Ami Desai ’05: Community Development Venture Capital Alliance
Ami Desai interned with Community Development Venture Capital Alliance (CDVCA), a trade association that promotes the use of venture capital to create jobs, entrepreneurial capacity and development of low-income communities. “I was interested in seeing how my corporate VC experience could be applied to finding market-based solutions to social and economic problems,” she says.
CDVCA has more than 50 members and brings together practitioners to share ideas and conduct training programs. In addition to providing consulting services to member funds and investors in those funds, CDVCA also invests directly in ventures and projects. Desai worked with the fund manager to conduct social and financial investment analysis, and due diligence on two potential equity and fund investments. “The financial valuation analysis is very similar to the traditional process; it is the social return analysis that proves to be the more challenging component. Contributing in that area would have been problematic without Columbia’s Social Entrepreneurship class,” she says.
Desai also assisted CDVCA’s Director of Research in contributing to a project to define and standardize methods and metrics to measure social and financial returns in the CDVC industry. “This is an extremely difficult project as it involves working with all CDVC funds to reach agreement on a set of social criteria that translates into successful financial returns,” she says.
In the longer term, Desai plans to work on issues relevant to economic empowerment and social venture capital, possibly in the international development field. “This summer has taught me that employing traditional business practices is an effective way to address longer-term social issues,” she says.