By Olivia Allen
On November 20, 2013, Miguel Granier, Founder and Managing Director of Invested Development spoke with students earlier at the Social Enterprise Institute’s November lecture series event. Throughout his career, Granier oscillated between the traditional business and the social sectors. Granier served as a loan officer at Accion, a commercial microfinance institution, and was the founding partner of First Light Ventures, a seed stage social investment fund affiliated with Gray Ghost Ventures. In founding Invested Development, an impact investing firm, Granier has struck a balance between the two sectors.
The firm, located in Boston and Nairobi, Kenya invests in enterprise that align with traditional venture capital criteria – for profit enterprises with high risk and high growth potential. What sets Invested Development apart from from a traditional venture capital firms is its narrow focus on capitalizing enterprises in emerging and underserved markets that have developed innovative market-driven solutions within alternative energy, agricultural technology, and mobile technology sectors.
During the lecture, Granier spoke to the unique ability of the private sector to drive solutions to social needs, and cited the huge upswell in demand for mobile phones in the developing world as an example of this phenomenon. The emergence of mobile phone technologies in the developing world has been an integral part of the most innovative solutions to energy, public health, and agriculture, and for this reason, has been a common theme in Invested Development’s portfolio.
One such start up that has proved to be a particularly impactful company within Invested Development’s portfolio is Promethean Power Systems. The social business addresses the gap in electricity access in rural India through producing an efficient, cold-storage solution for the 400 million people who lack access to reliable power sources. This technology – a metal silo that can refrigerate milk for 8-12 hours – serves as an important innovation for the market, as $10 billion worth of perishable food items that spoil each year in India due to unreliable refrigeration. During his lecture, Granier emphasized how the technology is a particularly disruptive for farmers in India who produce 102 million gallons of milk each year. Granier predicts that this innovation will change the diary industry at large through its ability to store milk more efficiently and expand the market for dairy products beyond beyond paneer, which is ubiquitous in India because it doesn’t necessitate refrigeration.
When asked about the impact measurement methods the social businesses in Invested Development’s portfolio uses, Granier noted that many early stage start-ups do not have the capacity to measure their impact, but use metrics instead gauge their impact by how many consumers of the bottom of the pyramid have been reached by their product. In terms of how Invested Development internally evaluates which social enterprises are leveraging the most social impact, Granier, like a true impact investor said, “Whatever is worth taking less return.”