Deborah is an investor who likes to “find and fill the gaps.” She is based in Africa and divides her time between philanthropy and angel investing.
What’s your story?
As an American, I started my first business when I was 18 years old in Oklahoma and my fifth business when I was 50 in Morocco, North Africa. I have had two successful exits (one private sale and one IPO), one failure and I still operate two businesses in Africa, where I live full-time: The MacArthur Company and Global-Lights, the Lighthouse for Moroccan Leaders.
I also lead the AEAngels in Africa. It is a small (less than 100) set of very private and committed investors who work alongside the $1Million African Entrepreneurship Award effort and is the most reliable bunch of people for qualified deals in Africa.
My mission in life is to “Give it all away. Again.” So, we divide up our time, talent and assets into philanthropy and angel investing across the African continent, with a home base in Morocco.
What is your involvement with Investment?
First, I am an angel investor in Africa, tickets of $10K USD – $50K USD. And I co-launched AEAngels with BMCE Bank of Africa.
Second, I lead the annual $1M African Entrepreneurship Award, powered by BMCE Bank of Africa, which invests $1M USD/year in African businesses.
Third, I invest in education projects with no expected ROI, except an educated workforce. Tickets $2M.
How did that come about?
I firmly believe there are two silver bullets to developing countries becoming developed:
#1 – education; #2 – creating businesses that create jobs. These beliefs are based on my American roots and family heritage, and lots of research!
But there is an “access to capital” gap across Africa which angels can fill. I like to find and fill gaps.
What are some of the key things you have learnt about Investing?
Go where your money is. Passive, long-distance investment rarely provides the expected results.
What mistakes do you see less experienced investors making?
Betting on the “what” instead of the “who.”
Letting your emotions and somebody’s slick pitch override your common wisdom.
What mistakes do you see Entrepreneurs making?
Reading too many inspirational PR clips and believing in “overnight success.” Nothing is overnight except heart-ache.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.
What advice would you give to those seeking funding?
Put yourself in the investor’s’ shoes. What do THEY care about? Answer: making money. So, definitely know the economic cost per unit of whatever you are producing – because they WILL ask!
Who inspires you?
Those who have a little and turn it into a lot.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
People in Goma, DR Congo, live under an active volcano and the beautiful Lake Kivu. It wiped out their town in the 1900’s. What did they do? They used the lava rock to rebuild beautiful streets and fences! I believe, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But it blew me away to see a whole city whereby, life gave them lava and they made lava lamps!
What business book do you recommend the most?
Two: The Articulate Executive and Crucial Conversations.
Shameless plug for your business/organisation:
If you struggle with getting your executive and middle-management to change, call me.
How can people connect with you?
This article is part of the World Business Angel Forum media partnership with AsianEntrepreneur.org
If you would like more information about WBAF, please contact Callum Laing WBAF High Commissioner for Singapore. [email protected]