“Since this opportunity, I now realize how valuable it is to hear about people’s experiences who have been there, including their impressions and insights and what they found compelling,”
Begin with the end in mind. Luni Libes has coached, mentored, and funded many international entrepreneurs (and even one who we met in Nairobi!) through his Fledge accelerator program, but IC Investor Days: Nairobi was Libes’ first experience in Africa. For someone going on his or her first impact investing trip, Libes suggests having an investment budget in mind before boarding the airplane.
When you focus on what you’ll invest in instead of if you’ll invest, your mindset shifts to possibility. Libes explains,
“This way you are leaning forward into conversations, seeing answers to the question of ‘is this the right investment?’ rather than worrying about all of the added risks of investing in the developing world.”
Anticipate and appreciate cultural differences. A fascinating and fun part of the trip for Libes was to seek out the tiny but meaningful differences in how things work.
“The first of these was on the ride to the hotel from the airport, when the driver ignored the red light, and when asked, said it was just there to ‘make Nairobi pretty.’ Similar assumptions hide in plain sight across all interactions between people from different cultures, with no exceptions for business and investing,” says Libes. Understand that differences in culture transcend into business –exceptional hospitality, unhurried meetings, leisurely tea ceremonies, etc. – and appreciate that this is all part of the experience.
Start building your network on the ground. Stephanie Wilson has made international investments, traveled to East Africa twice, and serves on IC’s Global Health Advisory Board (GHAB). She started her work in Kenya by gathering introductions and building local relationships.
“I’ve learned the importance of tapping into resources in the States and establishing relationships with resources on the ground in East Africa. Before your trip, use local resources like the GHAB. Learn from them. Use them to find out who is on the ground. Then, on your first day, set up lunch and talk with those locals. Let their expertise begin your experience.” Tap your network now, and let referrals be your initial guide.
Be prepared to work together. Wilson focuses on building relationships that lead to collaborating on investments. She suggests investing with other people to better understand early-stage investing, the global health sector, and emerging international markets. Wilson says,
“I learn from local investors, and they learn from me. I learn from other Western investors, and they learn from me. And all together, we are stronger.”
Continue learning with us. Wilson is excited for the Global Health Interest Group launch, sharing, “It will be a great resource for people who want to invest, a valuable part of the vetting process, and ultimately, a tool to help move money into East Africa.” Come back next week to read more and register here for the Global Health Interest Group kickoff webinar on July 19th.