Scott Friesen of Verdant Frontiers Discusses Investment and Entrepreneurship in EthiopiaJan. 31, 2014
Mr. Friesen, a successful Austin-based technology entrepreneur and founder of venture capitalist firm Verdant Frontiers, visited Dr. Steve Bradley's Social Entrepreneurship classes Thursday. During his presentation, Mr. Friesen pointed to the great opportunities to do good by doing business in the developing world.
Verdant Frontiers focuses on investing in businesses in Ethiopia, a developing country in the Horn of Africa with recent relative political stability and economic growth. The comany looks for investment opportunities that are profitable and can achieve significant scale while providing a return to investors for the potential higher risk. For example, Verdant invested in radiology equipment and is currently one of only four facilities in a country of 91 million people. While the medical needs are clear, Friesen has had to adapt his business model to make the operation viable. Charging lower fees for scans, but keeping the equipment running around the clock has made the facility successful and provides a needed tool for doctors in the area. It focuses on being a market leader that establishes well-managed and operationally effective business to inspire others and set inspiring examples for the local market, thereby contributing to the country’s economic growth and development.
Friesen noted that an interesting spill-over from business operations has been the imitation of better customer service and marketing principles by his competitors. Friesen joked that if local service providers eventually outcompeted his company through excellent service, then his job is complete. By participating in the market, he is providing not only needed services, but a model of business that is useful to those in the industry. Friesen has big goals. Verdant aims for $100 M in revenue by 2020 with a 30% annual return to investors.
“There needs to be more examples like Verdant that combine a heart for helping in a developing country with market-based solutions that are sustainable," says Dr. Steve Bradley, Faculty Director of Free Enterprise at the Baugh Center, which sponsored Mr. Friesen’s visit to Baylor. "My students will be working with Verdant on the feasibility of a new investement in Ethiopia this semester and I'm thrilled that they get to see how these opportunities are identified and implemented in real time."
The Baugh Center for Entrepreneurship & Free Enterprise seeks to aid in the preservation of the competitive free enterprise system, including the vital small business sector of the economy and promote entrepreneurial activity among individuals and organizations that stimulate economic development through the formation of new business ventures. For more information visit: www.baylor.edu/business/freeenterprise.