University of Wisconsin (BBA)
University of Chicago Law School (JD)
Associate, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Emory University (BA)
University of St Andrews (Scotland) (GD)
University of Chicago Law School (JD)
We have very different investment approaches. I (Ebba) am more conservative and perfectly fine with putting our money into mutual funds, bonds and ETFs, while Euler is willing to take more calculated risks, picking individual stocks and investing in early stage companies. Fortunately for him, he’s done well and hasn’t made any major mistakes so I keep extending his leash ☺ On the whole, we take a balanced, long-term view on the investments we make and our focus is on capital appreciation.
Where do we start? Entrepreneurs in developing countries face many of the same challenges that entrepreneurs in developed countries face – access to capital, finding the right employees, finding the right product/market fit, dealing with legal/regulatory challenges, etc. But, no disrespect to entrepreneurs in the developed world, it is orders of magnitude harder to build a successful business in developing countries. Capital is more scarce and very expensive if you can get it. It’s much harder to find the people with the right skills needed to build a business. The legal/regulatory environment is extremely difficult to navigate. We could go on and on.
We’re both Africans. Euler was born in Liberia and lived there until he was 9-years old when he and his family emigrated to the U.S. to escape the Liberian Civil War. The time he spent living through the war has shaped who he is and how he handles everything in life. Because of that experience, he’s had a strong desire to contribute towards the development of Liberia and other countries across Africa for pretty much his whole life. My family is from Ethiopia and my father has dedicated his professional life to increasing agricultural productivity on the continent. Seeing him pour so much energy into addressing issues around food security in developing countries has influenced my desire to contribute towards development in those countries.
We were already investing in early stage companies in developing countries and I (Euler) kept meeting extremely talented entrepreneurs building viable businesses but we didn’t have enough capital to invest in all of them. In law school, we had a chance to hear Premal Shah (Kiva’s President & Co-founder) speak and loved what Kiva was doing to increase the flow of capital to developing countries. Since Kiva was founded in 2005, their platform has allowed over 1 million people to lend more than $800 million to entrepreneurs around the world. We hope that VestedWorld can achieve similar scale and impact.
History and past trends definitely factor into our investment decisions, especially as they relate to economic development. We believe that economic development follows a pattern and that while developing countries have cultural, geographic and political factors that will affect how they develop, the core parts of any economy are the same. We can learn from what has worked elsewhere as invest in developing countries.
We do not think that returns and impact are mutually exclusive. At this stage in our lives, as we continue to save for a rainy day, retirement, and college education for future kids, while also paying off remaining student loans, it’s incredibly important to us that we maximize the returns we earn on our investments. However, we want to make a difference in the world around us. In law school, we started lending money to micro-entrepreneurs around the world through Kiva and felt really good about the impact that made in their lives, but we felt that we should get a return on our loans. By investing a limited amount of our portfolio in early stage companies in developing countries, we can help fund the businesses that are going to fuel sustained economic growth in the last economic frontiers (providing jobs and helping improve living standards – true impact) while also earning attractive risk-adjusted returns.