For our inaugural month, we are thrilled to feature MJ Sinha. A social entrepreneur and an investor, Sinha helped build a $2M micro-loan portfolio in rural India and worked with women entrepreneurs helping create a cooperative of over 200 members. For the last few years, Sinha has been working with impact investors. Impact investing refers to investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the aim to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. Sinha supported the team at Grand Challenges Canada, Canada’s leading impact investor. He then assisted individual and institutional asset owners and asset managers on their impact investments. Among other projects, Sinha currently leads a $4M impact investment portfolio for the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation, assists the Global Steering Group for Impact Investments, and leads a Corporate Impact Investment project. Sinha’s passion for social change is complemented by his experience in Capital Markets, Corporate Strategy, and Venture Capital and his degree in Computer Engineering and an MBA.
1. Social enterprise refers to an organization that applies commercial strategies to generate revenue while also generating social and environmental benefit. How did you get into this space and why?
I was born and brought up in India, and while I came from reasonable privilege, I was exposed to the drastic and growing disparity that exists in India, and globally. The fact that ones’ place of birth and/or social status determined the level of access to capital, opportunities, healthcare etc. and that some lives were valued more than others was something that truly disturbed me. I wanted to do something about it and decided to quit a consulting career to help build a microfinance and social enterprise practice in rural India.
My experiences and background have given me exposure to and understanding of corporate boardrooms, frontline non-profits, and a lot in between. I am hoping to use my cross sector skills and experiences and leverage capitalism as a vehicle for social change.
2. Briefly describe what you do.
As an independent Impact Investments Consultant, I help, advise, and support asset owners (foundations, High Net Individuals, Family Offices etc.) and asset managers (credit unions etc.) on their impact investments. Basically, helping them “invest” in a manner that generates social and/or environmental benefits as well as financial return.
A typical day can involve working on any of the following:
• Building deal pipeline – talking to funds, entrepreneurs, and startups;
• Structuring new capital raise pipeline – helping clients communicate about their impact investments and leveraging it to raise new capital;
• And, on the backend:
o Research o Due Diligence
o Drafting Investment Memorandums (Term Sheets)
o Impact measurement & Reporting
o Portfolio Analysis
o Drafting Policies, Strategies, and Procedures
o Working on decks and excels, and attending several meetings and phone calls
• I also mentor and coach startups and social purpose businesses on their investment readiness and help them become operationally and financially self-sustainable.
3. What advice do you have for individuals who wish to go into social entrepreneurship but don’t know where to start?
- Figure out whose shoes you want to be in, and then go talk to them.
Like Steve Jobs, I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help. Go out, talk to people, and learn their stories. Most people will help you out.
If you haven’t yet figured what you want in life (and from life), try a few different things. You’ll fail at some (maybe most) of these things but you will figure out what you truly love and are good at (both of these are important).
- Explore internships (and leverage them!), they’re a great way to –
i. Get your foot in the door
ii. Get practical experience in a niche industry like impact investing
iii. Build relations and prove yourself, and then leverage internships to land something more stable/long-term
- Read, Read, Read. Aspire to be the most informed (yet humble) person in the room
- In case you already have a few years of experience in another field and now want to move to impact investing, think what functional value can you add (that can help your target audience) – investments, marketing, communication, finance etc.
- Things often take time, so think long-term, build relations, get used to failure and rejection and never ever give up, and keep having fun!
4. Do you have any suggested books, podcasts, or articles people can refer to so they can learn more?
• Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C. K. Prahlad to help understand about the “Bottom of the Pyramid” market that several impact entrepreneurs and investors focus on
• Impact Investing by Anthony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson et al.
• Social Finance by Jed Emerson et al.
News/Articles – ImpactAlpha has some of the best coverage of all things Impact Investing
• Bmeaningful for Canadian impact jobs and news
• Global Impact Investing Network for global careers and updates
To learn more about how you can get into social entrepreneurship and make a difference, make sure to follow EPICentre on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and stay tuned for announcements of our upcoming workshops, pitch competitions, and events. Our second social enterprise workshop will take place mid-July.