Conscious Capital with Eva Yazhari
Eva Yazhari is a seasoned investor, conscious entrepreneur, leading author, and the CEO and founder of Beyond Capital Ventures, an emerging markets venture capital fund offering a diversified portfolio of early-stage purpose-driven companies in "need-to-have" sectors, led by conscious leaders.
Eva built Beyond Capital to be a recognized global brand. Its current portfolio improves the lives of a growing 56 million low-income individuals, including investments in Kasha, a technology-driven e-commerce women's health company in East Africa; and FreshR, a market linkage agriculture supply chain business in India. Both companies are targeting addressable markets numbering billions of consumers and are uniquely poised for commercial financial returns as well as measurable impact returns. Eva is pioneering equity and power transformation in venture capital at Beyond Capital Ventures, giving ownership to every founder in the portfolio.
Eva has interviewed more than 68 purpose-driven leaders to shed light on their professional and personal stories for The Beyond Capital Podcast. She has also explored the various angles of conscious money and living on The Conscious Investor, a weekly online magazine.
Eve #WealthWednesday Highlight 64: Eva Yazhari, Founder & CEO - Beyond Capital Ventures
What was your first investment?
I’ve always been a money and numbers person. My first investment was a car that I bought for myself when I was a teenager. The story of saving up for that car, the ownership behind it, and the utilization that got me from point a to point b triggered a lot of important reward systems in my brain. It was a 1993 Acura Integra which was a pretty cool car and I bought it for $5,000 using the money I saved up from baptism, communion, and all my life milestones.
My first professional investment was after I left the hedge fund industry. I started our first fund and investment at Beyond Capital Fund. Our first investment was into Sanergy and we exited that company successfully. In Sanergy, we invested in a chain of toilets that were franchised to individuals who are operating them. Mostly in the informal settlements in Kenya. The waste is picked up regularly and turned into animal feed. That business gave a strong return back to our portfolio at the end of 2020. My investment with Sanergy exemplifies the start of my career and investing in purpose-driven businesses and emerging markets.
How/why did you get into your space?
One is that I grew up with a family that lived in Tanzania, a country in East Africa. Now, I’m in Dallas and I don’t think a lot of people are thinking about the African continent and the tremendous amount of growth and opportunity that’s happening in their market.
I didn’t have a bias around emerging markets when I left Wall Street. I was taking the portfolio manager and high-level approach to constructing a portfolio and creating a product that would be appealing to investors who haven’t had emerging markets exposure. In fact, we are all under-allocated to emerging markets in public portfolios. We’re all in the low and mid-single digits of our portfolios. We should be above 13% to be anywhere near a GDP growth-adjusted allocation.
I pivoted to becoming an emerging markets VC but I also was a bit of an outsider on wall street. Not only because I'm a woman but also because I didn't grow up in wealth. I didn't grow up in a place where I spoke the language of wealth. I grew up on Staten island - on the other side of the water from wall street. I’ve learned that the language of money is not for everybody. This led me to think differently about Venture and how can I re-write that playbook as an investor and start my career on Beyond Capital Ventures. This also led me to write my book The Good Your Money Can Do. The focus of this book is to shed light on the fact that we have already had an impact, that no investment is neutral, and we can use our money or resources to line up with our values. It can be in any amount or a savings account - we can align our values with our money.
What role do you play in the wealth space and why is it important?
Wealth is more than money. I am deeply passionate about changing the mindset that we’re here to make more money - this doesn’t serve us as people. In fact, Harvard business review has proven that the greedier and stingier we become the less happy we are. It doesn’t serve us as a society because people are left out of the system and it’s not ethical. Justice is one of my main core attributes. That’s my mission. I don’t believe that the pie is finite. I don’t believe in the concept of I’m winning, you’re losing and vice versa or when I invest in something that has an impact, I’m losing my return. We can have a win-win situation and it’s been proven even in my venture fund.
There are many investors that have great portfolios, returns, and impacts. That’s where I am in the wealth space. I am committed to aligning my capital with my values. I have a public portfolio because I need liquidity and invest in authentic ESG ETFs. In my private portfolio, I will only invest in female fund managers and I’m not interested in anything else. That is my filter because I believe women and people of color are highly underrepresented in finance, government, and business. There are obvious systemic biases around supporting us and I want to change that because I think we’re better decision-makers.
What do you believe is the most exciting thing you’ve learned and want others to know?
There is a tremendous opportunity in emerging markets. I genuinely get up every single day excited about that particular fact. When I say opportunity, it's the next billion in our market - Indian and East African consumers which we call the rising consumer class. They are lower-income earners living on $15-$20 a day. They are not middle class and they lack access to basic goods and services. There’s an opportunity to provide and build solutions now with the underpinning of technology, web3, crypto, and defi. It bodes well for the African continent.
There’s no difference in the way that we invest and need to invest in our markets. Yes, there’s a risk but there’s risk everywhere. I would rather be long in emerging markets than long Silicon Valley me too innovation. The trend that our market size will grow to 1.7 billion is pretty staggering.
1 out of 4 people in 2050 will be living on the African continent. When you think about demographics, and GDP trends despite the volatile markets, rise in interest rates, and currency fluctuations there's still a lot of opportunity and the valuation is also at a reasonable level where you can get in good pricing. This is an opportunity to make money and have an impact as well.
Is there a person or a company that’s really inspired you?
Viebeg is a medical supply business in East Africa. This company is gold for VCs—the business is disrupting an industry that hasn’t yet been disrupted. This medical supply company is tech-enabled and they are also developing AI technology to do demand-simulated modeling and be able to share that with their customers. If for example there is a malaria outbreak somewhere, they can stock more anti-malaria drugs and medical supplies, or if there is a higher chance of cancer the company would recommend the appropriate imaging machine.
There are a bunch of ways how this company is going above and beyond regular medical supply and distribution and they also enter highly underserved markets. Markets like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DRC should matter to everybody on this planet because the country possesses the largest carbon sink in the world.
Viebeg’s founders are an Austrian technologist and a Kenyan medical supply professional who has worked in health supply and they are truly solving a problem that can have an impact but has incredible financial returns.
What advice would you give to someone getting started?
My view is to use the right advisor and it doesn’t have to be an expensive advisor. One of my favorites is Ellevest they are truly walking the talk. When picking that advisor, look for values alignment and authenticity.
In today’s world, there’s a tremendous amount of choice but not taking no for an answer is number one. Some advisors would tell you, “Oh ESG impact, you're never going to make money there so don’t do it” but if you want to do this there are ways and you don’t have to listen to that person. You should vote with your feet and move on to another advisor.
If you are prioritizing how to get started, for example with asset allocation. Impact ESG and opportunities fall in line with different asset allocations and classes. Some companies are authentic when it comes to impact integration and ESG integration others are not. Some websites can help you understand the second layer of the impact that a company or a fund is having as well. You can do your independent research.
Investing is a big world. It’s all about what resonates with you. Being authentic is my top advice even though it’s hard to know what that means until you get started. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good and hold you back from this space. There will be a flywheel of learning and having an advisor that can hold your hand and guide you can help. Even if your advisor is not values aligned, you can use your relationship with them to push the envelope and ask questions that can give you more clarity.
How can we stay in touch?
You can follow me on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Our website is beyondcapitalventures.com. We have an amazing partnership with Impact Assets where donors are allowed to invest in our fund for a minimum of $5,000. It’s a unique structure I care deeply about. Making venture capital accessible to everyone. Learn more here.
Have thoughts on this week’s topic or questions for me or Eva? Post your thoughts in the comment section. Until next week. 🙂
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DISCLAIMER: The thoughts and views expressed in this video do not constitute financial or investment advice.
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