As an early impact investor, Sari Miller’s strategies, experience and perspectives on angel investments offer others in the market a wealth of insight and guidance on investing with purpose in new markets. For this reason, Miller is the focus of our weekly series on social entrepreneurship with Entrepreneur.com, in partnership with ImpactAlpha.
Sari Miller, CEO of Sarjay, Inc., is ushering through some of the biggest impact investment deals currently in the market. Miller is translating the hands-on style that earned her great success during her previous career in real estate, to her approach as an early stage impact investor. She is working to drive enterprises and funds to scale in the widely untapped social benefit markets and low-income services industries. Her business acumen and commitment to the groups she funds and their social impact have helped pave the way for some early successes. Her most notable successes came from angel investments in Leapfrog Investments and Grassroots Business Fund (both organizations were profiled previously on the Entrepreneur.com Impact Investing Topic Hub).
Miller’s impact investments are not limited to a single geography, socio-economic climate or social issue. They cover a range of countries and encompass a multitude of services and sectors, including employment opportunities and job training, education, civil rights advocacy, agriculture and artisanal business development and micro-insurance. As with any pioneering investments, not all of her experiments have realized the kind of market scale and impact that Miller is seeking. She was a founding angel backer of Nexii, the first ever publicly regulated impact investing stock exchange based in South Africa. Unlike her other projects, this was not able to gain the traction it needed, and was later merged with a Singapore-based, social enterprise transaction platform, Asia IIX.
Despite this setback, Miller continues to make strides in the market. Most recently she helped Gigawatt Global’s management team get a $24 million solar field, containing more than 28,000 solar panels set in the shape of the African continent, up and running in record time. Miller supported this effort not only for the potential financial returns an under-tapped market like alternative energy can yield, but also for what she calls “the goodness factor.” As part of her due diligence, prior to investing any time or dollars, Miller confirms that the companies and founders are passionate about social impact, stating that the goodness factor is critical and without it, founders can stray from their mission.
Gigawatt Global’s solar project is going beyond clean energy benefits. To install the solar panels, Gigawatt Global is leasing land from Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV), a residential community in Rwanda for individuals who were orphaned during the Rwandan Genocide. Lease payments from this solar project will support the ASYV school while the local residents are also trained in solar technology. Gigawatt’s focus on sustainable, local impact provides the good factor that has resonated with Miller and other similarly driven investors.
For more on Africa’s solar energy project and the range of social impact investments on which Sari Miller is making big bets, read the full story at Entrepreneur.com.