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Odisea 07: Investing in crypto for good with Kenneth Kou

Another week, another great podcast on the books for you all, friends! On this episode, we have Kenneth Kou of Mercy Corps Ventures (MCV). MCV launched in 2015 as the impact investing initiative of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian aid organization that operates primarily throughout the global south to address economic, environmental, social and political instabilities. In this conversation we explore how Kenneth stepped heading the MCV Venture Lab, we also discuss MCV’s crypto thesis, the problems they aim to tackle with blockchain, and discuss the frontier of MCV and crypto for the global south.

Also available on: Spotify | Apple | Google | Simple Cast

With a strong commitment to promoting smarter and more impactful investments, Mercy Corp Ventures has supported the scaling efforts of 43 early-stage ventures and successfully raised over $396.7 million in follow-on funding. Their portfolio holds a significant representation (50%) of female-founded ventures, focusing primarily on adaptive agriculture and food systems, inclusive fintech, and climate-smart technologies. MCV goes beyond solely capital allocation as they focus on providing piloting supporting, goal-setting, and impact management for the projects they support.

MCV holds a belief that blockchain plays a critical role in addressing some of the key issues faced by disenfranchised communities in the global south such as financial exclusion and the climate crisis. In this conversation with Kenneth, we dive deep into this trajectory towards MCV and where the fund is allocating capital to back some of the world’s leading entrepreneur that are tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time through crypto-leveraged solutions.

One of the key topics of conversation that comes up throughout the conversation with Kenneth is the idea of the “hype gap” that exists in crypto. Kenneth reminds us that in some of the earlier iterations of the cypherpunk movement’s manifesto’s and even Satoshi’s writing, the intention was to create a more equitable playing field for everyone, irrespective of their status or wealth.

Despite these lofty goals, it often feels that whilst we’ve made a substantial amount of noise in the ecosystem, it’s hard not to look around us and “what have we really done?” And is crypto truly living up to its fullest potential?

That is what we describe as the “hype gap” - the notion that whilst we seem to shout from the rooftops about the revolutionary opportunity crypto can theoretically bring us, it feels that we’re far from really brining on many of the killer use cases that I’m sure many of the readers are excited to see emerge in the world. This includes creating a global payments network, changing the way our governments participate in governance, creating values-aligned incentive mechanisms to provide solutions to the climate crisis, among a number of other promises crypto could theoretically deliver.

At times, however, it can feel that we’re surrounded by merely speculation, hype, and regulatory scrutiny. We need to see more innovation and entrepreneurship that is building at the edges and is focused on looking past the short-term Moloch-induced greed and rather creating pro-social impact-led movements that are powered by blockchains, rather than ponzi-style scams.

To address this specific gap, MCV is providing key catalytic capital in some of the most impact-led projects that are emerging out of the ecosystem. To give you a sense of a couple of the crypto companies they back:

  • Goldfinch: a decentralized credit protocol that makes loans to SMEs in the global south, thus expanding access to capital and fostering financial inclusion.

  • Ejara: A woman-led platform that leverages the power of blockchain to democratize access to investment and savings products for underserved populations in West Africa.

  • You can see their full portfolio here.

MCV is truly at the forefront of blending impact investing with crypto-levered solutions and this conversation with Kenneth speaks to the intentionality they are bringing forward to continuing to back the boldest entrepreneurs at this intersection. If you’re keen to build a crypto project that is driving positive social and environment impact, this episode’s for you!

Remember, you’ve still got time to mint your Odisea Community Collectible below. The collectible is available on the Optimism network, which we have intentionally chosen thanks to their commitment to support public goods, largely through their Retroactive Public Goods Funding (RetroPGF) mechanism, which allocates the fees paid by users of the network and then distributes them retroactively to public goods in the ecosystem. Mint yours below and support public goods :)

If you’d like to connect to discuss the episode and explore ways we can collaborate to build a better future leveraging crypto, let’s chat on Twitter or you can join the Telegram community as well!


Odisea is produced with the support of Safe and Ambire Wallet.

Safe (previously Gnosis Safe) is a decentralized custody protocol, securing ~$60 Billion in assets today. It is establishing a universal standard for secure custody of digital assets, data, and identity.

Ambire Wallet is an account abstraction-based, self-custodial gateway to Web3 that introduces a range of impressive features like transaction batching, a pre-payment mechanism, and the ability to pay gas fees in stablecoins. By being accessible on both mobile and desktop devices, with a browser extension version on the horizon, Ambire Wallet aims at streamlining the user experience and ensure convenience across different platforms.

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