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INTERVIEW: Denali Venture Philanthropy CEO Bo Parfet on Impact Investing
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INTERVIEW: Denali Venture Philanthropy CEO Bo Parfet on Impact Investing

Denali Venture Philanthropy CEO Bo Parfet

By Jarrett Banks

Denali Ventury Philanthropy Chief Executive Officer Bo Parfet believes investing can be a force for good. An avid adventurer and published author, Mr. Parfet has always tried to marry his career with his interests.

In an interview with Exec Edge, Mr. Parfet discussed investing in Uganda as a way to impact the lives of thousands through entrepreneurship. The full interview is below:

Exec Edge: You point to your family’s history of philanthropy as an inspiration to your work with Denali Venture Philanthropy. Can you talk about how your upbringing shaped your business philosophy?

It started when I was a child watching both my mother and father engage in their careers. They both worked very hard, my father in finance at a healthcare company and my mother dealing antique furniture before becoming a real estate broker. In high school, I worked at a car museum doing landscaping before moving onto washing the cars and helping set up for car shows and various other events. It was a truly great experience. In college, I worked full-time bussing tables at a nice Italian restaurant while I taught myself how to invest in stocks. By the time I graduated college I had saved up a nice little nest egg and continued to compound my returns with continued investments.

Exec Edge: What are some of the lessons you learned after first starting out and then making worthwhile changes to your organization?

Work Ethic – I am not one of the smartest guys in the room, but I have always been the hardest worker. I don’t mind putting in 60 to 80 hours per week and using my network to get the “best thinking” from domain experts. This kind of commitment is really non-negotiable for anyone who wants to “make it.”

Passion for Something Bigger Than Yourself – For most of my career, I have chosen to work in areas that help make a difference in people’s lives and in the wider world. If you are passionate about what you do, then your work output will naturally have more depth to it.

Integrity – Once, we made an investment with a company and they committed fraud. They had many investors (from very large companies to smaller individuals) and unfortunately, we were one of them. After we discovered the uncivil action, we did everything we could do to make it right for the investors. I have been told that 99% of people would never have done so, but I can’t emphasize enough how honesty in these types of situations will repay you in droves further down the line.

Being in Shape – This might sound strange to some folks, but in my humble opinion, when a person is healthy and active it gives them the energy to be more productive and successful. Of course, this does not mean that you need to run a marathon every month, but just being physically active will deliver clear results and help you in every aspect of your life, whether personal or professional.

Exec Edge: How would you describe your management style?

Humble confidence. Open minded. Lead with Curiosity verse judgement. Fair but firm.

Exec Edge: What are the biggest things you look for when considering investing in entrepreneurs and companies?

Here is an example of we look for. We were an early investor in a company called Tugende. They are a terrific for-profit social enterprise formally established in 2012 in Uganda. Using asset finance, technology, and a customer-centric model, Tugende helps informal sector entrepreneurs dramatically improve their economic trajectory. Tugende operates with more than 460 staff in Uganda and Kenya and has served over 30,000 clients. Together, we have essentially helped move more than 30,000 people from working poverty to lower middle class as part of Tugende’s mission of “Helping People Help Themselves.” I created Denali Venture Philanthropy, with a goal to help move over 200,000 people into the “middle class” and we are well on our way. Exciting times!

Exec Edge: Denali’s portfolio has a wide geographic spread. What life experiences helped direct your investments towards the varied markets where you are active?

I Climbed the Seven Summits “the tallest mountain on each continent” which helped show me the world is a big yet small place.   For each climb I set an educational scholarship or grant.  This was a game changer for me personally and helped drive Denali’s geographic focus areas.

Exec Edge: What business lessons have you learned from the current pandemic?

Turn a negative into a positive.  We have spent more time with our two boys than we would have without covid19.

We spent more time with family and close friends in our “isolation pod”.  Watching the bonds with my two boys and their grandparents this year has been special.

Give or invest more to organizations that matter to you and that are making positive change in the world. They need our help now more than ever.

Exec Edge: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out and are unsure about how to marriage their career ambitions with their desire to have a positive impact on society?

I started Iconic Development in 2007, right before the Global Economic Meltdown of 2008 and 2009. During this tumultuous time, I thought the economy might come to an end at any moment. This colored my many daily concerns during such a dark time period. We kept working our butts off because we didn’t know what else to do. In the end, the hard work paid off, as our investors did very well despite the extreme and unpredictable economic environment.

Exec Edge: Any parting words of wisdom? 

There is a quote I heard (I don’t recall where) but it goes something like this: “It takes a tremendous of effort to make a nest egg, it takes ten times more effort to keep it”. I would tell my younger self this. A trademark for entrepreneurs is to go “all in,” but this will either go really well or really badly. I would also tell my younger self to not go “all in” with my balance sheet and stop to think through my exposure.


Jarrett Banks


Exec Edge

Twitter: @Exec_Edge


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