"I think it is just a fundamental
- Simon Merchant
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Simon Merchant is an experienced entrepreneur with a background in finance, technology and venture capital investment.
He is co-founder and CEO of the Jacana Venture Partnership, which is expanding the provision of growth capital funding, resources and expertise to small and medium-sized growth businesses throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Why Africa? Why now? Merchant argues that “small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent the strongest opportunity for economic growth, employment and wealth creation across the region” and says that Jacana is working towards “the creation of a sustainable, responsible and robust SME fund management industry in sub-Saharan Africa that supports local SMEs, fuels economic growth, creates employment and thereby makes a major contribution to the reduction of poverty in Africa”.
Jacana’s co-founders have agreed to donate a percentage of any future profits to a foundation that will support charitable projects in sub-Saharan Africa.
Previously a co-founder and partner in New Street Capital, a venture capital fund focused on technology and media, Merchant began his career at Morgan Stanley and then co-founded his own financial information technology company, StreamVPN. From the sale of StreamVPN, Merchant decided to put aside 50% for philanthropic purposes.
Merchant is chair of the charity Theatre for a Change, which works on issues of HIV education and behaviour change in Malawi and Ghana, and a trustee of the UK-based Shaw Trust, which helps disabled and disadvantaged people back into employment. For the Shaw Trust, Merchant has particular responsibility at the Trustee level for social business development and mergers and acquisitions, with two major transactions completed in 2009.
A family man in his early forties with interests that range from kite surfing to soccer and music, Merchant says: "There are two ways to approach philanthropy; one is to build up wealth during your life and give away any excess when you die, and the second is to actually enjoy it and experience it during your lifetime. My wife and I have found philanthropy to be an incredibly rich learning experience and a privilege."