“I came to Guatemala to volunteer and learn Spanish. Now I’m engaged, have a family and work as an investor at Pomona Impact.” Ann-Christin tells me from the rooftop of Impact Hub Antigua. Three volcanoes, one of which is active, is the backdrop to our conversation about Ann-Christin’s work in Central America.
“I studied economics and worked in corporate finance in both New York City and Frankfurt, Germany. After working around the clock in a very demanding environment, I began wondering what else there was. My contract was running out and I decided to take a break from banking and travel instead. I remember working through job applications and assessment centers from a hostel at my first stop in New York City because I felt like I needed something to come back to after my travels. Then my computer broke somewhere in Central America. It felt like an omen. I met Richard, the founder of Pomona Impact, by happenstance while I was volunteering here in Guatemala. It was early days for Pomona and he was looking for someone with my skill set. So, I basically got to create my own job (and cancelled my flight back home).”
REAL Impact Investing
“Because impact investing is still fairly new, there is a misconception that it’s philanthropy, that it’s not real finance and that investors accept lower returns. At Pomona Impact, we have a team of professionals doing the work. We don’t compromise. We don’t sacrifice investment quality for impact. We work in-depth with founders and use our tools to drive impact.
I love that I can use my skills and experience to help make really good investments.
I want to prove that it works, that impact investing is real. We are able to make profitable investments while also creating real impact. Without trade-offs. It’s true that there are impact investors who compromise on returns in the name of impact. That’s not what we believe in. We want to grow the overall market for impact investing; we are committed to achieving market-rate returns and risk profiles that are in line with non-impact driven investments. Those are the investors we want to get excited! The global investment market is HUGE. If even a small part was focused on impact investing, it would make a big difference.
If you want to change the system, you have to leverage the market!
When is a social enterprise investment ready?
For us, a company is investment ready once they have
- A viable product or service that is selling,
- Completed their market analysis, and
- a solid understanding of their key stakeholders and financial instruments that work for their model.
Most importantly, the team has to know where they are in their startup journey and what that means for their raise. Some companies try to raise a seemingly ambiguous amount without knowing what for.
If you are raising investment for your social enterprise, know how much you truly need and how you are going to deploy these funds to drive growth and impact.
What trends are you seeing in your ecosystem?
“Here in Central America, the legislative environment is typically not suitable for equity investments so we work with different financial tools than investors in Europe or North America, for example. These include innovative solutions such as revenue-based instruments in which companies repay the investment based on a percentage of sales which creates great repayment flexibility while keeping the founders’ dilution at a minimum and providing investors with a structured exit.
Personally, I would love to see more local family offices get involved in impact investing. Historically, they have been investing locally and into companies they know. But if they learned more about impact investing, I think they would be excited to see what a difference their funds could make in their communities without compromising on return!
I have recently come across a number of former C-suite executives who dropped out of long and very successful corporate careers to start a social enterprise. It would be fantastic if these experienced professionals teamed up with young and less experienced founders to make the most of their complementary skill sets and experiences!”
The Social Business: A platform to match social entrepreneurs and impact investors
“At Pomona we are well connected in our region. But personally, I don’t want to stop there. Investment markets are powerful and there are intriguing opportunities that go beyond national borders. If we could showcase the value and potential of impact investing internationally, we could really make a difference. That’s why I want to connect with entrepreneurs and investors from around the world. When I see fit, I want to connect entrepreneurs with investors, grow my network and at the same time learn from peers:
- How do other impact investors work?
- Which financial instruments do they use and why?
- What do impact investors in other countries find lacking?
- How can we all help fill these gaps?
Through The Social Business, I hope to grow relationships and find answers to these questions.
How can we help?
To all (future) social entrepreneurs and impact investors: I would love to connect with you and learn more about what you are doing. I strongly believe that if we would collaborate more, share experiences and learn from each other, social entrepreneurship and impact investing can be a huge success for people and planet!
Impact Investor. Recovering banker. Lover of figure skating, yoga & pilates.