Derek Newberry

Drink Specials and Development

The Flor de Cana flowed and there was a palpable air of creativity and connectedness last week at the Business in Development happy hour. It must have been the crowd. There are many bright passionate minds working in the field of private-sector development, and the event, hosted by Agora Partnerships, brought together a variety of these folks out from World Bank junior professionals to Technoserve CEO Bruce McNamara. Great discussions abound in the dimly lit ambience of Play Lounge, engaging enough to make you forget that the floor developed a faint but discernable stickyness as the evening progressed. Of course, the generous drink specials undoubtedly helped.

A personal highlight for me was an insightful talk with Root Capital’s Phil Covell (correction – previously listed as “Howell”)?on scaling strategies for small green businesses in developing countries. The emerging market SME sector is characterized by plenty of ambiguity and it’s always helpful to trade ideas with a knowledgeable person on how to connect entrepreneurs that do good work to larger markets. We agreed that successful SME investment requires a strong presence of in-country representatives who know the lay of the land. Also, you often have to work with actors beyond the entrepreneur herself, such as potential buyers to help the company achieve scale.?The great connections continued even on the way out, as I got caught up in a conversation with Brittany Wankel of Ashoka on some of their recent work in African ventures. So engaging I neglected to dutifully work my turn collecting donations at the front door – my apologies if the organizer, Ben Powell, is reading this, you’ll have to get me to do a double shift next time….

Update:? A quick related sidenote – if you are one of those bright, passionate people looking to break into the field, take a look at this post on career opportunities in social finance – thanks to Jimmy Atkinson at Forex blog for the link.

Update2: I have updated the link to RootCapital per Phil’s comment below.? Sorry for the mistake! – RK