Imagine having 20 minutes to pitch your fund to an investor. Now imagine you’re pitching a first time fund in a frontier market, and your audience is a group of 45 investors from around the globe with deep connections in the impact investing world. They have 10 minutes to ask you questions on topics ranging from exits to political stability.
For Capria’s inaugural Cohort, the Fund Managers Forum was both the moment they had been waiting for and one of the most intimidating moments of their careers. One fund manager said that he felt like a nervous school kid again.
In my view, all three teams had passed a trial by fire with flying colours and every audience member I spoke to shared this sentiment.
Food for Thought
I started at Capria a few months ago with a background in financial law, only vaguely aware of the term ‘impact investing’. For the lawyer in me, Capria’s four-week program for emerging fund managers provided plenty of food for thought. The session on drafting the dispute resolution mechanism for the general partnership brought up multiple approaches to the problem, from resolving a deadlock by veto, to bringing in a third party to mediate.
Fund managers also had the chance to discuss the vagaries of complying with anti-corruption policies within specific socio-cultural contexts with experienced fund attorneys. The one thing that quickly became clear was their commitment to ethical practices beyond the de minimus corporate governance standards in their challenging operating environments.
I witnessed the signing of the first master accelerator agreement between Capria and the Cohort teams, detailing acceleration services, warehouse capital, management company investment and access to the Capria network. This went a step beyond the commercial transactions I had seen, representing a deep engagement between Capria and the Cohort.
The customized support each team received was evident in the remarkable difference between their practice sessions and their final pitch at the Capria Fund Managers Forum.
Apart from the insightful discussions, we made the most of the downtime together at the end of hectic days. Whether it was cooking up a meal together or boating on Lake Washington, we discovered hidden (culinary and other) talents in our fund managers!
At the end of the Intensive, I came away with a unique understanding of the “missing middle” gap that these fund managers will fill by financing businesses impacting communities in emerging markets. What stood out for me were the interactions I had with a diverse group of people, all pursuing the goal of sustainable long-term investments in frontier markets.
There was another lesser-acknowledged issue that faced the fund managers, and it significantly altered my view of professional advice. Fund managers currently rely on goodwill with contacts or seek reduced fees for tax and legal advice on fund structuring based on the impact fund’s mission. I believe that this challenge can be addressed by the collective will of the legal, accounting and venture capital industry. In fact, there is collaboration to produce comprehensive research on choice of domicile thereby reducing the information asymmetry that raises the cost of legal and accounting advice.
As Capria continues to grow its network to provide access to cost-effective legal and accounting resources, I was pleased to be part of the experience and help fund managers navigate questions on structuring so they could spend more energy on fund raising and investing.
The Capria internship
I applied for an internship to Capria with a mix of curiosity, trepidation and eagerness just a month after Capria was officially launched. Capria had some pretty lofty goals, and I wasn’t expecting the systematic approach to investing, not the least of which was screening applications from 37 countries for our most recent cohort.
Buoyed by the success of an action-packed first Intensive, Capria is currently preparing for its next cohort with even higher energy levels. I know future interns will find themselves, as I did on some of the busiest days, taking on more responsibilities than they could have imagined, but unwinding at a team dinner with a feeling of accomplishment.
I feel fortunate to be part of a team that is both incredibly hard working but still finds the time to make sure interns have an enriching learning experience. If you are looking to proactively contribute to Capria’s systems and processes as well as build out your network to include some of the most influential thought leaders in the impact investing industry, there’s no better time to apply.