Co-op Spotlight: Investing in Africa with Euler Bropleh
The Chicago Ideas Co-op is a community of deeply driven, boldly active individuals coming together to make things happen. Euler Bropleh, the Liberian-born, Chicago-based founder and manager of VestedWorld, is one of those individuals. With a mission to promote economic development in Africa and underserved areas in the U.S., Bropleh left a career in law to launch an online venture capital fund in 2014. Just back from a work trip in Kenya, he found time to talk with us about economic development, getting investors interested in Africa and the Co-op.
What catalyzed your recent shift from law to economic development?
I’d always thought that everything started with political development before it went to social and economic development. While living in Hong Kong, I started to see the role that economic development played in spurring everything along. Fifty to sixty years ago, countries like Ghana and Kenya were on the same level as Singapore and Taiwan, from an economic development standpoint. Fast forward and you see the impact of economic development on Singapore and Taiwan, in many ways first world countries now, yet Kenya and Ghana haven’t moved much. I began looking at how I could play a role in spurring economic development in Africa and eventually underserved areas in the U.S.
How did that lead to launching an online investment platform?
After I came back to the States, I started investing with a couple friends. I was seeing more crowdfunding platforms rise to prominence and started to understand them and their shortcomings more and more. There were a bunch of companies based in emerging markets trying to raise capital on those platforms but no one was investing in them.
What was preventing investment in emerging markets?
Investors were uncomfortable with the lack of vetting and post-investment management provided to the companies they invested in. That’s why I started VestedWorld as a traditional venture fund, vetting companies and investing our own capital in them to leverage and spur additional investments and increase capital flow into developing countries.
How did you become involved in the Chicago Ideas Co-op?
I left my job in September to work on VestedWorld in 2014, I knew a member who told me she thought it would be a great way for me to meet interesting people and a place for me to contribute a lot. She nominated me and encouraged me to apply.
What has the experience been like for you?
When I was practicing law, I felt like my circle was somewhat limited to other lawyers or clients. Joining the Co-op opened my eyes to all these ways people are contributing around Chicago, whether in creative or more traditional industries. Meeting super accomplished, really smart people doing interesting things–that was really encouraging for me.
What have you learned about getting investors interested in Africa?
We spend a lot of time educating investors on what the opportunities are. When people think about these markets their mind immediately goes to risks. When you think about Africa, generally the thoughts are negative. Most people don’t see the economic opportunity. It takes time to change the perceptions that people have and help them realize the opportunities. But investors are excited about what we’re doing. We’ve structured our deal in a way that makes investment in emerging markets more accessible. The minimums are low and we put in our own capital so our interests are totally in line with investors’.
*Applications to join the Chicago Ideas Co-op in 2016 are now open. Learn more about the program or submit your appliction here.