Masawa

Founder's Note

Dear Fellow Humans:

For most of my life, I’ve dealt with depression, anxiety, and addiction. The voices in my head, the constant nagging, and rumination seemed only to be quieted by the dopamine kick gained from consuming unnatural amounts of shitty food and alcohol. Most only knew my accomplishments, my breadth of experience, humor, and knack for languages. An expert at curating an amazing narrative, few saw my true unhappiness.

I tried antidepressants and psychotherapy, both important to giving me the space I needed to come to terms with and start exploring the causes of my mental illness, many rooted in a rough childhood being raised on welfare by a loving single mother who had her own battles with depression and alcoholism, but I was far from being whole.

In early 2018, after tipping the scales above 300lbs / 136kgs and having hit rock bottom three times in the past two years, something had to be done. I started studying non-mainstream and holistic approaches to achieving mental wellness and began incorporating good nutrition, meditation, and exercise into my daily life. Slowly, the brain fog lifted, the weight dropped, and the joy of living returned!

It took me 35 years to realize that mental illness had always affected me, and another five to learn how to cope. That’s far too long, but for many, it takes a lifetime. Unacceptable. I founded Masawa to change that. 

By nurturing capital to nurture minds, we invest for financial returns with a focus on maximizing impact while not losing sight of founders’ and companies’ mental healths. 

We hope you’ll join us, so that billions live life.

Joshua First Name Sig

Joshua Haynes

Managing Partner, Masawa

Our story, your story

The silent pandemic

Mental illness is an equal opportunity offender. It doesn’t care who you are, what you look like, or where you’re from; once it has crept into the mind, it’ll do anything to stay. Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders, addiction and other mental illnesses have the power to disconnect from lives once lived and those once loved.

The figures are staggering: depression is the major cause of disability worldwide. Each year, 25% of Europeans suffer from depression or anxiety. Among US-Americans recently diagnosed with depression, around two-thirds don’t receive treatment. By 2030, mental health disorders are estimated to cost the global economy $16 trillion. In Africa, there’s an up to 90% treatment gap between those who need help and those that receive it. These numbers are infuriating and the ensuing consequence is detrimental.   

Opportunities abound in a growing market

There is a whole set of evidence-based tools and innovations with the potential to improve mental wellness that is often overlooked: nutrition, natural medicine, mindfulness, new technologies, and workplace wellness. We estimate the market for these approaches to be at least $250B. There are 1200 companies, including startups, directly or indirectly focused on delivering these approaches in Europe and North America alone.

Luckily, as the stigma of mental illness begins to lift, investors are starting to take notice: global investment in mental health technology has exceeded $1B in the past two years. But where’s the accountability to maximize the investments’ social impact? And who’s focusing on the mental health of the entrepreneurs delivering increased access to mental wellness and their ability to craft resilient organizations which, in turn, improves the lives of more people (and provides larger financial returns)? 

We see a chance to help billions of people lead bright, fulfilling lives by employing capital to achieve impact.

Our values

Breaking the stigma.

Mental wellness is a right from which no one should feel excluded; the burden of mental illness should never be fought alone. We are working to break the stigma that prevents millions from living freely, one barrier at a time. We expect to see the world where every human gets to lead a secure, autonomous life and is treated as a rightful member of society.

For that to happen, a large-scale transition towards prioritizing mental wellness is needed. Many of society’s existential challenges (climate change, racial injustice, poverty, etc.) can be better addressed once everyone is more mentally well.

Collaboration and transparency. 

Solving mental illness pandemic can only be achieved when we work together – that’s why broad collaboration and transparency is key. To facilitate that, we are open-sourcing our financial, impact, and organizational health maximization tools and frameworks.

Diversity as an accelerator. 

Embracing our vulnerabilities propels us forward, rather than holding us back – our commitment to a diversity of life experiences makes us fundamentally stronger. By focusing on the human first, we can find common ground more quickly and empower each other. 

We’ve embarked upon this quest with the full realization that it will be extremely difficult, a challenge we relentlessly accept. 

Our approach

Masawa is the mental wellness impact fund. Through a laser focus on financial viability, social impact maximization, and founder resilience + organizational health, we nurture capital to nurture minds.

Masawa invests in organizations with products proven to directly or indirectly result in improved mental wellness:

  • Natural healing approaches: nutrition, exercise, natural medicine, mindfulness, etc.

  • Technology-accelerated recovery: software and hardware innovations 

  • Workplace wellness: approaches to impact people where they spend the most time

We screen investment opportunities via our investment lens:

  • Business and market fit + ability to return investment

  • Social impact drive + ability to maximize social impact

  • Founders’ + organization’s resilience and mental health

We co-create impact and organizational health metrics with each organization and give founders a wealth of resources to maximize impact, organizational health, and financial returns.  This includes access to a vast network of experts, personal coaches, impact maximization tools, leadership and development modules.

Mental wellness is a right from which no one should feel excluded; the burden of mental illness should never be fought alone. We are working to break the stigma that prevents millions from living freely, one barrier at a time. We expect to see the world where every human gets to lead a secure, autonomous life and is treated as a rightful member of society.

For that to happen, a large-scale transition towards prioritizing mental wellness is needed. Many of society’s existential challenges (climate change, racial injustice, poverty, etc.) can be better addressed once everyone is more mentally well.

But solving mental illness pandemic can only be achieved when we work together – that’s why broad collaboration and transparency is key. To facilitate that, we are open-sourcing our financial, impact, and organizational health maximization tools and frameworks. 

Embracing our vulnerabilities propels us forward and does not hold us back – our commitment to a diversity of life experiences makes us fundamentally stronger. By focusing on the human first, we can find common ground more quickly and empower each other. 

We’ve embarked upon this quest with the full realization that it will be extremely difficult, a challenge we relentlessly accept.

Team

Partners

We’re led by our multi-faceted experiences and ability to harness serendipity.

Impact Partner

Lilian Lehmann

Impact Partner

Insatiable wanderlust and curiosity thanks to a multi-cultural upbringing. Caregiver of someone with a mental illness.

15 years experience leading programs across Africa and Asia, focusing on impact measurement, evidence for decision-making. Launched and led IDinsight’s SE Asia Regional Office; managed global expansion of a safe water program at Innovations for Poverty Actions, reaching 2 million people.

Degrees from Haverford College (Comparative Literature); University of St. Gallen + The Fletcher School, Tufts University (Int’l Affairs). Member of THNK School of Creative Leadership. Lost count of number of countries lived and worked in, speaks 4 languages, lives in Lisbon.

Najmeh

Najmeh Habili

Investment Partner

Moved from Iran to Australia as a child. Passionate about catalytic power of mental wellness.

10 years global experience in private equity, VP at Australia’s leading investment bank overseeing the investment of $3B across Australia, Asia, and the Middle East in the areas of health, insurance, hotels, and financial services.

Growth marketing visionary and expert with leadership positions at eBay, Ancestry, and Varo Money for past 7 years.

Degrees from University of Adelaide (Law/Business); The Wharton School (MBA), UPenn. Speaks 2 languages, lived in 5 countries, lives in San Francisco Bay Area.

Joshua

Joshua Haynes

Managing Partner

Overcame depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Tough childhood raised on welfare by a single mother = grit + perseverance.

20 years leading + curating at the nexus of innovation, technology, social impact. Peace Corps Volunteer, data analyst, software developer, consultant, digital product + service designer.

Diplomat in the Obama Administration (USAID), managed $190M in impact grant funding for the US & Swedish Govs, pioneered new impact partnership types and ways of working.

Degrees from Boston University (Finance); The Fletcher School, Tufts University (MBA). Worked in 35 countries, speaks 7 languages well (pretends in many more), lives in Berlin with husband and two children.

Analysts

We’re powered by an impressive group of analysts, committed to innovatively making mental wellness matter.

Hattie

Hattie Brown

Impact Analyst

Impact + ESG investing, consumer banking, bond insurance. Masters of Nutrition Science + Policy (Friedman), International Business (Fletcher) – Tufts University. Washington, DC.

Aesclinn

Aesclinn Donohue

Resilience Analyst

Organizational behavior and policy design, social enterprise AgTech in Africa, inclusive finance. Masters of International Business (Fletcher) – Tufts University. Boston.

Joseph

Joseph Dunbar

Investment Analyst

Fiduciary investment management, investment due diligence, non-profit management. Masters of International Business (Fletcher) – Tufts University. Boston.

Gabija

Gabija Vilkaitė

Comms Analyst

Marketing and communications, social enterprise, content creation. BSc Business, Economic – Stockholm School of Economics, Riga. Marseille.

Niels

Niels Devisscher

Research Analyst

Startup ecosystem researcher, sustainable apparel brand founder, award-winning photographer. BSc in International Entrepreneurship – Karel de Grote University. Antwerp.

Advisory Board

Leaders and experts in their fields, each member has a specific beneficiary focus.

Elsa

Elsa Palanza

The Big Picture

▪️  Managing Director, Global Head of Sustainability & ESG, Barclays
▪️ Former Executive, Clinton Global Initiative

Julie

Julie Antonas

The Impact Fund

▪️ Head of VC, Beth Israel Lahey Health Investments
▪️ VC, Partners Healthcare Investments
▪️ Board Member, Boston Ballet

Christian

Christian Hille

Investors

▪️ Asset Management Advisor
▪️ Former Head, Multi Assets, DWS
▪️ Oxford-trained investor

Huria

Huria Ogbamichael

Masawa Team

▪️ Coach, organizational development expert
▪️
Former UN executive, Peacekeeper
▪️ Fulbright Scholar

Min-Si

Min-Si Wang

Founders

▪️ Serial start-up founding teams
▪️ Director, AZA Finance
▪️ Development finance expert

Kathy

Kathy Varol

The Narrative

▪️ Strategy Director – Purpose, adidas
▪️ Former Brand Manager, MillerCoors
▪️ Returned Peace Corps Volunteer

Georgia

Georgia Ede, MD

The Mentally Ill

▪️ Nutritional psychiatrist
▪️ Renowned mental health expert
▪️ Harvard-trained clinician

Lakshmi Viswanathan

Lakshmi Viswanathan

The Marginalized

▪️ MD, Yunus Social Business Impact Fund
▪️ VP, Sodexo
▪️ Consultant, McKinsey

Leah

Leah Stearns

Caregivers

▪️ Global CFO, CBRE
▪️ Former CFO, American Tower
▪️ Mental health board member

 

Aida Murad

Aida Murad

Partnerships

▪️ Mental Health Philanthropic Advisor
▪️ Serial Entrepreneur
▪️ Community Builder

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