The Kingdom Investor

41 - The Greatest Investment I’ve Ever Made | David Simms

January 20, 2023 Daniel White Episode 41
The Kingdom Investor
41 - The Greatest Investment I’ve Ever Made | David Simms
Show Notes Transcript

Every investor searches for the best investment opportunity that will give the highest return for their capital. For faith-driven investors, however, figuring out where to invest your money does not only consider financial returns but cares deeply about the how, where, and why behind investment strategies. For Christ-following investors, a great investment promotes human flourishing, creates a greater spiritual impact, and integrates investing and giving.

In this episode, David Simms,  founder of Talanton, a Kingdom-impact investment firm, sheds light on investment opportunities that create jobs and bring hope to people living in poverty. David contends that God who owns everything should be a part of the way we invest and that our investments must impact the world for His glory. Ready to make the greatest investment of your lifetime? Listen now and gain valuable insights.

Key Points From This Episode: 

  • Snapshots of David’s early life 
  • David shares an overview of his passion project.
  • The Genesis story of Talanton 
  • How David’s life story unfolded to fulfill the mission that God has given him.
  • What’s the number one need in the world according to a global survey? 
  • What is one of the most surprising things that David has learned from his business mission work? 
  • David’s advice on how to learn soft skills that are critically relevant in running an organization.
  • What is faith-driven investing? 
  • What is the greatest investment that David has personally made? 
  • What’s David’s one failure that listeners can learn from?
  • What is the biggest thing David has learned about generosity and growing in generosity?
  • As fiduciary of God's money, how can investments be leveraged for Kingdom impact?
  • David answers the mentor-minute questions. 


“A faith-driven investor is somebody who has recognized that the Lord owns it all. It's not just about our giving, it's about our stewardship of all of the resources.”

“I can't imagine meeting Jesus having spent 97 and a half percent on myself. It just does not seem like ‘well done, good and faithful servant’”. 

“There's a disciplined way to start building our giving muscle. When you have money to give, you have the opportunity to go and bless and be blessed by pouring money into ministries that are doing great work. That's the joy of our life.”

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:


David Simms on LinkedIn

Faith Driven Investor website 

Alan Barnhart 

About David Simms

David Simms is Managing Partner and Founder of Talanton, a Kingdom-impact investment firm. He focuses on opportunities to create jobs, bring hope, and transform lives for people living in poverty in the developing world, with a special focus on East Africa. Talanton mobilizes purpose-driven and generally tax-deductible investment capital through a unique model into a pooled Kingdom impact fund where the investments generate scalable, sustainable, and transformational impact by being invested in growth-stage companies creating good jobs in the developing world.  Investment returns then flow back into the donor-investors’ donor-advised fund, family foundation, or source of origin thereby preserving and growing the donor’s capital for future giving or other investing.



ANNOUNCER: Imagine taking your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives, and leaving a godly legacy for generations to come. Get ideas and strategies to do just that when you listen to these personal stories from high-level Kingdom champions.

The Kingdom Investor Podcast showcases business leaders who have moved from success to significance, sharing how they use worldly wealth for kingdom impact. Discover how they grew in generosity, impacted more lives, and built godly legacies. You'll find motivation, inspiration, and practical steps to grow as a Kingdom Investor.


Daniel White (DW):  Hello, and welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast. I'm your host Daniel White, and today I interview David Simms. David is the Founder and Managing Partner of Talanton, a faith-driven investment fund. He and his team started Talanton with the goal of significantly changing the lives of 1 million people through job creation in developing countries. David holds an MBA from Harvard Law School, and a Bachelors of Science from Wharton. Prior to founding talented David served as the president of Opportunity International, a microfinance organization that he helped grow to one of the largest in the world. 

If you've enjoyed this podcast, go to our LinkedIn page, The Kingdom Investor Podcast, and share your favorite episode. Let's get right into the show. 


DW: Welcome to The Kingdom Investor Podcast, David Simms. How are you doing today?


David Simms (DS): I am doing super, Daniel. Thanks for the chance to be with you and your audience. It's just a delight for me to be here.


DW:  I have been looking forward to our conversation for quite some time. And just wanted to really hear from you and just give us a little bit of context, who you are, where you're coming to us from just paint us a little bit of a picture. 


DS:  Sure, happy to do so. I'm joining you today from suburban Philadelphia, where I've called home for most of my life. But I've lived up and down all over the place and traveled extensively with my ministry work. So it's nice to be back home right now for a little bit. Where I'm sort of coming from historically is that I think the Lord wired me from the very beginning before I knew him that I had a passion for making a difference for others. My nickname hard to believe this today but my nickname in school growing up was Senator Simms. People just assumed I was headed to Washington. I've lived there half a dozen times in my life and spent time with a White House fellow at the State Department. So there was a way that that could have happened. And the Lord pretty clearly in my adult life said that is not my path. 

And so he had allowed me to be a business guy, wired for business in some really good ways, but allowed me to combine business skills and training in the way He equipped me to try and go focus on how do you really serve the least of these. And that's really been the story of my life, I got a paycheck from one place, and I got to pour into Kingdom work other other places. And then in the last, well, more than a decade now, I've had a chance to combine those two things. And I got to be full time working on Kingdom businesses within a business. First a nonprofit and now a for-profit. So that's the short version of me, with the important part left out 39 years married to a wonderful woman named Kim and two adult children both walking with the Lord, our sons and a new daughter-in-law as of a year and a quarter ago.


DW:  That is so cool. And I'm excited to unpack that story a little bit because I do know that covers a lot. But before we jump into that, do you mind sharing just a little bit, maybe something recent that you're really passionate about maybe a project or a trip or something like that?.


DS:  Yeah. My day job, so to speak, what I founded five plus years ago now is a faith-driven investment firm focused on Africa. And we had the joy just a few weeks back of taking our board and investors to Kenya and Rwanda, had a chance to go tour six of the businesses and just to see human flourishing in action, real jobs being created. People excited to be at work and have hope for a brighter future. And the farmer is the beneficiary so not the people we invest in but the people that the companies are buying crops from. We got a chance to go be touring, drought-stricken Kenya and be talking with women in the field and seeing that they had just built new houses connected to the grid because of the economic engine of being able to grow flowers called pyrethrum anselm. And we did that and I could go on for more than your podcasts length telling you the stories of 11 different companies now 12 that we've just approved, that are doing that kind of stuff. And that's, that's the project that is kind of a life-fulfilling thing for our whole team right now.


DW:  Absolutely. That is that is so incredible. And I'm excited to get into that. Before we do, do you mind praying for just this time in our listeners and and just for us to grow as Kingdom investors? 


DS:  Wonderful, happy to. Father, we do thank you for this opportunity today to share a little bit of the journey between Daniel and me. We pray that your listeners the listeners here would be blessed we pray that those that are seeking to be good stewards of all that you've entrusted to, to them, that they're stewarding those resources for you and anything we say today that might encourage them on that journey, we just pray that that would be multiplied. Just as in the parable of the talents, the five talents became five more Lord, that's what we pray that we'd all be on the path to hearing well done good and faithful servant, we pray that whatever we share today that that would, in fact, be what happens when also just lift up Daniel and the podcast and just the wonderful guests that he's been bringing you over time and let this series be something that pours into people's lives. Both the next generation and those of us that are further along in our journeys, in order to continue to focus on serving you well. We lift all these things up in Jesus' precious name. Amen.


DW:  Amen. Thank you, David. David, would you share the Genesis story behind Talanton and really kind of the why and, and maybe even a little bit of how your career really prepared you and equipped you for what you're doing now?


DS:  Yeah. Let me start with the Talanton. And I may go back and fill in sort of the Genesis story, it may I may get to that even a little bit when we get to the mentor time, because it was a critical question that was asked of me, that's part of the Genesis story. But that's a longer story. The story of what it is, the Talanton, and why are we trying to do this, I can say that we're doing faith-driven investing in Africa, and people's eyes can glaze over. But if I can  tell people just a few things with some of the stories of impact of you know, there are millions and millions of people living in developing nations, and we've focused on Africa that don't have jobs don't have access, and without jobs, they lack hope. And if you really talk about the depths of poverty, and I know you've had Brian Fikkert on this podcast, Brian really fleshed out that poverty is much more than economic and we couldn't agree more. So he said, if people really want to have hope for a brighter future, that needs a job, and a job comes from an income stream where people are paying you to come to work and the dignity that we had from the beginning in the Garden of Eden. We were made to work, it was before the fall. 

And the genesis of Talanton, really, Daniel is that when we took a look at what the situation is in Africa, it's that people lack jobs, that is why they're in poverty. And they lack jobs, because the job creation engines of any economy are what are called small-medium enterprises, think companies that have anywhere from 10 to 250, 300, 400 people, those SMEs, small medium enterprises, are the engines of job creation and jobs create wealth and give people, pointing them for human flourishing. Why are there not enough small medium enterprises at scale? It's because they lacked capital. And for your audience, many of whom work in the financial world, I asked pretty simple questions. I said, pretend I'm a wealth advisor coming to you as a client, and I'm saying we're gonna go invest in some fabulous, small medium enterprises in Africa with your hard earned dollars, your retirement dollars, and this is going to do some exciting things for the Kingdom. I don't sense that you're jumping up and down to go deploy your investment dollars. Now, Daniel, am I wrong? And how you might respond to that inquiry by me? 


DW:  Yeah, I would have a lot of questions, I think. 


DS: Ah, you and everybody else. And so the truth is the capital markets today don't work to get capital flowing to the job creation engines in Africa. There's private equity to go make a lot of money in some high-tech and some big ag, there are places that you can do it but not the job creation engines. And that the why for Talaton was saying we're going to go create what we aspire to be a world-class fund, SEC registered, all that stuff that does get capital flowing into these small medium enterprises to create the jobs. And the uniqueness of our model said we don't care where the capital comes from, if somebody's willing to invest because the Lord owns it all. God bless him and we have 20% of our capital comes from those people. But we also said we're going to use donor-advised funds as capital. 

And we're gonna go invest in some companies like a yogurt business in Rwanda, called Masaka Creamery, 50 employees, but half of them are deaf. Now in the developing world, if you have any kind of disability, you just don't get a job. There are too many people ahead of you. But here's a company where the entire company speak sign language, and it creates jobs for the least of these and the why of Talanton and was to take the parable of the talents, the five talent turn servant that's investing to go multiply it, here, well done, good and faithful servant. But keep reading Matthew 25, whatever you've done for the least of these you've done for me. And we had talent and want to put those two parables together to serve five talents servants in the US that want to go help serve the least of these in a unique investing model in Africa to start. 


DW:  Yeah, absolutely. So can you share a little bit about how your life story played into what you're doing now with Talanton?


DS:  Sure, I mentioned at the start that I was kind of wired for business. I was very good, very good student and was off headed in my day. If you're good at math and science, you're going to be an engineer. That's what everybody told you to do. So I was headed down to figure out where I was gonna go study engineering. And my mother was looking at a bunch of stuff. She wanted me to be close to home. That was always her desire. And I was living in suburban Philadelphia and there's this wonderful school called University of Pennsylvania and Wharton that's right around the road from us. Hey, there's this management technology program down there, Wharton and engineering combined undergraduate. They;re just starting, it's brand new program, why don't you go see if that might be a fit. And I went down and the Lord just phenomenally introduced me to one of the people I count not as a mentor, but as a key intermediary in my life that fundamentally changed the trajectory of my career. And I ended up going to Penn. I went to do the management technology program. 

So, I was wired for business, did Wharton. And then that wasn't quite enough. So I said, well, I need a graduate degree. So I went up to Harvard, and I was going to law school, and I did a JD MBA at Harvard. So again, wired for business. And Mitt Romney hired me at Bain and Company. So you got the patch, right? It's all sort of business focus. But my career got radically interrupted in a very positive way as my wife is a Wheaton College graduate. And one of her Wheaton College classmates, gone to a microfinance organization. And we got introduced to that. The year, literally the month, we got back from our honeymoon. And I got interested in Christian microfinance and everything that one could do in the Christian microfinance space for that organization. From a volunteer standpoint, I did. 

So, the career was from one place, paycheck was one place but our passion was into how do you make a difference in the lives of some of the least of these? And we spent three decades with our family traveling the globe, taking donors all over the globe and trying to figure out how do we take that tiny little microfinance organization from a thousand clients to by 2010, I was asked to step in as the executive chairman. And by then we had some 12 million clients, and put out $1.3 billion in loans that year. So the career and the building blocks that the Lord had equipped me with in my corporate career, I got to apply first through a microfinance organization. And then, six years ago, 2016, the Lord said, there's something bigger that you're going to now go tackle, and that's what has now become Talanton.


DW:  And I think one of the things that you shared and we were talking about Talanton, is that there was a survey done globally, and the number one need, what was that? From the survey?


DS: Gallup has surveyed more people than probably any organization on the planet and Gallup through every country said the one thing that people want, everywhere across the globe is a job. It's just what is needed. And the hundreds of millions, billions of people that don't have a regular job. People in America don't understand that in many parts of Africa as thriving as the continent is, and it's growing faster than the US and Asia and other parts of the world. So it's thriving. And it's not the Africa that's in our minds. But there are still only about 15% of the people that adults in Africa have a paycheck coming from someplace. So they're working as farmers, they're working in market stalls, they're doing their own. We call it a gig economy. That's what they call it, but it's individual businesses.

So, they lack regular jobs. And that gets back to that make yourself a, you know, many of our, our audience here be family members, think about you got kids, you want to feed the kids. Well, let me see, I have to work today to have the money today to feed the kids today. And if I don't work today, I don't have the money to feed the kids. That's life for too many hundreds of millions of people. So that's what the Gallup point was a job, I get a paycheck. And there's gonna be a paycheck there next week, and next month, and next year. And if I do well, I could get a bigger paycheck as I grow in my careers. That's what Talantonis designed to help address.


DW:  Yeah, I think that that statistic surprised me because as an entrepreneur, and I think a lot of a lot of us as entrepreneurs, kind of overlook the fact that you really do need a lot of jobs to to grow an economy and to the majority of people need a solid job. And so it's easy for us to I think, take that for granted.


DS:  Yeah, the the other thing I've spent a lot of time in the developing world, from from Africa to Asia to India, Latin America, even in Eastern Europe. So I've I think I know a thing or two. But in this last quarter, we were able to go find a new investment into a cookstove world's most efficient cookstoves company called Burn. And I was shocked by a statistic. I wish I had your audience and I could pull them. That's what I do when I'm in front of people live. But I I'll I'll at least give them the question. They can answer it before I give them the answer. In Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, there's 1.1 billion people alive today. I'd like to ask people, How many of people in Africa cook over open fires, they're called three stone fires, you have three stones together, put a pot of wood in the middle. So I know you're really sophisticated. You want to speak on behalf of our audience, you're much wiser than most 1.1 billion, how many people in Africa cook over open fires?


DW:  Oh, that's, I'm because you asked the question. I'm kind of biased to say a very high percentage. So I'm gonna say 800 million.


DS:  Well, your bias was exactly right. But your number was a little low 900 million. Now for your business audience. When we talk about being faithful and investors. How would you like a market making a cookstoves that has a market on the content and continent of 900 million people as the first step to be able to go and not only does it mean, people don't have the smoke and the inhalation that's all in their families, the access to fires that kids fall into and burn and the 1000s of people that are killed the climate impact of all the wood, the economic impact the gathering time, just think about the economic engine. And we won't get into all the details today. But we found a way to basically fund this company in a model that's securitization of cooking stoves that we can use carbon credits to dramatically lower the price that they sell the cookstoves for, to go address a market of 900 million in Africa alone, and bigger markets elsewhere. 

That's the kind of fun stuff that the Lord lets us do. It's not that one's not. I mean, it's 1000 people that are working for this company today, they're going to double by February, and they believe they can 10x that in the next 18 months to two years. And we saw a manufacturing plant with laser cutters, stamping machines, just unbelievable efficiency. When we were there three weeks ago, we'd already invested I had not been there in person to see it. And that's the kind of job creating impact, you know, it's not 1000 That's not the endpoint, they're going to be, you know, 10,000 people, let alone however many million peoples whose lives can be better off because of the power of a faith driven investment opportunity here.



DW:  Yeah. Wow. That is that is really neat. So David, what is one of the most surprising things that you've learned? I know you've already shared a couple, but just on your, on your journey and traveling to all these different countries and It's getting to see a lot of these different places. What is maybe one of the most surprising things that you've learned?


DS: I'd say it's one that I'm always learning. But I say that one of the things most surprised me, at least in the start of my journey here is that I always thought the hard skills, you know, finance, economics, marketing, you know, that's the hard stuff that people that are really good, they go do master that stuff. And when I think about what it's taken to effectively, lead organizations make a difference, really help people feel engaged and contribute their full selves to the work of an organization and ministry of business,  it's all the soft skills. It's the people skills, it's the vision and the connecting people to purpose, and what's their purpose that's linked to the vision. That's an awful lot of soft skills that isn't what I learned. I didn't, I had HR courses, but it was not putting it in a way that applied it in meaningful ways.

So, something like Global Leadership Summit these days is still super helpful to me or podcast that can speak into how do you really lead people well, that's just so important. And it doesn't matter whether it's a US company, a Kenyan company, a company in Rwanda, Burundi, or Uganda, the other places in which we work. It's all the same stuff, you have to lead well, lead people, get them engaged and deliver on a mission that is bigger than ourselves.


DW:  How can we develop some of those soft skills? You mentioned the global leadership summit as maybe a resource. But what are maybe some other ways that we can do that? Because I, I think that I mean, I know that you're right about that. And it is something that I think gets overlooked in some of the educational systems and in different things, because we're so focused on the hard skills. So maybe give us some advice on where we can learn some of that and develop some of that, and maybe how you've seen that come to fruition?


DS:  Yeah. You know, Daniel, in school, we all had tests, right? We had feedback, that's what a test was, it was a feedback, did you learn the material? Do you know, what can you apply it to all of that sort of stuff. And then we get to be adults in the workplace. And we hate performance reviews. And we hate giving them we hate receiving them. We don't like feedback. We don't like criticism. And guess what one of the things I've learned on this journey, my team is, you know, they will quote me as saying it before I say it is how much I say it. As I said, feedback is a gift. I don't like feedback, I am right upfront and saying I am not a fan of feedback. I take criticism harshly, but I don't get better without it. So I have to accept feedback as a gift. And I don't like giving critical feedback. But I have to understand that if I don't provide feedback, both the positive kind when people are really doing well, I should do that 10 times more than I do. But when somebody really needs an opportunity to develop a skill, and I know ways in which they could do it, if I don't speak into that I'm denying them an opportunity for them to progress their career. And that's taking something away from them. 

So, how do we develop some of the soft skills? How are you building more feedback into your life? And then institutionally, I've used different surveys over the years, but here at Talanton, we just this year, have decided to be used the best Christian workplaces international survey, C12 that I'm a member of is used that for many, many years. And so I'm familiar with it. And I said, let's try it. And I'm delighted that we ended up in their flourishing category. That was good. But guess what, there are some real opportunities for us to work on things that were not in the flourishing end of the spectrum on individual questions or individual sections, some of which it's not that we were blind to them. But we didn't prioritize. We didn't know what pain points it was for people. We didn't know that we ought to be addressing them in different ways. And that institutional feedback is how do we as a team get better at applying and delivering on our mission?


DW:  Yeah, that is really good. And I think we do naturally just resist feedback because we think it's criticism and I guess a lot of times we're bad at giving feedback. And so it does come across as criticism.


DS:  Yes. Yeah. Guess how many people are looking forward to their next performance review and I'll bet no hands are going up. It just it's become, it's sad because it's not the way it should be, that should be. It's not a performance review as much as it's a development plan. What are we doing together for your future? Where do you want to be? Where do you see your career? Am I using a performance review as the development plan? Not the report card of here's all your failings or even if you did really well, it's just that's not helpful. That's all rear view. Let's make it a forward-looking conversation and not just once a year.


DW:  Yeah, and that's really, really insightful. And it reminds me just, I mean, just two weeks ago, I was talking with my wife about, you know, I look at some of these business owners and some of the businesses that we have gotten to see. And some of them seem to do really, really well and be very successful and almost outsized successful. And some of them just struggle and putter along for decades. And it's like, what is the difference? And I asked her that I was like, What do you think the difference is between just a marginally successful business that's, you know, barely profitable, and one that has thrived and grown and flourished. And she said, people development. And, you know, the companies that don't grow, and they kind of just struggle along, they're not developing their people. And so they have no future. And, and companies that that are investing, because it isn't for of investing, right, you're investing in your people, you're developing that Java development plan for them. And you do review, you do feedback, and you help them to grow, and they help the company to grow.


DS:  Yeah. And to this point, that's actually one of my lessons learned from from last year. Daniel, we're investing in companies that we and they aspire to be five to 10 times bigger within five years. And that's a pretty rapid growth for a non-technology business, right? Because we're focused on job creating businesses, not just a high tech company, that software may be easier to scale like that. So we're looking for companies that are going to grow like that with heavy people intensive. Guess what the gating factor is going to be - leadership. So a year ago, this time of year, literally, exactly a year ago in C12, we always come up with a primary objective for what are you going to focus on for the next year in your business? The number one thing that is a good one, no, not two, one. And I was playing around with where we're going to invest a bunch of the money that people entrusted to us because we had a really good fundraising year in 2021, had money to invest this year. 

And my partner wisely said, David, that's good. But I don't think that's number one. I think number one is that we want to figure out how do we help equip and build the very best leadership teams in every one of our portfolio companies. Because if the teams are as best as they could be, our mission is going to succeed, like companies are gonna grow, jobs are going to be created, our investors are gonna get paid back, because the company is going to do well, profitably. So what have we done this year, we've been trying to continuously focus on what do we do to strengthen and equip the leadership teams of every company in our post investments support, we do a great job on due diligence, you got to get the right people into the portfolio. But putting the money in is, quite frankly, even as hard as it is, it's the easy part, helping a company grow five to 10x in East Africa, in the midst of COVID, in two of our first five years in business, I may just suggest that you really get to know people in this journey.


DW:  So yeah, that's that's very helpful. So we mentioned a couple of times, faith driven and faith driven investors. And I'd like to maybe unpack that a little bit and and kind of tell us what is a faith driven investor? And  why should they care about things like Talanton?

DS: Yeah, that's a great question. Henry C-ase there in the faith driven investing group for any of your audience that hasn't yet to go on to check that out. I would highly commend it to you. We do a lot with them. We're actually coordinating a trip to Africa for investors in February of 2023. So, faith-driven investor as we like to think about it as somebody that has recognized that the Lord owns it all. It's not just about our giving, it's about our stewardship of all of the resources and the amount of money that we have invested, our investment accounts, whether it's regular investments, self-directed IRAs, 401k real estate, fill in all of the things that we've invested in, tend to dwarf our giving. Wish that were not the case. I've met people where that's not the case. But they're rare. And that we really aspire to take, wow, look at what Alan Barnhart did with that company that he gave the company to the Lord because he was the, right? Wow, that blows my mind. And we talk about him because he's not quite a unicorn. But unfortunately there aren't enough Alan Barnhart in the world. For your audience that may not be familiar. Go check it out on YouTube. He has some amazing testimonials. 

So, faith-driven investors understand that the Lord owns it all. And what they're trying to do is to be a good steward, and how do we steward the resources that we've been entrusted. And steward is a word that I love, because I love the parable of the talents and some versions of the Bible. We'll use that as not a servant, but a steward. I know Don Simmons has been on your podcast, we partner with him a lot. We love working together, and he calls it a fiduciary. And I think there's a word, that's a different word, that is because it's different, you have to stop, wait a minute, fiduciary, well, that's banks, they have to watch after my money, because they're my fiduciary. Bingo, a faith-driven investor, you're watching after the Lord's money, and what are you doing with it? And why I think people ought to care about not just Talanton but faith driven investors in the States and other parts of the world, is, as you look to say, what is the Lord doing? And what are the opportunities for me to be a faithful steward or fiduciary to align his resources with what he's doing? And some people think, oh, well, I can only donate to Africa, because how in the world could you ever get money back?

We said, well, we're not asking you to put 100% of your assets. But why aren't you putting some, several percent of your assets into investments? Because I would challenge anybody to prove to me any place where pure donations have ended poverty. And I'm just going to say, I, I just don't believe it in the short term. Education is a long-term way out of poverty. But in the short term, investments in companies that are sustainable, scalable, job creating, that's the way poverty can end. And we don't need more donations. Africa needs to have people with the dignity of work, and jobs. And how why should faith driven investors care about this is they have resources that they can invest, charitable, through a donor advised funds as investment, or regular investment, they can be a good faith driven investor in order to advance his kingdom.

DW:  All right, so David, what is the greatest investment that you personally have made? And you can give me a fun answer and a serious answer if you want.


DS: The greatest investment that I have personally made has been putting my faith in Jesus Christ my first weekend at Harvard Law School. So that's, that's the fun answer. But I like to tell people that I went to Harvard for their education, I found Jesus, my first weekend at Harvard Law School, and I stayed for the education anyway. So that that's, that's the greatest investment. 

My wife would be number two, meeting her in a fire drill and park three church, trying to walk this journey together would be my second greatest investment only to Jesus as number one, I have to think about, I love the things that we're doing at Talanton. And we have some phenomenal businesses. But I think the place that that prove that I should be trusting in God the most, I'm going to take you back to my microfinance journey. I was on on the board at this time chairing some of the new new initiatives. And the guy running new initiatives came to us and said, we're gonna go do life insurance in Africa. And we didn't have a lot of money back then about 2006, 2007. And I said, well, tell me more. David, the clients are subject to all kinds of risks, because we know they really desperately need some way to mitigate risk. That's what insurance does. We're going to do life insurance. And I said, tell me where? Uganda, now the HIV rates are, you know, 15 to 20% at the time, so I'm sure we're gonna have exclusions. And this guy's name's Richard Leftly. And Richard said, no, no, we're not gonna have any exclusions. We're going to life insurance, Sub-Saharan Africa, we're starting Uganda, no exclusions. But the best part is revenue per month is 20 cents of revenue per month. 

Now, when I'm in my business hat, Wharton and HBS did not tell me that one could go launch a business in those kinds of parameters, and have that thing succeed. And when I ask people if they were on the board at the time, would they have voted in favor and nobody raises their hand? And I said, well, you really missed an opportunity to watch the Lord in action because that insane business model that we prayed through, and we were a nonprofit. So we had catalytic capital to go do stuff that pure for profit investments can't, that crazy business model that I helped lead as chair of the initial board for the first decade and moved it into multiple countries. By the time we'd raised impact investment capital, faith driven investing, and otherwise, we're serving 60 million people across the globe and on its way up, and has been now merged into some commercial insurance companies, because we found a way following the Lord, to actually go impact the lives of some of the poorest people on the planet. 

And what's the greatest investment I did? I trusted in the Lord, that that was his business. If it didn't work, it didn't work. But it did work. And where we are at Talan ton, and as people said, you can't go invest in small medium enterprises in Africa. I said, Yeah, we can't if the Lord doesn't want it to work. But if the Lord wants it to work, why don't we go have some fun and see what he's doing? And I'm trusting him. Maybe it doesn't reach 60 million least in my tenure. But I'm pretty sure at this point five years in, it's going to be well north of a million jobs, that will be impacting here through this kind of faith driven investing model.

 So I hope that the next telling of the Talanton story will be right up there with these crazy guys ran to Africa and invested in business. Can you believe what they did? You know, they're getting paid back, generating good returns and look at the jobs, and the hope that they're creating.


DW:  Yeah, that's good. That's good. What about a failure that we can maybe learn from?

DS: Yeah, this is feedback as a gift. In 1991, I guess, or Persian Gulf War One. I have already been at Bain. Bain and Company has taught my career. I had two degrees, I was out raising money for a new business that we thought was the cat's meow in Washington, DC. And so we were doing this and my partner and I, and I went to call on somebody, a very wealthy Christian in Tyson's Corner, Virginia. And I called on him and we weren't raising that much money, million bucks, something like that. And he sort of ran through my resume. Everything I've just said, he said, David, you know, I see that you've done this, that other thing, where have you ever actually led a business? Where have you actually managed real businesses? Where have you actually had to meet a payroll? Why in the world would I give my investment dollars to somebody that has never run a p&l and run a company? And I didn't have a real good answer to that. But the Lord did, because we did not raise the money now whether it was Persian Gulf War, and I remember walking up and down, around the White House, it’s probably not the safest place to be in the midst of the early days of the war. But anyway, the Lord said, nope, that one was a no. And the Lord led me to go step in as a CEO of a nonprofit as a Red Cross of Baltimore, Washington region, $55 million revenue operation, but I got the chance to go to a huge turnaround there. But it was a lesson learned of what skills did I need to learn to be equipped with before the Lord was going to let me go? Do the kinds of stuff that I now can do? But at that point in my career, I was not equipped to do it. So yeah, that is that's very helpful.


DW:  39:02

Yeah, I think a lot, a lot of times, at least in my, my life, I've underestimated what God needs to develop in me before he accomplishes through me,

DS:  Bingo. And again, listening to others, we're full of our enthusiasm and optimism and okay, where are the gaps?

DW:  So speaking to, to our listeners for a moment, what would you say? is maybe the biggest thing that you've learned about generosity and growing and generosity?

DS:  I think, you know, after he owns it all. People always say, Oh, I can't get there. From here. It's too big. I served on that microfinance board with with a man who gave a testimony at Willow Creek Church and he was giving 90% of his funding away and it blew my mind 90 presented I was income away. And it blew my mind. I was thinking, hey, you know, we got to be a tither. And a little bit more, and I was feeling quite proud. Well, that's not Lord owns at all. He owns the other 90%, too. Fortunately, the Lord equipped Is it a couples study with a financial planner that said, Everybody struggles to like, give you a real simple thing. And we were earlier in our career, we're 30s at this point. And he said, here's, here's it, you're living on your income today, right? We said, yeah. 

I said, Okay, well, you're gonna get a pay raise next year, likely? Yes. Yeah, well, fine. You keep living on your current income. And then you just make sure that you keep adding a percent a year to what you're putting in, you're giving away and you put another percent a year into what you're saving for yourself. Now you're saving for future kids and college and mortgages and all this stuff. But you're also building your giving fund, because instead of being a PT, either, in 10 years time, your multiple PT either other 10 years time, you're 30%. And so it's the it's the discipline of saying I don't need to go from being a to get to a tie there in most of evangelical church, right? The average giving in the church steps I've seen are two and a half percent. And I'm thinking, Lord, please, you know, don't help me not hold tightly I want to hold loosely, it's your money. And I can't imagine walking into meet Jesus. And having spent 97 and a half percent on myself, I'm sorry, I just that does not seem like well done. good and faithful servant. So the lesson for me was, there's a, there's a disciplined way that worked for us to start building our giving muscle. And then guess what, when you had money to give them the opportunities to go it glass and be blessed, by pouring money into ministries that are doing great work. That's the joy of our life. That's what our kids have come to, you know, as parents is the adult kids that are generous early in their careers. Thank you, Lord.

DW:  Yeah. Yeah, that's good. And I think, I think that's really important to think about it in small incremental steps of building that muscle. But then also thinking about what we were talking about earlier about leveraging our investing for Kingdom impact, because that's normally so much more than our philanthropy and our donations. And so thinking about well, how do I, how am I the fiduciary of God's money? And how do I leverage both investments and giving to do that? 

DS: So, early on before COVID, so we were very small fund, maybe we'd raised a million dollars at the starting point. And my wife and I were having lunch with a wonderful, generous couple down in Florida and, and all of a sudden, the light bulbs all went off to the woman. And she said, turned to me and said, David, I have a question for you. When I meet Jesus in heaven, is he going to ask me, what did I do with the talents I gave away? Or is he going to ask me, what did I do with the talents he gave me? I said, I think we all know the answer to that question, don't we? And she said, I think we don't know too. And don't get me wrong, our financial adviser, Ron Blue guy, is doing phenomenal work. But David, it's invested in Apple and Google and Microsoft, and whatever he's doing to generate really nice returns back then. But none of that is advancing the kingdom. None of that is for Jesus. Can we invest out of our regular investment wallet instead of our donor accounts? And I said to her, yes, we set up Talanton and that the Lord owns it all and we don't care, you reach into whichever politic pocket he tells you. And they ended up putting $400,000 in when we were early days, and I can't tell you how catalytic it was pre-COVID to have capital. 

And when I went back and shared this story with them a year later about how much two years later, after COVID, where we could meet again and said catalytic, they're there. It just lit up to you to understand, David, our mission as we understand it from the Lord is to use our capital and be catalytic. That's exactly we didn't even know we were being catalytic with you. That's what our mission is. And the Lord was letting us be catalytic with private capital and capital that we invested in the first through time have got invested in the first three companies we did during those early days when COVID was making investing anywhere hard. 

DW:  Yeah. Before we jump into the mentor minute, is there anything else that is that you want to share with our listeners?

DS:  We've covered a lot of it. I think the other thing maybe we didn't touch on is that the power of doing this together, I can't imagine doing this kind of work or ministry or having the amount of fun or building relationships. It really matters to try and do this in community. Both the impact is building community and the places we work. But the work itself is building community and the joy of fellowship and time together. I mean, I mentioned that we had 20 people or so in Africa last month, the highlights of the trips were people, we spent hours on buses to get out in the mountains in the rural areas. That was highlights, because you're building fellowship and doing this kind of work together just encourages one another, sign encourage, encourage our audience don't do this alone. Fine. Try the community and encourage them others to you join them or they join you, but do it together? Yeah,

DW: That's great advice. Thank you. So who is the most influential person that you know, and how have they impacted you?

DS:  I have so many answers. You said the most and I even that I'm debating. The person that really helped design Talanton without knowing what he was doing was Greg Lerner hands down, strong, faith-driven investor, built a company from his garage up to a billion dollar company and is now fully devoted to faith and kingdom work, giving and investing and his advice in the journey in really insightful ways that we could have easily gone to a modest return type fund. And Greg said, David, your vision is to connect capital to the 450 million people in Africa that need a job. That's not charitable, that's investment capital, you need to target a high enough return to get people to do alternative investments at scale out of their investment wallet. Well, that's it's one conversation, but we designed what we're doing because Greg was wise enough to take the mission and what God's put on our hearts to what do you need to do to structure of fund to get from here to there? I talked to him last couple of weeks ago, he said, well go do fund two. You've already done everything you said you're gonna do in fund one. So now we're trying to okay, well, we listed on the first time that wasn't in the immediate plans. But so now we're praying about okay, Lord, what does that mean? So we'll say, what's good?

DW:  And then what book or podcast would you highly recommend?

DS:  There's a bunch of things. It depends on where people are, if you're, if you're really on this, the journey to understand that the Lord owns it all and how do I do things differently. I know you had Don Simmons on this podcast, but Don's book, it's right here on my desk.  “The Steward Investor” is phenomenal to just challenge us and give us some different thoughts If you're running an organization and trying to figure out how do I grow or scale it. I had the joy of working with Jim Collins multiple times early in my career. And he wrote a book called “Good to Great” which some of your older audience would be familiar with, some that work in the nonprofit sector. He wrote “Good to Great” for the social sectors, those who are great. But then he took one tool out of those books, one tool called the flywheel and he wrote a little monograph on the power of the flywheel. And fortunately, somebody on Jim's team knew when he sent me a copy when it was first published, which of course, in the Lord's timing came to me when we were starting Talanton. 

Now the flywheel talks about how does the Cleveland Clinic become the Cleveland Clinic? And how does Amazon become Amazon? What are the steps in building a flywheel of a successful enterprise that one thing moves to the other and the flywheel spins faster and faster? But we were just starting Talanton and we weren't Amazon or the Cleveland Clinic or anything of the sort, but we said, hmm, when we're successful, what will the flywheel have been? And we designed a six-step flywheel. Before we had ever raised dollar one of capital, and that flywheel sets our priorities, sets our strategies, gives our board review materials, every single quarter off of that one tool. So, for anybody that's trying to figure out how do I grow and scale a business, one little simple tool can really do wreck your steps if you obey that in prayer and let the Lord lead. 


DW:  That's really, really helpful. Thank you for that. And then finally, what is the greatest lesson in leadership that you've learned?

DS:  Jesus got it right when he washed the disciples feet. It's all about servant leadership. It's how do we actually live that out? In more modern parlance, again, I'm a pretty big fan of Andy Stanley and Donald Miller. And I know again, you've spoken to them, but they really talked, Donald Miller in his in his story brand stuff really talks about our role as leaders is to be Gandalf or Yoda. It's the guide, not the hero. And it's so easy to be the hero, it's so easy to put myself in the hero seat and telling these stories, sort of saying, no, no, I'm trying to equip others. And I want to be the guide. And whether it's guiding somebody to be a good steward investor, or guiding a CEO and team to be delivering the mission of what they're called to do. Boy, that's a different kind of leadership. But man, it's exponentially powerful.

DW: Thank you, David, for coming on the show. This has been really insightful. And I just wanted to ask you, is there anything that we can be praying for you specifically and your family and Talanton?  

DS:  Yeah, we're praying for the future of Talanton and that we had a sort of a three-year plan, sort of COVID 2021-22. We've completed the three-year plan and thanks to the Lord, despite COVID, done an awful lot of phenomenal things. But guess what, now we are asking, okay, Lord, you've given us a foundation to build on, where do we go from here? Is it a fund 2? Is it different geographies where we're at least looking at Tanzania as an option right now? So I'm praying for the Lord's wisdom to direct our steps on the business side. It’s a really good time that we solicit everyone's prayers for that on the family front, really trying to make sure that my wife and I can be good parents to adult children, including our first daughter in the family. And so we're just trying to figure out okay, Lord, how are we good? Advisors, not leaders, need to take my own advice here on what, what do we do to be good parents of adult children? 

DW: Man, I’ll pray for you now.

DS: Please, thank you.

DW:  Let's pray. God, thank you for David and for everything that you're doing in Him and through Him. Lord, I pray that you continue to guide him that he would obey you, Lord, that he would listen carefully to your Holy Spirit. And that you would, you would be guiding him and his family in their parenting, in their ministry and business. God, I thank you for this conversation. I thank you for our listeners. And I pray that You would help us to take one step closer to being true disciples of you, and that we invest your resources in your purposes. In Christ's name I pray, amen. 

Thank you guys, for listening to The Kingdom Investor Podcast, and we'll catch you next time for another episode of The Kingdom Investor.



ANNNOUNCER: What if you could take your generosity to the next level, impacting more lives in your community and around the world, creating a godly legacy for generations to come?

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