Feb 23 • 29M

This Ethiopian Refugee Has Returned to Empower Its People With Crowdfunding

Ignite Investment's Founder Meseret Warner Believe In a Bright Future for Ethiopia

 
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Devin Thorpe
Some of the world's great changemakers join host Devin Thorpe to share leadership lessons you can use to increase your impact.
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Devin: What do you see as your superpower?

Meseret: I was a refugee young person, and now I'm looking at [Ethiopia's economy], and I'm saying, why are we seeing this crisis over and over? I wanted to at least make progress in that space. I believe that it's not going to be through aid. It's going to be through entrepreneurship, investment and trade. I just want to be in that space, really.


Meseret Warner, a young refugee who ended up in Canada, returned to Ethiopia on a mission to empower its people by supporting entrepreneurs through investment crowdfunding. She launched and runs Ignite Investment.

She is passionate about Africa’s bright future but notes the reality of a challenging present. “Africa attracted a record $5 billion in venture capital in 2021 and about $6.4 in 2022 even when the global venture investment market is slowing down,” she says. “However, that is just less than 2 percent of the global venture capital investment.”

“Ignite's vision is to bridge this huge financing gap with our crowdfunding innovation of the investment landscape in Ethiopia first and scaling up to Africa later,” Meseret says.

That $6.4 billion of venture capital is small relative to the flow of remittances from the African diaspora, totaling about $80 billion annually.

Meseret and her team hope to capture a portion of that flow of remittances to help fill financing gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Venture capital, especially private equity, is looking for big investments, like $10 million and above. Of course, startups and small businesses are looking for less than a million,” she says.

The opportunity to organize the Ethiopian diaspora is better than you might expect. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians live in the Washington, DC, metro area. Their native language is the third most spoken after English and Spanish.

Meseret sees the strategy as focusing on building trust with investors. “It is a matter of giving them a seamless, trustworthy mechanism where they can actually invest and see impact. That's the whole point of crowdfunding.”

Before launching publicly, Meseret gathered a group of 35 Ethiopian and other impact investors who made a soft commitment approaching $500,000.

Ignite investment is operating today. Meseret notes that 65 percent of the entrepreneurs raising money on the site are women.

Having overcome the extraordinary challenges of life as a refugee in Kenya, she leverages her passion for entrepreneurship and resourcefulness as superpowers.


Remember, you are invited to learn more about investment crowdfunding at SuperCrowd23 on May 10-11. Whether you hope to invest in social enterprises or traditionally underrepresented entrepreneurs or learn how to raise money for your business, please join us. Superpowers for Good readers get 50 percent off.

Register for SuperCrowd23


How to Develop Resourcefulness As a Superpower

Meseret’s story is inspiring:

I was in my teens, separated from my family, being in a refugee camp in Kenya. I can go on and on about all the challenges the refugees go through, which can be another big issue on its own. But I was also one of the very lucky ones, ended up in Canada, and got a scholarship to start my education at the university.

I feel like every part of the challenge I get into is really trying to be resourceful no matter what and not giving up. I was in refugee camp. I didn't have someone sponsoring me, and I knew that, but just keep on trying whatever was around.

So when I applied for the student sponsorship program, I had no idea I would be picked—one of just four people.

I really learned that resilience and that resourcefulness.

Today, Meseret is deploying her resourcefulness on behalf of others. She offers two essential ideas to help you develop your resilience and resourcefulness.

First, she says, “Instead of saying, ‘I cannot do this,’ ‘I cannot do that,’ ‘How about I try this?’ ‘How about I try that?’”

Second, she suggests learning from and celebrating every little win.

Finding that opportunity to learn every day and see how that can actually make a very small step forward gives you energy. There are days I keep on pulling my hair and say, “What am I doing here?” But then I get a small win, and then I say, “Yeah, this is why I'm doing it.” You know, just celebrate the small wins.

By following Meseret’s example and advice, you can make resourcefulness a superpower that enables you to do more good in the world.

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