It has been a life-long quest: I am drawn to solving big problems while helping others, but I have a range of limitations. I am driven by a combination of my brain’s innate compulsion to tackle complexity and my heart’s desire to help society, yet I lack the natural skills to connect with a wider community. My mum used to tell me off for the number of note-filled sheets of paper strewn all over our home as early as I could scribble a line. My colleagues at work are often overwhelmed by the amount of papers, articles, emails, and late-night SMS and Slack messages I fire off as soon as they exit my brain. I love to share ideas and to spot, predict and solve problems. The result of all of this has been almost a decade of social entrepreneurship, two startups and one exit. The latest start-up being Gifftid Inc. incubated as I framed the business reflecting on my entrepreneurship journey, and listening, learning, being inspired by the three programmes I have taken at Saïd Business School. The social finance, impact measurement and impact investing programmes, run over six months, enabled me to form the business with several of my classmates, who validated the idea and shared their interest to execute the purpose and vision: to bridge the divide between social enterprises and their investors with the passion to solve wicked problems, allowing impact capital to find investees that market ready.
Finding my space
On the first day at the Social Finance Programme, listening to all the other participants gave me goosebumps and controlled tears. I had finally found my space with people with whom I immediately felt comfortable. Like-minded people who wanted to solve some of the world’s hardest problems. I didn’t hesitate to share my entrepreneurship journey, mistakes and all. The concept of social finance was new to me, but the books, pre-reads, case studies, and experiences of my classmates helped me realise that my pitch was misaligned with potential investors I had approached at my first venture, Self-Care Catalysts (SCC). SCC had a strong social purpose, to impact patient health outcomes, yet I was pitching to investors whose investment thesis don’t put much weight on social impact. I always wondered why nobody ever asked me why I built the company and often felt uncomfortable seeing some companies getting a lion’s share of the capital while the majority could not find a penny. In the Social Finance Programme, I learned the concept of theory of change, and the different approaches in financing structures, adopting blended capital beyond angel investors, VCs, and PE firms that I am familiar with, to catalyse growth and scale.
Quickly, I formed a mental framework of the unique financing and organisation infrastructures, motivations, challenges, and opportunities that could increase the investment pipeline for impact investors. An alignment of all stakeholders needs to be in place from the get-go. It is a long, often arduous process, requiring courage and resilience integrated with traditional business discipline and an impact-driven investing framework. However, the end-goal, for social impact, is deeply rewarding. Impact investing demands a mindset shift that could power the growth of the social economy. There are many social enterprises with compelling solutions to help solve social and economic problems, but they require upskilling and patient impact capital infusion to realise their impact outcomes. Social finance may not yet be an industry for everybody, but I believe it will become the standard as more people discover that making money while making a difference is the pathway of the future. Further, if we are to rally behind the UN’s SDG30 goals, the adoption of ESG Frameworks, and evolve the corporate sustainability goals, we will be able to create an ecosystem that is orchestrated and facilitated by digital transformation and the enabling of diverse community talent to align stakeholder interests. This will be crucial to unlocking human, intellectual, and financial capital. Such a process could help kickstart the generation of the impact outcomes data and intelligence that impact investors, from venture philanthropy, family offices, foundations, VCs and institutional investors need to make impact-driven, informed decisions. This will open the pathway for broader capital markets to continue to find new channels to invest while contributing to a better society. We would be enabling more social entrepreneurs to have confidence and be ready to step out and execute with the deployment of more impact capital.
Connected with like-minded people
During the course of my programmes, I found kindred-spirits, my classmates who shared the same purpose and passion. They are practitioners, experts on the ground with whom I struck a connection with when I presented the problem I wanted to solve and the solution that could address it. Between my social finance, impact measurements and monitoring programmes, several of my colleagues expressed interest and commitment to help form a company. Gifftid Inc was born.
So where do I go from here?
We seek to explore and find impact investing opportunities, and support social entrepreneurs, impact-minded corporations, and investors who are ready to listen to new ideas, take on risks to invest, and help create solutions to solve some of the world’s wicked problems. Ultimately, we at Gifftid, hope to drive systems change in healthcare, climate action, and education while supporting increased women’s participation in purposeful wealth creation. I am a small voice in a massive world, but now inspired, supported by my co-founders at Gifftid and a larger, more global community, to participate in increasing the number of social entrepreneurs who can succeed financially while working for a purpose, giving confidence to the investors who could unlock more impact-driven capital.