I was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in a tight-knit, progressive community. It was a wonderful world to grow up in, with a strong focus on social equality — alive with block parties and neighbors who were like family. There was a genuine sense of growing up together — as a community — and a natural willingness to share things, experiences and ideas.
My parents were both entrepreneurs: my father renovated and sold houses, my mother was a math teacher and also ran a private practice as a tutor. I grew up watching the people around me working toward social progress, no matter what else they were doing. By the time I was 16 I had started grassroots volunteer work focused on environmental justice, and later co-founded a group called Youth Against Mass Incarceration. I went on to pursue my interest in social justice at Wesleyan, where I studied African-American Studies and sociology, with the goal of looking at inequality from a systemic perspective.
The Trump Holdup
When I graduated I moved to D.C. and worked in public policy, focusing on economic development. After nearly four years in that role, Trump was elected, and I realized there was no chance of creating impact in progressive policy and research. A few months later, I returned to Boston to join the advisory firm Next Street, and later the Boston Ujima Project as a Fund Manager. When I joined, Ujima was still largely a pilot program and a vision on paper. But, we had the benefits of a rich local and national network of impact investors and business support organizations behind us to fuel our growth. We scaled quickly across Boston, and raised $5M to allocate small business loans to black- and women-owned Boston-based companies. In my three years at Ujima, we designed and launched the loan fund, developed a financial model to show how it would perform, established a deal selection and underwriting process, and built a pipeline of local businesses. But, as I grew increasingly excited about working in VC impact investing with equity vs debt (more flexibility for companies to try moonshot ideas that don’t get funded by lenders), I started feeling that I needed a broader, more comprehensive view of finance, so I moved back to D.C. to get my MBA at Georgetown. I was generously granted a full scholarship through The Consortium, an organization that helps people who have positively impacted communities of color.
Internship with Impact
At Georgetown, I set out to learn everything I could about venture, but I didn’t want to lose touch with the incredible community of people focused on economic development and lending, so I started a consultancy called The Sankofa Group: a mission-driven advisory firm supporting impact investors committed to racial equity and economic justice. Sankofa blossomed, serving 25 clients, ranging from CDFIs to emerging managers starting their first funds. At around the same time, I connected with TMV Co-Founder Soraya Darabi, whose work and vision I embraced and who was focusing on exactly the kind of impact investing and founder guidance I wanted to be part of, working with entrepreneurs to create change at a macro level. After an almost immediate connection with Soraya and Co-Founder Marina Hadjipateras, I joined TMV as an intern in August of 2020.
Two Years, Zero Sleep
At TMV, I jumped right in, identifying founders and conducting due diligence on potential investments. One of the first companies I met was Canoa, founded by Federico Negro in 2019, whose intelligence, clear-eyed vision, and capability was instantly apparent. I was a strong and early advocate for Canoa and found my stride in investment analysis. TMV invested, and Canoa is now one of our strongest performers. That was all in my first three months — and that was when I knew this was the work for me.
After my first year, I stepped away to intern at The Bridgespan Group, but stayed close to the TMV team (you’ll find me in our Summer 2021 offsite pics). I returned in the fall to continue interning during my final year of business school. During that period, I came across Bridge, a fintech app focused solely on boosting the asset side of the ledger for low-income families, and a subsequent TMV investment. In May of this year, I graduated from business school, and after a short summer break, officially joined team TMV full time as a Principal, with a focus on companies in two sectors where I see tremendous opportunity: Financial Inclusion and Supply Chain & Logistics (in the latter, I’m particularly eager to invest in solutions that drive innovation while reducing environmental impact).
The (Triple) Bottom Line
I’m grateful to have joined a team at TMV with such a strong mission and culture. Since my first week at TMV, even though we were navigating one of the worst waves of the pandemic and working remotely, I knew I was in the company of good, self-aware, smart, thoughtful people. And, I discovered my sweet spot in impact investing: I have spent my career looking at social justice through a systemic lens, and that’s exactly what TMV is working toward — backing founders who are shifting the course of industry.
When you find an issue that you care about deeply, the work will always fulfill you. But, you have to love learning — all the nuances of new companies, industries, tech, people, communities. You don’t ever reach a point when you’ve learned enough. I’m just excited about learning a little more each day.
Written by Lucas Turner-Owens