Jamy Goewie On Impact Investing and How To Get Successful Finance As A Social Entrepreneur
Jamy Goewie is a serial social entrepreneur, founder of Ashoka Netherlands and currently founding partner of the “Financing Agency for Social Enterprises” (FASE) in the Benelux.
Jamy has worked in both Africa and Asia on the topics of youth unemployment and young entrepreneurship and is currently chairperson to the international NGO Young Africa. In her role for FASE she is constantly looking for social entrepreneurs with great social impact and innovations who are in need of capital to scale their business.
Jamy explores the combined world of social entrepreneurship and impact investing, sharing her insights into creating positive social impact as well as providing tips on how to get financing as a social entrepreneur.
Highlights from the interview (listen to the podcast for full details)
[Jamy Goewie] - Yes, I think I was never supposed to end up in this sector but I did and I'm very happy that it all happened. I started my career when I studied social geography. After that I studied child development and child psychology and I started working in youth care in the Netherlands where I was responsible for getting youth with a criminal background back to either school or work which was quite difficult. So at some point I thought, 'well guys you are already hustling and dealing, you know how to treat your customers, you know how to set prices, so why don't you change your product from drugs into something else? You'll become an entrepreneur and no longer a criminal.' So I worked with KPMG on that whole program in 2002, where we designed entrepreneurship training where we gave them coaching and guidance to actually start their own business. It was a great experience and that was my first organisation actually because I started Be-a-Businessman.nl where children could just log in and apply for training online. Then I scaled that into Africa and Asia where we started to do roughly the same thing but in slum areas; providing training and entrepreneurship coaching and guidance, instead of capital for youngsters in slum areas in Africa and Asia. From there on, Ashoka found me because Ashoka is always looking for new entrepreneurs.
You're of course the Founder and Director of Ashoka Netherlands, with Ashoka being one of the largest networks of social entrepreneurs worldwide. What were some of the key learnings you've taken from your four years there? [03:27]
So Ashoka is quite impressive. They have such a large base of disruptive innovators, people who are really keen on changing the world for the better in their respective fields, who have great stories behind them or great people.
So what I've learned and what is quite impressive for me is the power of the network, especially within Ashoka where everyone is so interconnected.
It's quite powerful to see how all these entrepreneurs connect with each other, not only as Ashoka Fellows but also with innovative schools, with investors and also within the larger field of corporates. So I think that's very impressive that a network can be so powerful. My other learning is more on the challenges of the Ashoka Fellows as social entrepreneurs at large. Finding the right finance for their organisations to grow and to scale.
At first it's easy (if you have a new idea) to find an angel investor or get some money from friends and family to start off or prototype your idea, but after that, when you really want to grow and bring it to scale it's quite difficult to find finance.
A new and exciting milestone for you of course is the FASE Benelux which as we said is a financing agency for social entrepreneurs based in Brussels. What led you to found an organisation which sees a connection of social entrepreneurs and investors all under the one roof? [04:52]
Well FASE started as part of Ashoka Germany which was founded by Markus Freiberg. It really catered to the biggest needs at that time of the Ashoka Fellows who had so many problems scaling their business and finding the right finance.
What we really now call the 'missing middle' or the 'financing gap' is really after the startup phase and before the big growth phase. It's really the phase where you want to scale your organisation, bring more professionals in and start building structures around what you're doing.
You would need roughly between €250k and one million Euros at this stage. This is an amount which is usually too big for foundations or grant makers to provide but it's also not interesting yet for the regular impact investors and it's also too risky. So what we do at FASE is we bring together different kinds of funders. We bring together impact investors and normal investors to see and make sure that these really great social enterprises can be funded.
Could you please tell us a bit more about some of the projects your team are working on FASE? [6:17]
Well I think my favourite story is still from Frank Hoffmann who started Discovering Hands. Here, blind people are able to find breast cancer bumps much better and easier, also when they are still smaller than what an MRI or mammography can pick up. This is one of my favourite ones where we really brought together philanthropists and impact investors on a hybrid model to support the growth of this model which is a great, great organisation.
I can't say what we are currently working on because we're still in the phase of just bringing it to our investors. However, we just finished with Green Tech which is a very interesting organisation in Africa. They are Brussels based but they're working in Africa. They look for technologies or technological innovations in Africa and try to improve on these and also themselves invest with equity. It's a great model. It's one of my favourites and we raised one million Euros for them.
There seems to be some fantastic social impact initiatives coming out of the Benelux area. Living there is that something you've experienced? And if so are there any local programs and initiatives you think are creating some great social impact? [7:24]
Yeah I think the Benelux area is quite dense in social innovation.
I think the Netherlands and U.K. actually are leading the social enterprises and social impact movement at this time. Both are quite evolved ecosystems already.
So obviously what is one of my favourites and also an Ashoka Fellow is Bas van Abel, from Fairphone. They've created a telephone that you don't need to throw away once it doesn't work anymore. Instead you can just change out the different parts when it's broken. So the phone itself is more sustainable but it's also more sustainable in the supply chain where we also see good innovation against mining and over mining et cetera, because phones use a lot of raw materials. I think it's very disruptive.
Another good organisation we have is Jos de Blok from Buurtzorg. It's very interesting as well with self-steering teams in healthcare. I think in general so many technological innovations are popping up and it's quite exciting along these lines actually.
That does sound really exciting! So nice to be amongst all of it as well being in the Benelux region yourself. [8:56]
Yes, yes, definitely. Actually the fun part of my job is meeting so many great social innovators, it's just so pleasing to see what people are working on.
You have a unique perspective that you're not only a social entrepreneur yourself but you also support others in their own social impact endeavours. What are the typical challenges that you see social entrepreneurs coming up against and what advice do you have for anyone battling these challenges? [9:11]
Well of course one thing is finding the money. That's a challenge for social entrepreneurs in general but what we also see more and more now is finding the right team members.
I think for any investor it's quite key to see which team is behind the social enterprise or in the social enterprise.
What I really see and I see this across all sectors within the social enterprise ecosystem, is a lack of really good financial specialists. So obviously we have a lot of people who have a great financial background and want to move into the Social Impact space. This is still very different from having the experience in the social impact space because this is a specific kind or type of financing where you also sort of have to put impact measurements and impact metrics at the centre as well. So we see that it's a really specific field of financing which is rare to find the right people. It's a rare profile.
So when it comes to successfully getting finance as a social entrepreneur what are your top three recommendations you'd make to help other change makers in that journey. [10:38]
Let me just say that what is really really key, is your story and your story line.
Obviously is sounds logical probably to you or to any listener but sometimes the story is very logical to the entrepreneur but not per say to the listeners. So really having an appealing story just takes time and it needs some work. It's always good to get specialists on board that really can help design and create a very clear cut, cool story. So that's one. The other thing is something I mentioned to you already, is about the team. Who do we have on board?
I think almost every investor is really looking for who is in the team, what is their background and what is their experience.
Then number three, is really having your numbers right.
So how are you presenting your numbers and figures, impact figures, financial figures? It's really important for those three points to be clear cut, attractive and appealing and it really helps in your change maker journey.
You're the Chair of the board of trustees at Young Africa International, with the mission to empower young people through skills training for employability and entrepreneurship. I understand the organisation's uniqueness lays in two innovative concepts; the franchise method and their integral approach to youth development. Could you tell us a little bit more about Young Africa and the impact that it's creating? [12:09]
Yes, I love Young Africa! You know they have two great founders Dorien and Raj and they're doing really great work. So their philosophy is quite simple. It basically gives youngsters vocational training and with that, life skill training. Not only do these youngsters have the learnings around a specific profession through their professional training, but they will also learn how to behave professionally and how to stand up for themselves, to take care of themselves and take care of others. So in terms of content, it's quite clear on their approach; they give vocational training and life skill training, at the same time empowering youth through that process. Their business model behind it it is also quite interesting, because they have a very self-sustainable model where they start centres that are run by local entrepreneurs who come from different sectors, who then get the youngsters on board with internships. The fee the children pay for the education goes to the entrepreneurs and to the centres, so that the entrepreneurs don't need to pay rent anymore as it's all covered by the fees of the students. They can then focus on making profit themselves, supporting the students and getting the centre self sustainable. So the centre just needs a one time injection, a one time grant or a one time financial input and then it can become sustainable after three years.
Wow, I can really see from your background why that's something you're involved with. That's great. [14:03]
Yes, I love it. I love the topic. It's just so close to me and to my background.
Looking abroad, which countries do you think are leading the charge when it comes to social entrepreneurship? [14:15]
Yeah interesting question, really really interesting because you could say, like what I mentioned, that U.K. and the Netherlands are leading in terms of social impact ecosystems. So you have social entrepreneurs, you have some policies around that, you have financier's that are educated. There are universities that are doing research around that topic.
In terms of real innovation, I think still the base of the Pyramid innovations, so what we see coming out of India for instance and also from Kenya, is quite exciting.
It's really exciting and it's also often times scalable. These can be very low tech innovations but also high tech innovations such as how to clean water or how to provide local energy on solar resources. So in terms of ecosystem it's it's probably still a little bit here with us, especially in Europe, Netherlands, U.K. and also of course the States.
But real innovations, I see them more and more coming from upcoming economies or emerging economies, so Africa and Asia.
What are some of your favourite tools and processes that you use on a weekly basis to keep all your projects under control and on track? [15:43]
I am using Salesforce and we use that at Ashoka. I still use it and I think it's very comprehensive, you can put everything in there. Then we have Slack and I think Whatsapp is coming, also Viber. The thing is if you work internationally so many people have so many different applications and programs they use. I also just try to see what not to use, because otherwise you're just adapting to each and everyone's different projects. A good CRM system is always nice and Salesforce I've just gotten used to, so I like that one.
To finish up could you please recommend a few great books to inspire and encourage our listeners? [16:46]
Well I think what is always interesting if you're really interested in this topic is to get some of the EVPA publications from their website. It's the European Venture Philanthropy Association and they do a lot of research around what impact investors are looking for, what are best practices and so on. Also, Ashoka has some key books and published articles on the topic. What I really like and is a good read, is Venture Capital for Dummies. If you really want to know the basics about venture capital then that's a good one to start. You can translate that yourself into impact investing. So those three are quite good if you want to learn more about the whole. The ecosystem, logic and the metrics behind it.