Why I Joined Mission Markets
Okay — just to get the facts out of the way first — I have practiced law since 1979, put in 25+ years at super-large and large firms. In 2002, I was asked to put together the first microfinance-backed CDO. I knew CDOs, I didn’t know microfinance. Nine years later I can say pretty much the opposite. I witnessed and was (I like to believe) a significant part of the birth of microfinance as an investable capital markets asset, and in many ways the forerunner of many other business models that will tend to help improve the world — what we wonderfully call today impact investments.
For the last nine years, I have watched my clients and others with whom I have been associated build successful business models, scalable and “impactful” (to coin a term). These have been bright, passionate people whose entire lives were lived “outside the box”. Then I have watched these people struggle mightily to get funding for their dreams. To people going down this path, I would say, ” If you can take the pressure and have a world of patience, and a sense of humor and a contact list as large as the NY phone book …. you’ll survive… just barely.”
Building capital markets for microfinance and other impact asset classes has been one of my dreams for the last few years and one of the reasons I left my large law firm practice. That, and, as I’ve said so often, to be partners with entrepreneurs, not with other lawyers.
So this summer I was introduced to Mike Van Patten and Steve Rocco, the founders of Mission Markets. When I came to understand their business plan, I realized that these are people I wanted to partner with. The business model goes far beyond the groundwork laid by my friends at Kiva and MicroPlace; it puts a very serious face (but we do laugh here at Mission Markets) on a very important asset class. And the one thing I told Mike and Steve when our discussions started was that Mission Markets’ margin of error is zero — that both for the sake of Mission Markets and for the sake of the asset class, the entrepreneurs and the investors which we so proudly represent, we had to make sure that everything we did had no negative repercussions.
And so beginning November I joined Mission Markets (on a part-time basis — I can’t give up my law practice just yet) as Director of Microfinance Investments, and will be part of the team that helps to populate the website from both the issuer and the investor sides, and to continually refine the product that we put out. This is an exciting and absorbing process, but the goals are clear and we are up for the challenge.
-Howard Finkelstein, Mission Markets Director of Microfinance