In this episode of the Portico Podcast I speak with Jake Cusack, co-founder and Managing Partner of The CrossBoundary Group, a firm that unlocks private capital for sustainable growth and strong returns in underserved markets.
I first reached out to Jake about 10 years ago after he and one of his co-founders published a study on entrepreneurship and private sector development in Afghanistan.
That initial contact kicked off a series of conversations on how to harness markets and mobilize private capital in order to build businesses in frontier and fragile markets, which is the overarching topic of this episode.
In today’s conversation, Jake and I discuss:
- His journey from the Marine Corps to co-founding CrossBoundary with a couple classmates from Harvard;
- Why investment is a better tool for development than the provision of grants;
- The critical role that investment facilitation plays in creating investable pipeline;
- The rationale for CrossBoundary’s expansion from an advisory firm to a group that also manages investments
- The suitability of the traditional private equity model in frontier markets;
- Recruitment and how to inculcate a shared culture across a globally dispersed footprint;
- CrossBoundary’s recent initiative to open source its approach to project financing mini-grids;
- And much, much more.
There are loads of links below that will take you to the articles, books, and reports discussed in the episode, as well as other resources of interest.
These include CrossBoundary’s research studies with IFC on private equity in fragile and conflict-affected situations in Sub-Saharan Africa, their recent report on scaling up investment in Africa in the Covid-19 era with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, and many others.
If you’re interested in their open-source initiative for mini-grids, the team will be sharing term sheets for the project finance contracts, as well as a template model, on 15 February — so take a look and take action if this is in your area of interest.
This is a great companion to my interview with Roger Leeds in Episode 2 on Private Equity & Development. So, if you missed that interview, I invite you to visit the archive and give it a listen.
And if you’re feeling motivated after listening to Jake, then navigate to crossboundary.com/careers to peruse their job openings.
I hope you enjoy the conversation.
This podcast was recorded in January 2021.
CrossBoundary resources referenced in this episode include:
- CrossBoundary Energy Access initiative on Open Sourcing Infrastructure Finance for Mini-Grids
- CrossBoundary and IFC SME Ventures, “Investing in Private Equity in Sub-Saharan African Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations”
- CrossBoundary and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, “Scaling Up investment for Covid-19 Economic Recovery and Jobs in Africa”
Books and articles referenced include:
- Lauren Cochrane, “How to Get a Job in Impact Investing”
- fDi Intelligence, “Blended finance unlocks a cleaner path for growth in Africa”
- Reed Hastings & Erin Meyer, No Rules Rules
- Phil Klay, Missionaries
- Rory Stewart, Can Intervention Work?
- Rory Stewart, “The Irresistible Illusion” (London Review of Books)
- Rory Stewart, “Degrees of Not Knowing” (London Review of Books)
- LtGen (Ret) Paul van Riper
- Mitch Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
You may also find some of Jake’s writing below:
- The Danger of Trump’s Reliance on Military Might (Wall Street Journal)
- Capturing a Notorious Iraqi Kidnapper Offered a Day of Clarity in a Clouded War (The New Republic)
- Doing Business in the Hardest Spots on Earth (Inc.)
- Spending Time with the Karzais in (Parts of) Kandahar (New York Times)