TGIF: vacation!

I’m just back from a week in Nantucket – the first weeklong vacation I’ve taken since last summer. And probably the first time I’ve been in a single vacation spot for a week since high school.


I worked a bit over the week, with some calls scheduled and tasks to be taken care of. But mostly, I enjoyed friends and good food and wine, took time to try new workouts, slept without setting an alarm, sat and drank my coffee at the shop, admired the stars, and played in the ocean. Not only was Nantucket absolutely magnificent, but I got to be there with someone I love and a bunch of new friends. Everyone I met on my first day back in the city commented on my relaxed (and tan!) countenance.

Amidst the busy, stressful, and pressurized early stages of building my company, I am hugely grateful to have had the opportunity (and wisdom to seize it) to get this week away.

TGIF: Mom!

Wednesday was my birthday, and so I have been thinking about my mom more than usual this week. It was a no-brainer that she’d be the object of today’s TGIF gratitude post.

I am grateful to my mom for her (literally) formative role in the person I am. She raised me with an incredibly loving and empowering warmth that enabled me to grow confident while retaining humility, and adventuresome and optimistic, but still pragmatic. Further, her own curiosity and diversity of interests exposed me to the same breadth of experience. She facilitated my involvement with hobbies from horseback riding to mediation, lunches from grilled tempeh to salami and cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread, and dinner table conversations from Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park to campfires in northern Vermont. I credit this early range of realities for the adaptability that has allowed me to live, work, and thrive in 44 different countries.


I guess it’s any mother’s job, but my mom is the best kind of believer (the value of which I wrote about last week) I could want for myself and my work. The important part of her belief in me is that she shields me from the concerns or fears that I know she must have as a result of some of the choices I’ve made. For example, choosing to work and live in Palestine, marry my Italian boyfriend at a relatively young age, or start a business just as my student loans came due. I know that she – as any sane onlooker much less mother – must have had vivid fantasies of how any of these things could have gone quite wrong. And yet, she always stays close, not in a look-the-other-way-and-pretend-its-ok kind of way, but in a realistic while supportive and engaged way.

And finally, she’s an incredible friend. Though life gets hectic and our hours are often different, even now that we live in the same time zone, we make opportunities for quality time, whether massages in New York, yoga trips in India, or BBQs at home on the lake.

TGIF: Believers

And it’s Friday again! It has been another incredible week for Inspiring Capital, with 100+ attendees at our Meetup, awesome follow-up from Nexus last week, and some former-life connections resurfacing. So lots to be grateful for, but most of all this week, Thank Goodness I’ve Friends is dedicated to the Believers. Two of them in particular.



Any entrepreneur, manager, or employee for that matter, knows that colleagues matter. A lot. They are one of the most important factors in determining our satisfaction with work. Forbes‘ national survey puts coworker relationships in the Top 3, above salary. And Jim Collins preaches ‘who before what,’ as the principle behind ‘getting the right people on the bus.’

For a brand new startup, the people are even more important, because there are fewer of them, and they have a lot of influence over the company’s performance, evolution, and culture. And they have to be believers: Steve Blank just wrote that founding teams need “vision, passion and skill to communicate why [a] seemingly crazy idea will work and change the world”.

So I am extremely grateful that I found and managed to convince two awesomely talented, creative, intelligent, and fun to work with believers to contribute to Inspiring Capital. Thank you, Yael and James – we’re just getting started! Keep believing! 


Kicking off #ImpInvNYC!


Last night 100+ New Yorkers gathered in SoHo for the first of many NYC Impact Investing community events.  The energy and enthusiasm was contagious as this smart, talented group of people discussed Impact Investing as “a powerful new way to change the world.”  The networking was anchored by some of the field’s top professionals sharing thoughts on the current state of impact investing, advice for career switchers, and more, including words from:


  • Pip Deely, SFC Associates
  • Nell Derick Debevoise, Inspiring Capital
  • Jennifer Field, Gerson Lehrman Group

  • Giselle Leung, GIIN
  • Abhilash Mudaliar, GIIN

  • Folake Oguntebi, ImpactAssets

  • Joe Silver, Imprint Capital

  • John Walker, Columbia Business School

Here are some of highlights for those who couldn’t attend (from the live Twitter feed @inspiringcap #impinvNYC)

General Thoughts


Tonight’s meetup: encouraging to meet impact investors & entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in this crazy world #impinvny


At tonight’s #impinvNY event we have #socent @PatrickFromuth who is funding and rebuilding an orphanage in #haiti #impinv


Joe Silver of Imprint Capital on advising for buy side #impinv : big spectrum of impact and financial return #impinvNY


Giselle Leung of @theGIIN on how #impinv work speaks to both the power of leveraging biz approaches and doing good in the world #impinvNY


On Challenges in the Space


MT @InspiringCap @118Capital on building a portfolio of early #socent cos. biggest challenge: turning momentum into $ #impinvNY #socinn


@IAimpactassets Dir. of Marketing: we are lowering the minimum of #impinvproducts so that individual donors can participate #ImpInvNY


@NFFSocialImpact on biggest challenge for #impinvNY: understanding capital needs of social sector and facilitating flow to it


Thoughts for Career Switchers


#impinv #jobs Tip: @theGIIN has a #career database on their website and they are hiring! #impinvNY


@theGIIN tip: be thoughtful about your passion in the space, think about your skills and interests and be articulate! #impinv #impinvNY!

Stay tuned for our yet-to-be-announced September NYC Impact Investing Event! In the meantime, join our Meetup group so you’re sure to get the next invitation. And use #ImpInvNYC on Twitter to share great resources, news, and events in the Impact Investing space! (

Big thanks to our event organizers Nell Derick Debevoise, Pip Deely, and John Walker!


Wanted: Rockstar social entrepreneurs

I had the pleasure of attending the Nexus Global Youth Summit at the UN this week, as a speaker on the Frontiers of Impact Investing panel. We had a fantastic discussion with a room jam packed of talent, energy, and enthusiasm for the use of financial capital to change the world. Exhilarating!


In the next panel I attended on entrepreneurship, also jampacked, and masterfully moderated by Tabreez Verjee, with the insights of Rachael Chong of Catchafire, Seth Bannon of Amicus, and Saad Khan of CMEA. Among a number of interesting points raised by the group and discussed, one particularly stuck out to me: We (may) need more ego-driven social entrepreneurs who pursue personal fame and so increase the visibility of the field.

The first question Tabreez fielded was “What single venture / entrepreneur has been the most impactful on society?” Replies included Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Microsoft, and BRAC. Seth then asked who in the room could name the founder of Facebook (everyone) and BRAC and only one hand went up (proud that it was the hand of Marilia Bezerra, Inspiring Capital advisor and friend).

This dramatically made the point that social entrepreneurs don’t tend to be spotlight-seekers in the same way that ‘traditional’ business entrepreneurs do. Marilia’s very valid point was that BRAC’s success is not due to Fazle Hasan Abed (yes, that’s the founder of BRAC) as an individual, but to 10s of thousands of employees, plus partners, funders, and clients of the organization’s vast efforts over time.

The counterpoint that while of course no organization rests on a single person’s shoulders, smart, successful, charismatic individuals can be very motivating sources of inspiration for young people considering various career paths. And while there are many such people in ‘traditional’ business, entertainment, and even politics (fewer!), there are few if any visible social enterprise ‘rockstars’.

Do we need to encourage or build such profiles? Or would we regret it?

TGIF: a 360 friend


It has been a wonderful week for Inspiring Capital, and so there were many people I could thank today, and am indeed sending my gratitude! But my weekly thanks go to a 360 friend: someone with whom I easily spend hours chatting and laughing about the grittiest details of my business, as well as the joys and challenges of relationships past, present, and future; global travel; work and life styles; and plenty else in between. This despite having spent relatively little time together in the relatively short time we’ve known each other.

I was introduced to this wonderful woman by another professional contact-turned-friend. Neither of us was exactly sure what the connector had in mind, but made time for lunch. It didn’t take long to fall into a very natural and comfortable exchange of ideas and thoughts, and indeed start brainstorming projects and ventures that we’d like to explore together. The discussions have continued, and get deeper and more comprehensive with time. 

I’m grateful to have been connected to this new friend, and for her openness and willingness to get to know me and support my work. And I am also grateful that there are people as smart, ambitious, well-connected, and thoughtful as her who have such a deep commitment to positive social change. 

A welcome addition to the NYC impact investing scene

I was thrilled to see that Investors’ Circle is establishing a local network here in New York. The only (that I – or they – know of) formalized impact-only angel network in the country, Investors’ Circle, has an impressive range of programs and has invested $172 million in 271 ventures, which have raised $4B of follow-on funding. They consider the sector of activity as the primary factor in choosing entrepreneurs to pitch, which offers a pragmatic, action-focused, if somewhat qualitative way to get money to great early stage ventures.

They do monthly pitch nights in the cities where they have chapters (Durham and Philadelphia, with NY and SF coming online now), as well as larger networking and matchmaking events. They also had a fellowship program to train MBAs in impact investing, but had to discontinue that given its significant administrative cost. Of course, there’s an online platform that all members have access to, as well as regular calls with general sector discussion and specific consideration of a given deal.

Their first meeting in New York was standing room only, attended by 60+ investors who are considering joining. We’re proud that New York showed Investors’ Circle such a warm welcome: good confirmation that there are lots of impact dollars in this city looking for a good home!

TGIF: Serendipity!

This week’s gratitude is dedicated to an inanimate force that I’ve been particularly aware of this week: serendipity, or unexpected but fortunate events. Ever since I found out that chocolate chip cookies are the result of just such an accident (no, really!), I’ve had a real appreciation of serendipity. It has been especially noticeable this week.

I went to an event that a client invited me to, celebrating the (hopefully game-changing) approval of B Corps status in Delaware, where nearly half of all US private corporations are registered. As I got ice water at the bar (to fight the record-breaking NYC heat), a senior gentleman approached the bar, and asked me why I was at the event. We chatted about Inspiring Capital, my vision for autonomous and efficient social enterprises (rather than grant-dependent non-profits), before finally introducing ourselves.

Not only was my random new acquaintance the man that my client had most come to see, but also Alan Patricof: an idol and icon for any entrepreneur with a passion for the power of wise investing.

Of course, I had the relationships to know about the event, made the effort to attend, and done the work to have stories to engage my idol in conversation. (In other words, my lucky serendipity was facilitated by years of practice.)

Nonetheless, I am grateful to the forces responsible for this and countless other serendipitous encounters that I have always allowed to shape my work and life.

Lean Impact: Productivity tips for social entrepreneurs

I co-hosted my first Twitter chat yesterday, under the able guidance of the Lean Impact team, who’s been leading a Lean Impact chat every Wednesday at 2 pm EST for the last few months. It was a great experience: we had useful as well as friendly / funny discussion. If you’re interested, see the full transcript, thanks to Yangbo Du, and more importantly, follow #leanimpact now and next Wednesday 2-3 pm EST to join in the conversation!


1) Trello: I’ve already fallen in love with this freeware to build to-do lists that are so much more. And eminently share-able. And free!

2) Prioritization of tasks was identified by the group as a crucial skill to master, whether by organizing your day in the morning and checking in hourly (see Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes) or making a list and crossing out all but the top 3 most important tasks… See the transcript for more great points on this topic.

3) Tomato time: will help you manage your time and energy, with 25 minute work periods followed by 5 minute breaks. (And the full pomodoro method calls for a long 10 min break every four 30-minute cycles.) Going to try this one tomorrow!

4) Afternoon lull: many of us lamented the ‘afternoon lull,’ and suggested tips from meditation to an episode of The Daily Show to exercise to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

TGIF: A reliable and effective champion of me

TGIF, remember? Thank goodness I’ve Friends! I met this week’s object of my gratitude at a Meetup last winter referred to me by a b-school classmate. Robert was the speaker, and presented his long strategic efforts to get mainstream investors aware of and bought into Triple Bottom Line investing. Most of us had not heard of him or his organization because of TBLI’s focus in Europe (until their fabulous first NYC conference in June), as well as mainstream commercial investors rather than the ‘tribe’ of impact investors, CSR professionals, or social entrepreneurs. This choice makes Robert’s work a steeper uphill battle, but with a markedly higher upside in terms of the impact he has when he does convince a client or partner of the logic and potential of Triple Bottom Line Investing.

When I sent Robert a LinkedIn request after the Meetup, he replied with an apology for having provided what he felt was an inadequate response to my question about professional opportunities in the field. We met for coffee before he went back to Amsterdam, and had a great chat about his career and vision and my own aspirations. He made several recommendations of individuals whom I should meet (and introductions), and included me in the preparations for the first TBLI conference to be held in New York.

The conference was outstanding, as I wrote in June, and the people that Robert has connected me to have been uniformly helpful, smart, and optimistically ambitious about the future of triple bottom line investing in the mainstream as well as the smaller, faster-moving niche of social entrepreneurship. I even had the chance to meet Robert’s wife and son, and hear about his wife Rieki’s incredible social tourism project in Bhutan, including an upscale eco hotel and vocational hotel school.

The benefits just keep coming – I had two fantastic calls with outstanding women that Robert insisted I connect with yesterday, both of which I am confident will yield some rewarding, educational, and fun work! I am so grateful to have been embraced by Robert and the TBLI community, and look forward to getting more involved and active in their work. Next stop: TBLI Zurich in November