Source: "Face to Face: Mentoring an Emerging Fund Manager" by Melwin Dcosta in the summer 2015 issue of The ILPA News
In emerging economies, SMEs play a pivotal role in driving sustainable economic growth and employment. However, "access to capital" has been identified as one of these SME's key obstacles to growth. Venture capital and private equity funds in these economies that invest in local SMEs can play a critical role in bridging investible capital with opportunities in their market.
First-time fund managers face many challenges that prevent them from fully participating in the global sector, most problematic being able to overcome the stigma of being labeled a first time fund and convincing investors beyond home borders of the investment-worthiness of their funds. Funds without an established track record have a tough time making a strong case for international investors.
Structured mentorship is a critical mechanism for imparting knowledge and for exploring ways to build the confidence of institutional investors in a fund manager. Enlightened fund managers are very interested in opportunities to test their fund strategies and plans with a mentor who can be an external and unbiased resource. Fund managers benefit from having an unbiased sounding board for their investment pitches and fund messaging, as well as to review their own fund investment processes and governance. They benefit from having an expert viewpoint on how best to navigate the processes set by investors. Mentors are fund managers who have already travelled down the path the mentee has only just begun. Mentors with extensive sector experience can easily pick out chinks in a fund and point out misalignments, bringing a valued investor perspective. Mentors serve as a strategic sounding board for business and investment strategies and help shape plans.
In 2013, the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada (GAC), supported the formation of a unique program called Impact Investing in Frontier Markets (INFRONT) to support sustainable development in frontier and emerging markets. Through the initiative, the Government of Canada made a $14.5 million investment commitment and also provided $5 million to launch both a Sustainability Innovation Grant (SIG) and a mentorship program. The INFRONT Global Fund Manager Mentorship Program is an innovative pubic-private partnership between three Canadian organizations – Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), Sarona Asset Management and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing – and the Government of Canada. It matches seasoned North American venture capital and/or private equity managers as mentors with high-potential private equity fund managers based in frontier and emerging markets.
In the year since the launch of the program, interest in this mentorship opportunity has come from Guatemala, Mexico, Sao Paolo, Nairobi, Phnom Penh, Nepal, Mumbai, Colombo and Poland. While the contributed value varies from fund to fund, value from the mentorship opportunity is aways connected with needs of the fund, and matching those needs with a mentor's experience. By giving back to the industry, mentors are contributing to the long-term sustainability of the asset class.
The INFRONT Global Fund Manager Mentorship Program has built a roster of mentors with a wide array of experiences and skills, and it plans to add to this roster in 2015. Mentors are seasoned private equity and venture capital professionals based in the United States or Canada who have over 10 years of experience managing their own funds in North America and preferably with experience raising capital. The program covers all of the mentors' travel costs.