In this episode of the Portico Podcast I speak with Viktor Shvets, a global strategist at Macquarie, and the author of the deeply thought-provoking book The Great Rupture, which investigates the past and interrogates current trends to probe the question: do we need to be free to be innovative, prosperous, or even happy?
You know, when I started this company, I laid out three philosophical principles for its ethos: intergenerational equity; value creation > value extraction; and intellectual curiosity — particularly a belief in the importance of contextual and interdisciplinary thinking and open exchange.
As you’ll hear, Viktor’s comments deftly navigate these three principles.
You may want to grab a pen and some paper to take notes for this episode because Viktor is a polymath who will engage your brain in some important — and at times, unsettling — thought experiments.
In today’s conversation, Viktor and I discuss:
Why he wrote a book that looks for lessons in the 12th to 15th Centuries to guide us through the next two decades;
Whether the ‘operating system’ of open markets, property rights, and open minds that generated prosperity in the past is in retreat — and even if it were, would it matter;
The confluence of the information revolution and financial revolution, and how these two forces are hollowing out the core frameworks of society;
The state’s usurpation of the free market and what it means for capitalism and commercial banking;
The prospects for emerging markets in an era of de-globalization and the importance of non-tradable sectors across EM;
We even talk about Andrew Yang and the possibility that universal basic income might liberate people from scarcity, and empower them to live lives of their choosing.
But there is so, so much more.
This is a good companion to my interview with Tom Burgis in Episode 4 on The Rise of Kleptocracy, and the topic of corruption comes up a couple times in this episode, so you should check out Episode 4 if you haven’t already.
And I’ve also included links in the show notes that will point you to a few additional readings that Viktor and I discuss, including some of my own writings over the last decade that have marinated over some similar themes.
In the third episode of The Portico Podcast I speak with Monica Brand Engel — a co-founding Partner at Quona Capital, a venture capital firm focused on fintech for inclusion in emerging markets.
If you’ve looked into EM fintech, you’ve probably come across Quona and their portfolio companies.
Sokowatch in East Africa, a working capital provider and last-mile distributor of fast-moving consumer goods to informal retailers;
Coins in the Philippines, a mobile, branchless, blockchain-based platform that provides unbanked and underbanked customers with direct access to basic financial services (and which was acquired by Go-Jek in 2019);
Or Konfio, a digital banking and software platform for SMEs in Mexico, which received a $100m investment from Softbank as well as a $100m secured credit facility from Goldman Sachs last year.
I was excited to get Monica on the podcast because she has built a career in two of the most compelling themes around: financial inclusion and financial technology.
Our discussion opens with her walking us through her career trajectory. We then talk about the convergence between philanthropic and commercial investment across emerging markets; the commonalities and idiosyncrasies across the markets in which Quona invests; the quality of fintech entrepreneurship in EM; the prospects for technological and business model innovation to migrate from emerging markets to the United States and Western Europe; and the biggest obstacles fintech startups encounter as they attempt to scale, among other topics.
I’m delighted to kick off the podcast with Aniko Szigetvari and Ik Kanu.
Aniko and Ik are the founding partners of Atlantica Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm focused on six of the largest markets in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Aniko has over 20 years of experience investing in emerging markets, of which over 17 have been focused on the technology, media and telecom vertical.
Aniko has been investing in Africa for the past 15 years and she has built up a wide range of contacts across the continent and other emerging markets. Prior to starting Atlantica Ventures (‘AV’) Aniko was the Global Head of the TMT group at the International Finance Corporation, where she managed a team of ~50 professionals who sat in eight regional hubs from Colombia to Singapore.
Ik has over 10 years of African private equity experience, with an additional nine years working in technology and consulting in the United States.
Prior to starting AV, Ik was a principal at Convergence Partners — an Africa-focused TMT fund — and before that he spent five years with Helios Investment Partners. At both PE funds, Ik was seconded to portfolio companies into temporary operational management positions where he troubleshot issues across different stages — from growth to turnaround. Ik is a Class 23 Kauffman Fellow, one of the world’s premier innovation, leadership, and venture capital-focused programs.
In our discussion, we talk about why Aniko and Ik decided to team up to found a venture capital firm, whether the continent is ready for institutional VC investments, how Africa compares to other emerging markets, and how Covid-19 is impacting the startup landscape in their target markets.