By Katie Powers
The Social Enterprise Institute kicked off the Spring 2018 Speaker Series with Miguel Granier, founder and managing director of Invested Development (ID) based in Boston. Founded in 2009, ID invests in early-stage tech startups that help deliver innovative solutions to social problems in underserved markets. With a focus on telecommunications, energy, and agriculture technology, ID has made 58 investments in 18 companies across 7 countries.
Granier has a passion for helping the poor. He previously worked as a Loan Officer at Accion, a global nonprofit microfinance institution. However, he struggled with the fact that nonprofits have to spend the same amount of time (if not more) raising money, as they do working toward their mission, whereas businesses generate money and can be more productive with their time. Therefore, Granier left the nonprofit space to focus on building his brand in the impact investing space.
Granier learned that despite little to no income, there is a lot of money circulated in poor communities. Due to high density and close proximity in places like Kibera in Nairobi (the largest urban slum in Africa), millions of transactions take place every day. With the help of M-Pesa, a disruptive mobile banking technology that helps facilitate these quick transactions, countries have re-based their GDP after learning how much cash is actually flowing through slums.
Drawn to this relatively untapped market, as well as a desire to make meaningful social change, Granier began building his brand online and in person by publishing blogs and attending many conferences to develop his venture. Funding for ID came from a partnership with a Family Office in Atlanta. High net worth individuals who aligned with Granier’s objective financed the initial investments, motivated not just by returns, but by social impact as well.
The companies that ID targets must have a large depth of impact, earn revenue and be able to scale on their own. They also must be an innovative tech solution to a poverty-related problem. For example, ID invests in BRCK — a company valued at over $30 million that developed a rugged tablet device that creates its own wifi hotspot to bring education software and connectivity to classrooms. ID also invests in Rowbot, a company that has developed a self-driving vehicle that reduces the amount of nitrogen needed to achieve high crop yields, thus reducing negative environmental externalities.
While Granier highlighted all of the benefits of his work, he also warned students about the downsides of impact investing. He doesn’t spend all of his time jetsetting off to go on camping safaris in Kenya, embark on wild adventures in India, or spontaneously run half marathons in Africa — only some of his time. The other time is spent on spreadsheets and as a board member for many of the companies ID invests in, making tough decisions for what’s best for each company.
With all of ID’s capital fully deployed in the 18 companies, Granier has been strategizing about what’s next for ID and impact investing generally. He speculates that blockchain and cryptocurrencies are going to transform the industry since they dramatically lower exchange rates and reduce transaction costs. He suggests that students learn as much as they can about this new technology because it will soon be integrated into all aspects of our lives.
Learn more about Invested Development here.