Frontier Market Scouts

Amit Sharma

Co-Founder, Empowerment Capital

Mr. Sharma is currently engaged in several global initiatives that bring together his efforts in markets, comprehensive risk management and international development.  He is leading the formulation of a new investment vehicle, Empowerment Capital, focused on income generative scalable enterprise for the global poor—leveraging the power of institutional capital to support market-viable poverty alleviative commercial solutions.  

Separately, he is assisting in the development of an inter-disciplinary network of experts that delivers shared solutions to multi-faceted global risk challenges to private, public, non-profit and development institutions.  The Risk Assistance Network and Exchange, or RANE, is a for-profit enterprise operating in the broad public interest.

Previously, Mr. Sharma served as the Deputy Director and Head of Operations and Strategy for Command Global Services (CGS), a Washington DC-based advisory firm led by former Deputy National Security Advisor, Juan Zarate.  In this role, he coordinated teams of investigators, financial forensic experts, analysts and legal professionals, to assist sovereign and private sector clients in the areas of stolen asset investigations, recovery and repatriation activities, international legal intervention, anti-corruption, transparent management of sovereign assets, strengthening of financial regulatory and enforcement capabilities, and engagement with foreign governments and financial markets participants. 

Prior to joining CGS, Mr. Sharma worked as the Chief of Staff for Mitsubishi UFJ Securities (USA), Inc. the American investment banking and brokerage unit of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, and as Head of Project Management for the firm’s International Business Unit.  In this capacity, he assisted in the growth of the U.S. branch’s primary/corporate finance and secondary sales and trading operations, as well as growing product capability with its sister institutional bank, the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.

Before heading to New York, Mr. Sharma worked at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he served as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, Robert Kimmitt and advisor to the Senior Treasury team, led by Secretary Henry “Hank” Paulson.  He worked closely across the Government’s interagency and with foreign Finance Ministry and Central Bank officials, to advance U.S. economic policies, including: financial sector regulation (and reform), tax policy, combating illicit finance, economic sanctions, and international investment policy and security.  He also helped coordinate the daily work-flow and operations across the Department’s core offices of Domestic Finance, International Affairs and Financial Enforcement, and its multiple bureaus.

Before joining the senior team at Treasury, Mr. Sharma was a senior advisor in the Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, where he focused his efforts on issues related to illicit finance, and the use of economic and financial tools to combat national security threats.  His portfolio included the development and expansion of international anti-money laundering / counter-terrorist financing (AML/CFT) regimes and the application of targeted financial and economic sanctions.  He served as a financial expert to international fora dedicated to these issues, and traveled extensively to areas in South, Central and East Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia to engage senior government and private sector officials.

In addition to these opportunities, Mr. Sharma has held various consulting roles including for boutique financial services companies, domestic non-profit organizations and international development firms focusing on sustainable development in emerging market economies.  He teaches regularly on issues related to security policy, counter-terrorism finance, risk, and the activities of commercial enterprise and financial markets in a changing international economic and security environment.  Mr. Sharma was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mongolia, where he met his wife, Thayer Tomlinson, a fellow volunteer, and is a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Monterey Institute of International Studies. 

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Ravi Kurani

Co-Founder, ImpactSpace
Ravi is a budding entrepreneur with a background in sustainable business and supply chain management. Ravi launched a due diligence and investment campaign for the BoP (Bottom of the Pyramid) communities in India, while working with First Light Ventures Fund and Village Capital. First Light Ventures and Village Capital democratize entrepreneurship through peer support networks.  Ravi founded, which is a database of social enterprise companies, financial organizations, and people. Ravi is committed to utilizing technology to find innovative ideas and designs for emerging markets. He holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Riverside, MBA in International Finance from MIIS-Middlebury College, and a Certificate from Stanford University in Renewable Energy Systems.


Specialties: Fluent in spoken Gujarati and Hindi, Fluent in spoken and written Spanish, Advanced skills with MS Office, SolidWorks, MatLab and some PSpice, Managerial Economics, International OB, Financial Accounting, Business Statistics, Marketing Management, Financial Management, Managerial Accounting, Operations Management, Statics, Dynamics, Engineering Circuit Analysis, Thermodynamics, Fluid Mechanics, Linear Systems and Controls, Heat Transfer, Machine Design, Transport Phenomena

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Simon Desjardins

Program Manager, Shell Foundation

1. What is it that you are most passionate about? 
I’m passionate about catalyzing innovations to bring access to modern energy services to underserved populations around the world.

2. What do you enjoy most about teaching and/or what excites you about being a professor at MIIS?

I love the curiosity and energy that MIIS students bring to class. It’s very rewarding to share our approach and work to a group of students who are interested in getting involved in the social enterprise sector.


Simon runs Shell Foundation’s Access to Energy Program, which has the goal of helping to provide access to modern energy services for the poor. Before joining the Shell Foundation in 2008 Simon worked globally in a broad range of business and development roles, with experience in start-ups, multinationals and NGOs.

Recent Accomplishments

  • Helped catalyse the growth of the world’s leading pro-poor energy enterprises in India and Africa (Husk Power, M-Kopa, d.light).
  • Co-created a leading SME debt provider in India, IntelleGrow, which provides customized loans to small and growing businesses in the energy and infrastructure sector.

Previous Work

I have held positions at Shell, High Street Media, UNDP, Hewlett-Packard and Scotia Capital.


  • Accelerated Development Programme, London Business School, UK, 2011-2012
  • Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.), Co-op Program Option Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada, 2000 – 2004


  • Desjardins, Simon. "The Need for a Smarter Funding Ecosystem," Innovations, MIT Press, Sep 2011
  • Desjardins, Simon. "Electrifying Bihar: the role of philanthropy and social investment," Alliance Magazine, June 2011
  • Ramsoomair, Franklin and Desjardins, Simon. “Technow – A Study of a High Tech Company,” Proceedings of the CTMS Conference, Reno, Nevada, September 2005 (Presented and Published)
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Ian Fisk

Executive Director, The William James Foundation

Courses: Designing an Innovative Business Model


Ian is the executive director of the William James Foundation. He earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and a BA in Political and Social Thought from the University of Virginia. He is the founder and head of ITF Consulting, a professional services consulting firm. He is the former co-chair of DC's Professional Net Impact Chapter and the secretary of the Washington Area Business Alliance for Sustainability. He has extensive experience in the non-profit, for-profit, political campaign, and government sectors.

He has started or co-founded a number of non-profit and for-profit organizations, including a magazine, a citywide service day, a monthly salon, and a citywide tool loaning library.  He has serves or as has served on the boards of the Youth National Organization for Tomorrow, Community Action International Alliance, College Bound, The I Do Foundation, and The Gateway Community Development Corporation.

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Ross Baird

Executive Director, Village Capital

Courses: Introduction to Social Enterprise and Impact Investing and Scouting and Developing a Winning Social Venture


Ross developed the Village Capital concept in 2009, and has led the development of programs worldwide. Before launching Village Capital, he worked with First Light Ventures, a seed fund focused on impact investments. Prior to First Light, Ross worked on the development of four education-related start-up ventures: the Indian School Finance Company in Hyderabad, India; the National College Advising Corps in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and two ventures using technology to promote civic participation.

Ross has a MPhil from the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where he was a Truman Scholar and a Jefferson Scholar.

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Paul Breloff

Founder and Managing Director, Accion Venture Lab

Courses: Diligence Process and Decision in Impact Investment


Paul Breloff founded and manages Venture Lab, an accion-sponsored seed stage investment initiative focused on the world’s most innovative financial inclusion startups.

He conceived, built and lead all facets of global seed investment and portfolio management activities for Venture Lab, having sourced, analyzed and negotiated investments in India, Kenya, Mexico, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and the U.S. Has has also secured funding partnerships from Rockefeller Foundation, Gates Foundation, and CGAP, and advisory relationships with a range of other leaders in the financial inclusion space.

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Yuwei Shi

Dean, Graduate School of International Policy and Management

Courses: Designing an Innovative Business Model


Dr. Yuwei Shi is Dean and Professor of Strategic Management His research focuses on competitive strategy, high-tech venture and business model development and evaluation.  He has published over three dozen papers in peer-reviewed journals and a number of books and chapters.  Dr. Shi has taught MBA and doctoral programs in nearly a dozen universities across the globe, in addition to having won the Excellence in Teaching Award at the Monterey Institute in 2008, and the Allen Griffith Teaching Award in 2009.

Dr. Shi is Board Director of Scholarly Exchange, a web services company based in Brookline, MA.  He is Advising Partner at Indachin, an investment advisory firm with offices in Hong Kong, London, Geneva, and Silicon Valley in California.

Dr. Shi earned his Bachelor of Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Master of Comparative Law from the Dedmen School of Law at Southern Methodist University, and Ph.D. in Organization, Strategy and International Management from University of Texas at Dallas.  He speaks Mandarin and English.

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Lewis Hower

Executive Director, James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center

Courses: Scaling High-impact Social Enterprises


Lewis Hower is the Executive Director of the Sorenson Global Impact Investing (SGII) Center at the University of Utah. The SGII Center is an industry-leading program that facilitates the growth of the impact investing space while educating the next generation of social and environmental leaders. The SGII's student associates collaborate with leading social venture funds, banks, foundations, consulting firms and social entrepreneurs to identify, fund, and grow businesses that have significant social and/or, environmental impact.

Prior to the creation of UIF, Lewis served as the Marketing Manager for the Sorenson Housing Opportunity Fund, an affiliate of Huntsman Gay Capital Impact, where he focused on fundraising and finance operations for the project which invests in the creation of affordable housing and finance products for the working poor of India. He currently serves on the Board of Directors at the Community Foundation of Utah where he is the co-director of the committee for entrepreneurship and is focused on innovating new models of social and business development for community engagement.

Lewis holds a B.S.E. in Bioengineering from Arizona State University where he spent time working in startup biotechnology research and small business operations.

Miguel Granier

Founder and Managing Director, Invested Development

Courses: Due Diligence Process and Decisions in Impact Investment


Miguel is the Founder and Managing Director of Invested Development which launched in July 2009. Before founding Invested Development, he was the founding Investment Manager for First Light Ventures, a seed-stage social impact investment fund affiliated with Gray Ghost Ventures in Atlanta, Georgia.

Miguel began his career in social enterprise as a loan officer for ACCION New York in 2009 and continued that work as an independent consultant specializing in economic development and microfinance. In addition to his work in microfinance and social enterprise, Miguel has worked for the insurance giant Fidelity National Financial in New York and Delter Business Institute in Beijing, China.

He holds a Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a specialization in Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

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James Lee Sorenson

Entrepreneur, Investor

A world-renowned entrepreneur, business leader and societal innovator, James Lee Sorenson provided the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah with a $13 million gift in 2013 to create the James Lee Sorenson Global Impact Investing Center (SGI Center), which will cultivate impact investing expertise in students. Jim will play an active role in setting the SGII Center’s direction and mentoring its student participants.


Jim helped develop several new industry categories in today's business world, including digital video compression software, mass-market videophones, video relay service for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals and environmental testing. Jim enjoys combining innovative and worthwhile ideas with talented management teams to produce growing new enterprises. This successful combination has produced thousands of new jobs and vibrant companies.

His philanthropic endeavors have been equally fruitful, helping establish highly impactful programs and organizations that improve the lives of the working poor, help build regional business communities and train the next generation of entrepreneurial and investment leaders.

Early in his career, Jim acquired and managed Utah Biomedical Test Labs and spun out a promising division, DataChem Laboratories, as an independent venture. DataChem became one of the nation’s largest environmental testing laboratories, pioneering today's environmental testing industry.

As CEO of Sorenson Media, Jim built a team that developed the world's leading digital compression software, which played a crucial role in the emergence and prominence of video compression technology in Apple QuickTime, Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash and YouTube. The team also developed a high-quality, low-cost videophone that became the industry's standard design, for the groundbreaking nationwide video relay service for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. This enabled the deaf to communicate via the Internet through interpreters in their visual native language, American Sign Language, with any hearing person in the United States.

Spun off as Sorenson Communications, the video relay service company expanded quickly, growing from 50 to 2,500 employees while raising revenue by 400 percent in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, the company was acquired in the most lucrative private equity deal in Utah history up to that time. Sorenson Communications remains the nation’s preeminent provider of video relay services and Utah’s leading technology company with thousands of employees nationwide.

In 2009, Jim led a team that acquired a $701 million structured portfolio of commercial real estate loans from the FDIC.  In addition, Jim served as chairman of the board of MediConnect Global, a leader in medical record retrieval and digitization that sold to Verisk Analytics in 2012 for nearly $377 million.

In 2001, Jim provided the seed money for the University Venture Fund (UVF) at the David Eccles School of Business. Now the world’s largest student-run educational investment fund, UVF provides unrivaled hands-on experience in venture capital and entrepreneurship for students.

Jim has served on many community service boards, including University Venture Fund, Art Works for Kids, Gallaudet University, the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, the Utah Sports Commission and the Utah Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Jorge Calderon

Experienced Entrepreneur, Management Consultant, and Investment Professional

Courses: Designing an Innovative Business Model


One of the best connected people within the Venture Capital industry, Jorge Calderon is a career entrepreneur, management consultant, and investment professional.  In addition to starting Impact Strategy Advisors, Jorge founded Springworks and architected the Sidecar Option Fund Model utilized within the Promise Capital platform.  Previously, he was the founding Director for the West Coast office of a small seed stage venture capital firm and has had roles in top tier management consulting, banking and technology companies. 

Jorge lives in San Francisco and is deeply engaged in a variety of other civic organizations.  He is a University of Michigan graduate and received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.