RENEW Strategies

A Day in the Life: Part II

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Matthew Davis, CFA
| July 22, 2013

To read A Day in the Life: Part I, click here.

By 11am we finally arrive at the company. It is a large steel structure tucked in between a row of other steel structures. Like so many others, inside are businesses eager to manufacture products that were once imported from China, but are now being manufactured in Ethiopia. The owner, an engineer, comes out to greet us. He has a clipboard in hand, suggesting that we interrupted him from his work - we did. As we walk inside, the floor of the building is alive with workers welding, pounding and screwing machines together. He was busy doing quality control on the newly minted inventory that will be shipped out to the far corners of the country at the end of the week. The customer is the government. The product is a new seed-planting machine that will help increase yields on tef, one of the country’s staple crops and the signature grain of Ethiopia. After thirty minutes of walking around the plant and speaking with floor managers, we have coffee (“buna”) with the owner. I’m not only trying to understand his business, but to also get a sense of what it will be like to work with him. One of our biggest challenges with companies in Ethiopia is whether they are ready for an investment and understand what it means to work with an investor. If both answers are not favorable, the costs of doing an investment can go through the roof.

At 12:30pm we are in the car heading back to the office. We debrief the meeting, fill out our post-meeting form and rigorously score the company. Companies that make it through pre-due diligence are presented to our network of impact angels.

Around 2pm, Kathleen, our colleague in Texas that manages our investor network, is up, and we start prepping for our impact angel call with the DC chapter, scheduled at 8am Eastern. Problem: the network has been bad all day. Kathleen and I feverishly g-chat back and forth, framing the conversation and the key decisions points so, in case I drop off (99% chance I will), she can easily pick up the ball and continue the conversation. We’ve gotten pretty good at this.

It’s now 6pm. Where did the day go? The team is winding down our day as the US team is in full swing along with Addis rush hour traffic. I walk out to the balcony of our office in the TK building to steal a moment to reflect and collect my thoughts. The view to the west is perfect. The sun has fallen below the cloud line and a few rays break through, making the Addis skyline look like a silhouette. The skeleton structures going up almost everywhere give me hope. To the east is Addis International Airport. I watch a huge, Ethiopian Airlines 777 take off before going back into the office to close things up.

This week we are hosting another impact angel group from the U.S. here in Ethiopia. In August and September, members of the RENEW team will be back in the U.S. holding events in Texas and along the East Coast. If you are interested in joining or forming an impact angel group, or attending one of our events, please contact Kathleen DeLaHoussaye at kdelahoussaye@renewstrategies.com.

Contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com or follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC to find out more.