RENEW Strategies

The Story of an Impact Investor: My Path from Giving to Investing

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Laura Davis
| September 17, 2012

The following is guest blog by impact angel investor, Andrew Umhau, M.D.

RENEW is providing me an opportunity that is the answer to a number of questions I’ve been asking more and more as the world changes, and I try to live well in those new realities. You may be asking some of the same questions. I’ve been interested in how to invest my hard-earned money with people I trust and in ideas and ventures that excite me. I’ve been wondering what it might look like to integrate my interests and my intentions. I’d like to find something personal, understandable and on a human scale, I am looking to invest both my time and my money together. I’ve been watching my money make barely decent gains while reading more and more about impressive rates of return in global markets.

Ethiopia is a culture that is particularly fascinating to me. Partially that’s because I meet so many Ethiopians in my daily life in Washington, D.C., where Amharic is the third most common language spoken behind English and Spanish. I was excited therefore when I realized that Matt and Laura, new friends to me at the time, were putting together a trip to “go and see” what opportunities there might be for investment there.

I jumped on the chance to go somewhere I’d always wanted to go with people who had done the groundwork to make it accessible, easy and efficient to go there. I was excited to know that I’d not simply be part of a one-off experience but would have the chance to take my particular skills and interests and explore investment opportunities suited to me. How unusual that in our complicated world, the average person has to rely on Wall Street to make the rules for investing. I wanted to put my money into Main Street, albeit an international one, where individual people were doing good things but need capital to take them to the next level; where there would be significant ripple effects from the level of investment I could do; and where I would know the players, trust those who were on the ground, and see a culture and people impacted.

Arriving in Addis with a small group of people from varied backgrounds, I felt the booming growth as we left the airport. The scaffolding and intersecting traffic streams everywhere, were metaphors for what is happening across much of Africa – fast, chaotic and exciting growth.

As we visited many businesses over a few days, I was struck by the fun of seeing what is happening and having the chance to join in. Here we were in Ethiopia where Laura and Matt are sensitively engaging the culture, building relationships, joining into what is already flourishing in Ethiopia, simply serving as the conduit for people like me to do my part to help talented business people take their ideas to the next level.

It was so valuable to be on a trip with others of varied backgrounds, to debrief each day and integrate the rich perspectives of business, finance, medicine and social ventures into personal and corporate analysis of what we’d seen. I went home enriched by the conversations with fellow travelers as much as by what we’d seen and done. It was a great way to explore an investment and a lot of fun.

I do work in Haiti yearly as a doctor, trying to assist Haitian doctors. I believe we do good work, yet every time I’m there, I am struck with a sense that what the Haitians need most is jobs and investment in the local people with great ideas, energy and initial success.

So I love it that investing with RENEW allows me to maximize my own investments, put my money into something I understand and can visit if I want to, and that integrates many of my desires and interests—a fascination with other cultures, an excitement about what is happening in the developing world, a sense that philanthropy has its limits, and that an investment maximizes growth in a wonderful place.

I believe this form of impact investing that RENEW is doing offers something that has been missing in the market. I am grateful that through the trip I took, and subsequent communication around the investment I’ve chosen, I’ve gotten the chance to do something that makes sense, answers many questions I’ve been asking, and does it all in a logical, non-intimidating way.

If you would like to join RENEW on an upcoming investment trip or if you just have questions about what we do, we encourage you to contact us at or follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC.