Unlocking Value: When ROI Transcends Monetary Gains with Mary D’Souza – Chief Investment Officer at Misha Investments
Hi, this is Alan Olsen and welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Mary D’Souza. Mary, welcome to the show.
Thanks, Alan It’s a pleasure to be here.
So Mary, I’ll call you a true entrepreneur, you’re involved with a lot of things. And But before getting to that, I want to have you maybe give us a little bit of background on your, your life journey and what brought you up to where you are today.
Thanks, Alan. I grew up in Bombay grew up in a Catholic parish. It was the real community. It was wonderful growing up there because you felt safe, as you knew all your neighbors. There was a church we went to church every day.
And I study at a convent, learn leadership skills very early, learned how to be part of a community learned how to help each other. And then I was very lucky to go to St. Xavier’s College in Bombay. It was one of the best colleges in India.
And what I loved about St. Xavier’s was, you just didn’t learn economics, statistics, sociology, you also learned how to be a good and global citizen. So it was really helpful in terms of where I was going to go in the future. It helps set my career path.
After St. Xavier’s, I worked for a year with DHL. It was really fun working at DHL in a marketing group. I was also lucky to be the face of DHL for a year, I was in the A TV campaign.
And since I spoke German and French, I was hired by Emirates airline and moved to Dubai. I lived in Dubai in my early 20s. It was wonderful working for Emirates, they were a great ally. And we helped build the brand.
I moved quickly through the ranks, from working in economy to working as a person and supervising the whole aircraft. I also worked for the royal family. So I got to fly in those beautiful royal jets. They treated us really well.
It was wonderful being in Dubai, and I had a great time. But that wasn’t where I wanted to stop in terms of my career path.
So I saved up money came to New York, went to Pace University, and to the evening program, because I realized that from being a flight attendant to being an investment banker was not going to be an easy path.
So I decided to get an internship on Wall Street. And I worked hard to get one and I got one address the climate Benson. And I was very lucky to get an internship at the same time as a studying because I could apply the two things to each other.
So when I graduated from Pace University with an MBA, or a better job than most people who came from some of the fake universities, I’ve worked with structured finance.
And I’ve worked in investment banking, in the private equity, private placement area. And very early on, I had access to venture capital to structured finance clo CDOs right in the inception.
So I got to see some of these really brilliant people ran venture capital in the future when they were in the early stages of the fund formation. So it was a really great experience.
I got to raise a couple of funds while I was there, and to do deals in Central America while there was war going on. The interesting thing was, and the thing that I really liked was it was renewable energy. I raised 25 million out of Enron.
The reason I was able to do that was because I thought very strategically. And I was invited to a dinner where I sat next to this woman from Enron.
And when she asked me what I did, a light bulb went in my brain and I said, Do you have a presence in Central America, since you have a presence everywhere in Latin America and the US and Europe? And she was like, No, so I was like $25 million.
Now you have a whole marketing arm in Central America. So I was able to do that as an associate because I thought out of the box. I worked really hard, but it also worked really smart.
I was able to get as an associate, another 25 million from AIG GE for an early stage company in Costa Rica. So those were really really tough deals. And as a result, I started building a reputation and a track record.
And after five years working for addressing climate Benson in the US and in Europe. I got hired by GE to work with them. And I worked on private equity fundraising in the beginning, I didn’t see that going anywhere.
And I ended up working on a restructuring deal. I learned asset based lending and leveraged finance, and ended up making 10 million on that on that deal for for GE now I was I was the golden child. After that, I quickly did seven deals that year.
And 13 deals the next year 30 deals the following year. And whatever nine years did about 250 deals did about 13 billion in volume, and the Delta Airlines $2 billion bankruptcy financing. So had a wonderful career GE.
And I was like after nine years, I was really tired. This was during the financial crisis. And I wanted a break. And so I ended up working in a couple of other firms after that drink a little bit of investment banking, commercial banking.
And then I got hired by one of my former GE clients Dutch to run his family office. That’s how I got in the family office world. And it’s, it’s been a really wonderful journey. I’ve been there for since 20, in the family office work for Trent since 2020 2013.
And have learned different things in terms of investing in real estate in you know, different kinds of funds, whether it’s private equity, venture capital, and really running up on my skill set.
I run a family office called Misha investments, be invest mainly in funds, we’ve invested in private credit. And that’s the reason why I’m on the team of Stone Mountain Capital, which is a lower middle market private credit fund.
I only invest with people that I’ve known for a very long time that I trust, I call investing in private funds, a marriage, basically. Because you’re going to be an extra 10 years. Most marriages don’t last that long.
So I really get to know the people and get to know the strategy and see if it’s something that we want to be in for 10 years.
Mary, that is quite a history of, you know, a phenomenal career. I would like to say I love the way that you when you started out, though you started out with your value system, you know, 10, the Catholic schools, they have a strong foundation of faith.
And that, you know, what I find on the many guests that I’ve interviewed on American Dreams is those people who are principle based, usually, are the ones that succeed even more because they make decisions for the right reason.
With that said, though, how do you juggle your various roles and, and commitments, I mean, it’s no small undertaking, what you have accomplished during your career.
Thanks, Alan, I believe in doing things that you really enjoy, and that you’re really good at, and that you have the skill set for.
At this stage of my life, I’ve already done proving myself at GE as a managing director, I don’t need to go backwards, I need to go forwards.
And so I decided to spend my time on a few things that gave me joy. And give me a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. So the family office space, right, running a family office, I can do that in my sleep now.
Because I know all these different asset classes, I know a lot of the managers in that space. So it’s a lot of fun doing that. And it’s also very satisfying when you see the results in terms of being on the team at starmount and capital.
And I have a long private credit background. They did 150 deals and 15 billion at GE and did all the various different sectors, whether it’s healthcare, media, consumer products, you name it, so I can add a lot of value to start Mountain Capital.
I’m also on the board of a portfolio company called Southern AG, which is a trucking company. And my relationship goes back to when this company was founded in 2010.
And I studied them for quite some time before I invested in fund to a and then I’ve invested in fund three, fund four. And across all the different funds, we do have a significant investment with star Mountain Capital.
That’s the same way I work with other funds. You know, I get to know them over a long period of time and decide whether they have the same values as we do whether they you know, respect other people’s capital is really, really important.
And in terms of some of the nonprofits that I’m on, I really care about homelessness, I don’t think anybody should be homeless in this day and age, you know, the world has so much capital, people are so rich.
I don’t think anybody should not have food on the table. I think everybody should get an education. The more educated women are, the better decisions they make. So everything I do is very thoughtful and very intentional and very purpose driven.
You know, I’m really touched with the last comment about lifting and building into the lives of others. And I do agree with education is the key to solving the poverty problem. Are you are you involved in any passion projects right now in that area?
In terms of education, I mentor a lot of different people. I mentor a lot of young women, and they gravitate towards me because I’m very open. So I was in the train on Friday, going from New York to East Hampton.
And there was a young woman called Alexandra sitting next to me. And it was really funny. She was doing a tick tock streaming video next to me. As soon as she finished asked her a few questions on tick tock, and she’s only 23 years old.
And we had a two hour conversation. It was so seamless. She asked me questions, I asked her questions. And one of the messages that I left with her was to be open, to let the bad things go.
Don’t you know, maybe you can’t forgive, but you can at least let them go and be open. And not everybody is bad, right. And in terms of always upskilling, building your network. All those are very important.
I teach young people right from the beginning that you got to start investing right on being just put a little money aside because having financial independence is so important and and owning your primary home. So important. In terms of like,
I just want to interject in there, you know, with all the change that we see going on the world massive amount of change, you’ve done a fairly good job of navigating changes and looking at staying competitive in this world.
What’s your secret?
constantly being curious, studying, reading, surrounding myself with the best people in every industry. And it’s really fun. Because when you find like minded people, we’re interested in a lot of different things.
You’re not only learning, but you also have a very enjoyable life and have a lot of fun.
So Mary, how can we make this world a better place? What’s your advice to the young generation?
Be kind, be generous. Keep upskilling all the time. Build your network. do fun things, too. You don’t have to wait till you’re old and gray to have fun. Have fun all along the way. I do a lot of different fun things like my passion is like traveling.
I love movies. So I’m I’m a producer on a couple of movies always at the Carlyle and Alan Pakula going for the truth. And both these movies have done very well.
And they’re streaming on amazon prime on Google Play and Apple play, Apple play. I tell people to live a fulfilled life, to be open, to be generous, and just live a joyful life.
That’s great advice. Great advice. And it you know, I appreciate you coming on today’s show. Also, your comment to the young lady about staying optimistic and forgiving.
I think is so important if we hold on to if we hold on to anger in our life that oftentimes will destroy us.
I totally agree. Absolutely. And you know, I listened to your podcast. And I think the thing about family, about community about faith is so important and living a life of purpose is so important. Because we don’t do that.
And happiness comes from not having a life of purpose.
So much She agree with that. So Mary, in the end, what do you want to be known for there when everything is said and done? How do you want to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as somebody who made a little bit of a difference in people’s lives, you know, whether it is being the right time for them, whether it’s helping them get to the next level, whether it’s just having been kind to them.
And I want to be remembered for really pushing the envelope on things like homelessness, hunger, mental health, low income house thing, and that’s one of the reasons why I am on the board of community access, which does all of that.
And I’m also on the executive committee of executive committee of working nation, because they’re doing a lot in terms of upskill and creating jobs. So I want to be remembered for trying to add as much value to people’s lives as I can.
Mary, thank you for coming on today’s show. It’s an honor to have you as a guest and I really appreciate hearing the story of your life and also the things that you’re working on and in making this world a better place.