15 Voices: An Interview with Deborah Drake

Deborah Drake

Serving as Root Capital’s first Board Chair (2001-2007), Deborah is a long-time friend of Root Capital and is a Board Director Emerita. She is the vice president for investing in inclusive finance at the Center for Financial Inclusion, a division of Accion International. Deborah also manages the Council of Microfinance Equity Funds (CMEF), a membership organization of private entities that make equity investments in microfinance institutions.

Root Capital: When did you first encounter Root Capital? 

I first encountered Root when Willy was launching Ecologic Finance—which was later re-named Root Capital. A former Accion colleague, Lisa Lindsley, invited me to join her and Willy for drinks at a bar in Cambridge way back in 1999. The rest is history!

Root Capital: Why have you been involved with Root Capital? 

I have been involved with Root Capital since day one because I believe in its mission, values and most of all, its people. I have also seen Root Capital’s efforts in the field and the amazing relationships Root Capital staff has forged with clients. Given my personal experience in microfinance over the past 20+ years, I appreciate the incredible efforts Willy and his team (and the board!) have made to grow the organization and its impact on smallholder farmers. I also hope that I have been able to effectively communicate some of the lessons learned from the experience of microfinance and Accion’s own growth and strategic challenges over the past two decades so that Root Capital doesn’t have to make the same mistakes!

Root Capital: What is one word that summarizes Root Capital in your mind?

Leadership. Root Capital has been the leader in the small and growing business (SGB) space from the very beginning. In many ways, it is the pioneer that Accion was in microfinance in Latin America. Being a leader, Root Capital has not only pioneered its financing model for smallholder farmers but it has taken very seriously its leadership role in its capacity-building efforts and ground-breaking thought leadership.

Root Capital: What excites you most about what Root Capital can achieve in the next 15 years?  

The very talented and committed people at Root Capital are what excite me because collectively they have the vision, strategic leadership, creativity, technical expertise and energy to continue the work they have started, to reinvent the organization when needed, and keep close and accommodate the ever-evolving needs of clients at the frontier.

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