Bob Webster is a Managing Director at SEAF, leading its impact investing strategy and management, as well as serving on its Global Investment Committee, supporting new fund launches, and working on select operational and fundraising initiatives. Prior to joining SEAF, Bob was Chief Operating Officer for the Grassroots Business Fund, a leading impact investment fund, from 2011 to 2013. He then led his own boutique consulting business, Planet Ventures, which advised on impact investing and small business risk capital. Mr. Webster has been an active trainer in impact investing, including for SEAF, the GIIN, ANDE and Harvard Business School’s Impact Club. He also serves as mentor for the social enterprise accelerator at Santa Clara University. What follows is an interview with Mr. Webster:
“Impact investors seek both financial returns along with social and environmental impact. For SEAF, that means targeting commercial financial returns and a tripling of impact that we can clearly project and measure post-investment. To achieve this level of impact, the impact must be inherent in the business model, meaning that as they sustainably scale on a financial and operational basis, the expected impact scales right along with the business scaling.
Impact investing is so important for emerging and frontier markets because the social and environmental needs are so great. Fully developed markets also have needs, of course, but the gaps can be much greater in other markets given the lack of local capital, particularly risk capital, for private sector solutions, and government and donor funding for the provisions of services in health and education, which are traditionally provided by the public sector. For example, SEAF is now evaluating an expansion investment opportunity in Southeast Asia in an Ob-gyn facility, which if completed, should result in significant impact in three areas: the provision of quality Ob-gyn services, jobs for female nurses and health technicians, and an upgrade in its health practitioners’ knowledge and skills through the company’s on-boarding training program. The expected impact, which would not otherwise be realized, would be significant for the “third tier” city in which the new facility would be located.”