Nathan Sowell joined Social Ventures Australia out of a desire to make an impact.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a Master of Accounting, Sowell started his career at KPMG where he spent four years working in corporate finance, management consulting, and innovation.
“I had worked in the corporate world, on very interesting things, of high significance, but the projects weren’t reaching their greatest potential because the focus wasn’t on impact, they were driven by revenue and individual incentives,” he says.
Sowell joined SVA in early 2017 and is a manager in the Impact Investing team. He spotted the career opportunity while in Zambia, in the middle of a two-month working holiday with a social purpose education business that helps disadvantaged students get better outcomes by providing them with tablet computers, self-paced education apps, and coaching.
“It was early in the morning in Zambia, I’m looking at the advertisement and wondering if my eyes were playing tricks on me,” he laughs.
“There aren’t many organisations where you can combine the rigorous measurement of the corporate sector, with the values and impact of the not-for-profit sector.
It’s that balance between having people who are driven, ambitious, and switched on, but allowing them to be focused on values, that is what makes SVA different.”
During his time at SVA, Sowell has worked on the launch and ongoing management of the SVA Diversified Impact Fund (the Fund). He helped the Fund reach final close early at $15 million and identify investment opportunities. His earlier experience in Zambia helped lead Nathan to identify other education investment opportunities in the Australian sector, resulting in the Fund making a $1 million equity investment in Maths Pathway in 2018.
He says raising an impact investment Fund in Australia is not straight forward.
“Raising capital is never easy, especially in a small market with a niche Fund. As we reached out to investors we were regularly reminded of the nascent maturity of the impact investing market in Australia,” he says.
“We’d often hear investors say that impact investing requires them to take a haircut on returns – which is demonstrably untrue.
“But we had developed an attractive Fund structure, including an Australian-first with downside protection for investors. That gave investors’ confidence the Fund provided a market-level risk/return profile.
“Even with all of the advantages SVA had – experience, track record, and relationships – we still relied on a bit of luck and good timing.
“In 2019, I’m looking forward to applying this same mix to find new investment opportunities and exceptional people to work with.”