Intensive,” when it will bring 15 fund managers to Seattle for two weeks to learn about running an impact fund.
This is life at cruising altitude. In the course of any given day I have (albeit virtually) been around the world, interacting with LP’s, GP’s, and portfolio companies in a dozen countries. I may have spoken with governments through development finance institutions, philanthropists and billionaires, corporations and entrepreneurs, and investors of all stripes. My position at Capria brought me to the GIIN Forum in Amsterdam, where I mingled among 1,200 top impact investors, to Paris, where I spent several months supporting the Africa team, to Seattle, where I spent a month working on the Intensive with funds from all over the world.
The metaphor of cruising altitude is not to suggest that the life of a global fund-of-funds investor is smooth and aloof – as a relatively young fund itself, often working with first-time fund managers, Capria provides all of the excitement and challenges of a startup operating on untrodden ground. The world of emerging markets impact investing is still in its nascency, and some of its biggest questions remain unresolved.
This means that people working in impact today can have an outsized influence on the development of the field as a whole, like working in Silicon Valley in the 90’s, Hollywood in the 30’s, or marketing in the 20’s. And in this new field of impact investing, which is the subject of both praise and criticism, unbounded optimism matched by undue skepticism, in the face of an unknown but exciting future, Capria occupies the center, positioned among and between all the stakeholders in the entire global ecosystem.
Today’s world is at a crossroads, increasingly globalized, facing cross-border challenges in healthcare, climate, and wealth distribution, political upheaval and mass migration, with technological tsunamis transforming entire industries and countries. And as humanity looks to collaborate to address these issues head-on, what better place to be than in the pilot’s seat?
When I started this fellowship, I was about as clueless about my future as any other recent college graduate, vaguely aware of a desire to make a difference and hopefully travel (again, pretty much like most other college graduates). After working at Capria for 8 months, I believe that for someone in the position I was in when I began, there is no better way to fully understand the picture of how the world of overseas investing towards impact operates, and how one can contribute to its advancement.
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