Can you tell us a little about your professional background?

My 20-year career can be split into two. The first half was working in corporate America in various operations and business development roles. Along the way, I also earned an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. For the last 10 years I've been a serial entrepreneur, starting several companies - some good successes and some even better failures. I ran my last company, a US-based software & data analytics company, for 7 years. Last year we hired a "real" CEO to take my place, and that has given me the opportunity to focus more on impact investing.

How did you become interested in impact investing, and why East Africa?

For me, I stumbled into impact investing without knowing it was called as such. I have always believed that business has a transformational impact on society - for better and for worse. So I've always wanted to build businesses that changed lives - inside the company and out. 

It was a confluence of events a couple of years ago when I was challenged to steward my "time, talent, and treasure" more strategically. I have always loved start-ups, and naturally I have really enjoyed using my time and talent coaching and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. I also wanted to take smart risks with my "treasure." Putting that all together, I have now invested in six companies in Kenya and am interested in doing more.

My family and I lived in Kenya for three years. Our desire was to equip and empower Kenyans to lead and serve their fellow Kenyans. I began meeting entrepreneurs in Nairobi one on one for coffee. One coffee turned into a hundred (can't go wrong with a double cappuccino at Ankole Grille!) and the rest is history. 

What is your involvement with TBN?

I got to know some of the TBN Nairobi guys through mutual friends from my many coffees. We all became fast friends and we were finishing each other's sentences. We were passionate about common themes - utilizing business to end poverty, servant leadership, being intentional about building culture, and how to come alongside entrepreneurs well. I have mentored several TBN entrepreneurs, and have on-going mentoring relationships with a few.  Hopefully this doesn't sound contrite, but I truly believe that I am getting more out of these relationships than they are - mentoring done well is always a two-way street.

Do you feel you have learnt anything (about the world/Africa/yourself) or been surprised by anything through investing in a developing market?

There are too many learnings and surprises to count! I'd say the main two things I've learned are the importance of humility and the importance of relationship. 

I have to remind myself to keep asking the extra question. Far too often, I assume things based on my mostly-American worldview and am clueless as to what's actually going on. I'm finding that my individualistic American mindset is actually the outlier (for better and for worse!). To be successful in a developing market, I think having the attitude of a belonger and a learner is crucial. I was even learning quite a bit of Swahili. 

Secondly, relationships are key. This is a well-worn topic, but even in this world of increasing technology, there is simply no replacement for face to face interactions.  Also, when meeting someone new, I like to start with the person, not the pitch. Sometimes I don't even hear the actual pitch until the second or third meeting. It's about connecting with people more authentically and finding out the "why" and "who" before the "what" and "how." 

Would you recommend impact investing to others?

I could easily answer, "Yes! Everyone should do impact investing!" but my real answer is not necessarily.  First of all, "impact investing" is a loaded and recently-overhyped term. Its meaning has been hijacked and diluted, and so, we'd need to define it properly with realistic expectations.

Secondly, emerging markets have real market risks - this is not for everyone. Living through an election cycle in Kenya (where the Supreme Court nullified an election result) gave me a great appreciation for how quickly a business and political landscape can change. Nonetheless, I think most intentional investors will want to have a conversation about how we can invest our money in ways that aligns with our passions and values. We are slowly learning about all of this also. My wife and I have agreed that we will set aside a percentage of our net worth and annual income to impact investing in Kenya.

Find out more about Kinyungu Ventures here.