This Woman Might Be the Most Successful Impact Investor You’ve Never Heard Of
Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The February ribbon cutting for Gigawatt Global’s new $24 million solar field in Rwanda was an impact investment showcase. More than 28,000 solar panels, arranged in the shape of the African continent, added six percent to the entire country’s electricity production.
Gigawatt Global, an American-owned Dutch company, completed the project in less than a year after signing a power-purchase agreement with Rwanda’s national utility service. The solar field is the first operation project under President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative.
Furthermore, the project leases land from a nonprofit youth village founded after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide to care for the country’s most vulnerable children.
“It moved fast because we had a very nimble team and we worked around the clock,” says Sari Miller, a New York investor who helped Gigawatt’s managing director Chaim Motzen with what she says were “many, many hours” of daily contact and review.
Early involvement and hands-on participation are the keys to Miller’s remarkable record in impact investing. She honed her methods in a successful earlier career as an executive and dealmaker in real estate, finance and insurance, including the sale of a company to AIG. Since selling most of her real estate holdings in 2006 and 2007, she estimates she now spends 75 percent to 80 percent of her time working with companies in her impact investment portfolio.
“I decided this is going to be my new direction, my new asset class,” she says. “I wanted to invest with purpose. I thought you could actually be profitable and do well, despite it being a bit alternative.”