In previous episodes of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, we’ve explored the world of impact investing, a field that combines financial returns with social impact. As conscious women, we’re excited by this industry that places emphasis on initiatives deeply valued and dear to our hearts, like the environment and health care. Impact investing is currently a $60 billion marketplace, and it’s only continuing to grow.
In episode 20, Podcast Editor Polina Selyutin speaks with Victoria Fram, managing director of impact investing firm Village Capital. The organization believes in creating opportunities at a local level for entrepreneurs in underserved markets. Their focus is twofold, with emphasis on economic inequality for startups – increasing access to affordable healthcare, education and financial services – as well as on sustainable agriculture and energy.
It’s Victoria’s job to work with investors who wish to align their investments along with their values. A particular emphasis is placed on early-stage companies. What sets Village Capital apart is their approach. Entrepreneurs in their portfolio constantly evaluate one another, giving each the opportunity to, “Hear candid viewpoints from [their] peers,” Victoria says.
Over the last 6 years, Village Capital has overseen more than 40 programs, investing in 70 companies with over 500 entrepreneurs, ranging in investments from $70,000 to $500,000. Investments in these programs, totaling $3 million, has resulted in a 15 to 1 return for investors. And while many investment firms chase the same markets, Village Capital is seeing great success in other areas, including ed tech startups in New Orleans and agriculture in Kentucky.
“The best entrepreneurs are not the ones in Silicon Valley who are creating an app that will make life a little easier – or fleetingly more fun … The best entrepreneurs are out there in cities and towns across the country, disrupting the world’s toughest problems, creating good paying jobs and strengthening their communities,” Victoria says.
TOPICS DISCUSSED IN TODAY’S SHOW:
- A Smart Approach: The majority of venture capital today – 75% – is going into three regions: Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. “It’s leaving out a lot of individuals and opportunities that we think are greatly undervalued,” Victoria says.
- Paving The Path: Victoria says her path to impact investing felt meant to be. She says, “In practice it feels serendipitous; the work will guide you to what you should be doing.”
- Going International: Victoria’s one-year fellowship was a dream job that provided opportunities for her to work in China, Uganda, Kenya and The Netherlands on education, microfinance and the interplay of how international development, conflict resolution and individual agents of economic change interact with each other. “That year of experience really cemented to me that I wanted to work on large global challenges, and to do so in a for-profit context, while really thinking about sustainable ways of using marketing and allocating capital to solve some of these pressing issues,” Victoria says.
- Big Dreams In The Big Apple: Victoria moved to New York City after her fellowship to seek investment experience that would also allow her to allocate capital toward solutions in a sustainable way. She cut her chops working on real estate investments for three years.
- Plan ‘B’: After deciding to go to business school for a foundation that would help her get back into international development, Victoria took a few months to work on an agricultural fund in East Africa. She also worked for a few months at the Gates Foundation.
- The Next Step: After graduating from business school, Victoria had people referring her to Ross Baird, the executive director of Village Capital. Four years in, she’s thrilled to be a part of leading social impact change for the organization.
- On Her Work: While impact investing is an industry that’s been around for a few decades, it’s growing in scale and size. Because so many aspects of the industry are new, Victoria and her team often joke that it feels like, “We are building the plane as we fly it.” Their team is creating new investment vehicles and products that meet a wide range of investor objectives. “That span feels a bit frustrating at times. There is a lot of enthusiasm about the space, and still not as much capital moving as that enthusiasm would suggest, but the exciting part of that to me is [that] we get to be pretty influential in the field creation right now,” she says.
- Early Influences: Victoria grew up in Colorado, actively volunteering for community service. It was at this time that she also became interested in learning other languages and traveling.
- Hitting Rewind: If she could go back and do it all over again, Victoria says she would have studied science and engineering. Her father once told her, “You will forever have your pick of jobs if you go in that direction.” And she now strongly supports encouraging girls to consider STEM jobs.
- Time Management Tips: Like many of us, Victoria says she struggles with managing her time. And with a 1-year-old baby, her time seems to vanish even faster these days. So, once a week, Victoria blocks out time to reflect on how she’s spending her time. She also reevaluates her priorities, remembering great advice from one of her Stanford Graduate Business School professors. “When you think about your values and try to map those values – how you spend your mindshare, your time and money – if there is not an alignment between what you say your values are and how you are actually using those three really precious things, then there is some measure of inauthenticity in how you are living your life.”
- Recommended Reading: A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin; Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts; Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors (But Maybe Not Venture Capitalists) by Basil Peters; Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson
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