Nick Drayson ’18

Nick Drayson ’18

Summer Fellowship at Accion Venture Lab

For Nick Drayson ’18, a summer spent working with Accion Venture Lab provided the perfect context for his career interests. By investing in and providing support to startups that increase financial access to the underserved, Accion combines finance with social enterprise. As part of his Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship, Drayson screened and researched prospective investment opportunities. After the initial research stage, he wrote up investment proposals and submitted them to the lab’s committee, who then made the decision on whether to partner with the startups.

Aside from these immediate responsibilities, Drayson worked on other long-term research projects. He conducted a “deep dive” on emerging financial technologies in the Mexican market, paying special attention to the role of artificial intelligence and automated chat programs in underbanked populations.

Drayson saw his biggest challenge in the fellowship as being the smaller quantity of information available on these early stage companies as compared to larger, more established potential investment opportunities. In lieu of this, he found himself relying more on the expertise of the organization’s founders and on his own knowledge of the market.

In addition, Drayson gained many benefits from his Columbia Business School experience that help him along the way. He had a more holistic perspective of business in general and the value propositions of an organization. In addition to his valuable accounting skills, he brought an ability to adapt to different roles and teams and navigated various situations through a strategic lens.

In terms of the School’s involvement in the social and environmental sectors, Drayson believes that by appealing to the younger generations’ ever-increasing interest with these issues, the School can attract ambitious students who will produce positive change. Without the funding of this fellowship, Drayson acknowledged he would not be able to pursue this type of socially-oriented opportunity. “If investments go through, that’s an impact in itself,” he said of this work.

In the future, he hopes to work in a similar industry that is at the intersection of financial technology and emerging markets where he can continue to use the investment skills gained while at Accion. 

By Sophie Drew