âOur society has done incredible things, but we also have huge inequalities and the world is facing very serious climate challenges,â said entrepreneur and activist Luis Javier Castro. “I am a great critic of the short-term nature of capital and a supporter of those looking to take a different approach.”
Castro puts his money where his mouth is. Through his private family office, he created AlejandrÃa Corp, an investment firm he runs with the aim of building an educated, connected and empowered society, with a particular focus on Latin America’s issues. âAlejandrÃa is an important experiment on how capital should behave,â says Castro.
The company is the culmination of 25 years of business management and investments in growing businesses. Castro started his career with consultant Bain Capital and then started MesoamÃ©rica Investments, a private equity firm that has invested in sectors ranging from renewables to telecommunications.
Along with this work, he spent many years supporting groups supporting social enterprise and entrepreneurship. Important roles have included working with the Young Presidents Organization (YPO), which works with leaders in 125 countries around the world, and United Way, a network of nonprofit groups committed to making an impact in areas such as health and education. He has also worked with AED, which brings together more than 150 companies committed to a more prosperous, inclusive and respectful environment, and is a member of the Aspen Institute.
âIn the past, I tended to think of these activities as separate,â Castro recalls. âMore recently, I have found that the business side of my career and my other activities are actually closely linked. Castro has spent much of the Covid-19 pandemic pondering these ideas. âI thought about my next life – which I would do for the next 25 years – and kept coming back to this idea of ââinterdependence; the pandemic has really made it clear how interdependent we are all. “
AlejandrÃa Corp is the result of this reflection. âIt’s conscious capital, with a purpose at its center,â says Castro. âIf we can solve the problems of society, we can do a lot of good, but we can also make a lot of profit. “
Castro is keen to stress that he is here for the long haul. It’s important to note that AlejandrÃa is not a fund that forces Castro to manage his money with an eye on his investors’ priorities. On the contrary, with its committed equity, it is free to focus on supporting the businesses it supports over an extended period.
Still, while Castro takes a long-term view, he’s also keen to get moving. After launching AlejandrÃa at the start of the year, the company has already made nine investments.
The education pillar of the âeducation, connected and empoweredâ mandate has been the most active so far. One of the first investments was in Knowledge hook. The company, featured on Forbes a year ago, is an educational technology company that supports students and educators around the world; Harnessing a combination of data analysis and educational research, it helps teachers teach more effectively and monitor their students’ performance in fine detail.
Knowledgehook Business Director Qamar Qureshi thinks AlejandrÃa is a perfect fit for his business. âWe share the same mindset,â he says. âWe started by discussing our missions and goals, and we were aligned every step of the way. “
AlejandrÃa’s involvement in Knowledgehook helps the company grow in Latin America, starting with Mexico. Improving educational outcomes is crucial to tackling societal issues such as inequality and exclusion, argues Castro, but too many Latin American students leave education without the skills to participate in the economy of the future, especially in areas such as mathematics and science.
âRight now, education is a differentiator, when it should be an equalizer,â Qureshi argues. âThe gap between the rich and those left behind is widening and it widened during Covid, when some children received no education at all; we can help close that gap.
Castro is interested in how the companies owned by AlejandrÃa can work together, collaborate and share their expertise to create something greater than the sum of their parts. âWe aspire to be a creator of ecosystems,â he says.
Some of the other pieces of the puzzle are already falling into place. For example, AlejandrÃa also worked with Singularity University, an educational group based in Silicon Valley that wants to create a positive impact by teaching more skills related to exponential technologies such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics. Another portfolio company saw the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design launch a lifelong learning program in Costa Rica.
AlejandrÃa is also an investor in 4words, a small start-up that uses games to encourage people to write, Digital tomi, specialist in digital education, and Aulas Amigas, which focuses on improving the teaching and learning process.
Beyond education, AlejandrÃa also began to explore her other areas of interest. In connection, for example, he invested in an internet of things specialist WND Group. Under her empowerment label, she supported Polymath Ventures, which helps small businesses work together for scalability and efficiency.
There will be more to come – Castro is just getting started. But it’s good progress so far and he can’t wait to see what can be achieved. âThe capital is the initial conversation – which brings us to the door – but it’s only the beginning,â he says. âI want to prove that this new kind of investment can really make a difference.