Sarah Dusek
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Sarah Dusek

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Investor & Founder of Enygma Ventures, Co-founder Under Canvas

Investor & Founder of Enygma Ventures – Sarah Dusek

“Because what I have learned the hard way, which is so obvious but great, businesses as brilliant as a business idea require execution.”

ABOUT

Sarah Dusek is a venture capitalist and co-founder of Enygma Ventures, a venture capital fund. She invests in women-led businesses in Southern Africa, creates solutions to wealth disparity, and provides access to capital for women.

In 2017, after successfully selling her company, Under Canvas, for more than $100 million, Sarah launched Enygma Ventures. In that same year, Under Canvas received a spot on the coveted Inc. 5000 list, and Sarah was named to Ernst & Young’s EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women list.

Sarah began her career in the nonprofit world in her early twenties working in Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. After almost eight years, she became disillusioned with the lack of change resulting from her efforts. She realized that the most effective vehicle for driving change and solving big world problems is business. Businesses are sustainable solutions to problems. They drive economies, create self-sufficiencies, and change our world. Business can, and should, be a force for good.

Today, Sarah offers online courses for early-stage entrepreneurs (hosted at www.pranary.com). Over the past year, five thousand entrepreneurs have gone through her programs to become investor-ready and learn how to build valuable companies. She is a regular contributor to Forbes.com, The Telegraph, and TRT World. She is also chairwoman of the Women’s Giving Circle for The Global Good Fund, a social entrepreneurship leadership
development program, and sits on the board of ten (and rising) startup companies in Southern Africa, as well as Under Canvas.

Sarah has an LLB Law degree from Exeter University, UK, and an MA from University of Manchester in Missiology. She divides her time between the US and South Africa with her husband and two children.

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Sarah Dusek

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin. Let’s please welcome Sarah Dusek from Enigma Ventures as our investor for today. Welcome Sarah. it’s a real pleasure to have you here today.Transcription for Sarah Dusek

Jeffery: Welcome to the Supporters Fund Ask An Investor. I’m your host, Jeffery Potvin. Let’s please welcome Sarah Dusek from Enigma Ventures as our investor for today. Welcome Sarah. It’s a real pleasure to have you here today.
Sarah: Thanks so much. It’s great to be here.
Jeffery: I’m very excited today to get the opportunity to chat with you. One, because you’re in South Africa. I love South Africa. and then the second point is that you’ve done a lot of great things from taking a company, selling it, diving into venture and fully baked into this venture side. so we’re excited to unpack all this and learn a lot more about yourself and all the great things that you’re doing. So to start, maybe you can share a little bit about the background and all these great things you’ve done and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Sarah: okay. well if you’d have said to me 20 years ago, Sarah Dusek in 2022, you will be a venture capitalist. I would have laughed my head off. so my journey into finance is probably quite an unusual one actually in that I started my journey as an NGO worker. So prior to even getting into business, I worked for non-profit organizations. first in Africa and then in the far east. so my transition into business was coming at business with the idea that money capital is the dark side. It’s the evil side of the world and we stay away from such things, but quickly realize money is really what makes the world go round and entrepreneurs are the pioneers and the builders of the future. and I definitely considered myself a pioneer even in my early 20s. So after about eight years of working for non-profit organizations, I really had this sort of hunger within me to build something that would solve problems. and I realized having a for-profit business was maybe a better vehicle for driving change, solving big problems, making big things happen. so that led me into entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in turn led me into being the investor I am today. so one thing that maybe was, my one thing that you didn’t know about me. [Laughter] Jeffery: well, I did read up that you were in the not-for-profit and what I love about that is that you’ve really hit lots of different avenues in the world from going to a space where the world revolves around helping people and the money somehow magically appears when you need it and when you need it even more. you have to fight even harder to find it and then you get out into the real world and say that wow, the whole world runs off this capital. How do I jump into this and make things work a lot smoother? one of the things that I love. I love it. Well, it was interesting that when you said that, if we asked you this 20 years ago if you’d be a venture capitalist. one thing that I can relate to is I was in the same boat. I never really focused on people that had money. I just figured I would be a solutionist in everything and then when I was putting together my first company, I actually wrote down on this spreadsheet or the bubble thing and you wrote it down and put it in a drawer six years ago. I found it and this was before I started the company and on it I had a venture capital that I wanted to do this arm and I was like oh my jumping. I had no idea. somehow I must have come across this 20 years ago and I don’t know how I did because I didn’t even know how I knew about venture capital. so I guess somehow it magically appeared. maybe through osmosis while I was sleeping or something. but fascinating how you transition into these spaces and what you bring to the table and I think I want to kind of jump back into the not-for-profit side and maybe when you were going through this not-for-profit side and working with the NGOs and it’s obviously quite popular especially in the African continent. What were some of the takeaways that you kind of built up from that because you were coming in from a law perspective? so I’m sure you’re very detail-oriented and everything is probably very logistically broken down. and then you’re going into this space where a lot of unknowns can happen, all the time were you able to utilize a lot of what you had built on what you went to school with and all those things as you kind of propelled your way through this NGO space or was it just so randomly new and a total different experience?
Sarah: yeah. actually you’re right. I trained as a lawyer and I actually use my law training more in my day-to-day life now than I certainly did when I first started out working for NGOs. so at the time, I remember thinking this was a whole waste of time. but it certainly wasn’t always the time. and it’s been very valuable to me recently. But I think, yeah, the NGO world. I was disillusioned by the NGO world after sort of six or seven years of working in that space because what I realized was most people who work in that space really are trying to save the world. I mean we are in that space because we’re trying to be a solution to some of the world’s biggest problems or small problems or large problems. I mean it’s about trying to do good and trying to drive change. and one of the most frustrating things was feeling like gosh, we’re just bandaging and obviously the world is a needy place. so we have to bandage needy people in needy situations. But can we solve any