What was your first job?
Door-to-door sales back in the early 2000s. I still remember running from house to house trying to save up enough money to buy a van for an east coast surf trip. It was also my first taste of insecure work – it was really tough on a lot of my friends and colleagues there.
When did you know you wanted to work in finance/business?
I’ve always had a curiosity about business, but it wasn’t until I started studying law that I realised I definitely wanted to be in business, not law!
I got the sense that lawyers were helpful tools in the hands of investors and I thought it would be much more fun on the business side, where I could help set the agenda – particularly on the social impact front.
When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing?
About 10 years ago. A friend who was working in mainstream finance told me about Small Giants and their investment in TOM Organics. Kaj Lofgren from Small Giants was kind enough to sit down with me for a coffee and explain impact investing; I was immediately hooked. That was the start of a journey which quickly led me to Michael Traill who was then-CEO of SVA.
What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?
One of the core issues we’ve been trying to crack at SVA is housing affordability. We’ve placed a number of bets on different housing models. These includes supporting several Nightingale Housing developments, as well as various affordable housing and disability housing projects.
We’ve currently got several interesting shared equity housing models in the pipeline. These are aimed at helping lower-income Australians overcome barriers to home ownership and move out of either social housing or unsuitable accommodation.
What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?
In just the last month, there have been 3 enormous deals worth almost $200M. In the disability care space, Hireup raised $40M from SEEK (as mentioned by Casey Taylor in her recent Impact Profile), followed by Mable which raised $100M from private equity investor General Atlantic.
Meanwhile, Simon Griffiths from Who Gives a Crap just closed a $40M funding round backed by Atlassian founder Mike Cannon Brookes, amongst others. To me, this feels like a new era for impact investing. It will be interesting to chart the journeys of these companies that have attracted such significant outside investment.
Name one high impact company (globally) that investors should keep their eye on?
An organisation that I’ve had the privilege of getting to know over the last few years is Ngopamuldi Aboriginal Corporation. Ngopamuldi is based in Murray Bridge, South Australia – a place that has personal significance to me, being originally from SA. Ngopamuldi’s mission is to create employment and training for the local Ngarrindjeri population.
Uncle Derek Walker is the heart and soul of Ngopamuldi and has a unique mix of entrepreneurial spirit and unwavering care for community. Ngopamuldi runs a number of successful social enterprises including a pipi harvesting business associated with Goolwa Pipi Co and Wild Harvest Flowers (wholesale harvesting of native flowers). Uncle Derek is always on the lookout for the next great business that will create jobs for his community and a connection to country.
What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years time?
Great question. It’s almost certain we’ll continue to see more money (and players) flowing into the sector seeking market-rate returns as well as impact. What remains hard is funding early-stage social enterprises.
Sadly in my 8 years in impact investing, I would say that we’ve actually gone backwards in this space. When I started at SVA, there were a reasonable number of funding options backed by the Gillard Government’s SEDIF funds. These funds have largely been spent and I think it’s now incumbent on Government, philanthropy and impact investors to help fill this gap again and support tomorrow’s generation of Hireups, Mables and Who Gives a Crap.