Moving to Mumbai

Last week my dentist asked me why in the world I am moving to India. Given his professional efficiency, I had little chance to tell him verbally–but promised an update by email. That email:

For the last year, I’ve been working in Atlanta with Gray Ghost Ventures (GGV), a family office that began as a for-profit microfinance fund in the early 2000s. Some background on microfinance:

In the last couple of years, GGV has moved away from actively investing in microfinance and begun tin focus on investing in what we call ‘social enterprises,’ or companies driven by some sort of social or environmental goal, be it climate change or poverty alleviation. We call this ‘impact investing.’ Some examples from our larger active fund:

I work at a small but growing corner of GGV called First Light. First Light acts like an angel investor, putting $100,000 dollars or so into seed-stage social enterprises. We’ve done this with about twenty companies over the last two years in the US, Latin America, Africa, and India. A couple of examples:

This spring, my colleague +Ross Baird began talks with Shell Foundation, which is increasingly interested in the seed-stage investing that we do at First Light. They’re especially focused in India, where First Light already has a half-dozen investments and Shell Foundation has a number of programs. SF has given us a year-long grant to set up an office in India, make four to five investments of $150,000-$400,000 each, and prepare for the creation of a larger fund that would continue to do this sort of work in the future.

My role in all this is to go set up that office in India, likely in Mumbai. We’ll be hiring two local experts pretty quickly: another investment analyst like me and, oddly enough, a boss. After that, our task will be to find and make investments, work closely with those companies to help them grow, and lay the groundwork for that larger fund. At the end of the year I’ll be replaced by another local and head off to business school.

So, Doc, that’s the story. Today I’m in London, looking forward to working alongside the folks at Shell Foundation and seeing some good friends in the City. Thursday, Mumbai.

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