Inspirational Woman Interview: Zuleyma Bebell

Zuleyma Bebell is the Director of Operations and Data Lead of ImpactAlpha, the leading company in impact investing journalism. Passionate about connecting people and harvesting mutually beneficial relationships, Zuleyma believes social enterprises are a vehicle for real economic growth. With a Master’s degree in Investment and Development from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida, she is dedicated to sustainable development solutions. Zuleyma worked as a Reporting Analyst for UNDP in Amman, Jordan, she is fluent in Spanish and Arabic.

How did you come to co-found ImpactAlpha and can you tell us about ImpactAlpha’s growth strategy?

Zuleyma Bebell: It’s funny, if you look at the news you wouldn’t believe that the world is safer, more prosperous, and healthier than its ever been. Of course we still have major challenges. But when I look at my peers, I see people solving problems and coming up with innovative ways to make this world a better place. I wanted to reconcile that disconnect. I wanted to be able to point to evidence that things are improving, that there are solutions to those challenges right in front of us. So I co-founded ImpactSpace, what has become the largest, open database of impact companies, investors and deals. ImpactAlpha acquired ImpactSpace in 2015 and its now a valuable asset to the company. My role at the time of acquisition was to lead the database’s growth and establish data partnerships. I am now the Director of Operations for ImpactAlpha Inc and continue to lead the development of ImpactSpace.

Our core strategy is to be the go-to news source and media outlet for impact investing’s early adopters and first movers. We deliver products that serve the needs of the growing number of practitioners, investors and entrepreneurs – we call them agents of impact – who are committed to building an inclusive, resilient and prosperous future.

The Brief, our daily publication; our new site on Medium; our increasingly popular Returns on Investment podcasts; and the Impact Network Map, are a response to the growing demand for a solutions-based narrative for a better future. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for our small but mighty team; a committed group with an unmatched drive to deliver the best possible product, always.

Can you tell us more about Climate Finance, Women Rising, and Inclusive Prosperity verticals and the significance of these fields in impact investing?

Zuleyma Bebell: We’re calling out areas where there are both big challenges and big opportunities. These ImpactAlpha verticals explore finance and solutions for three of the most important issues of our time: climate change, gender disparities and inequality. Here’s the secret, what we call the impact alpha: financing their solutions just may be some of the biggest wealth generating opportunities of our lifetime. And we take this one step further. Creating a low-carbon economy, achieving gender parity in education and work, and building inclusive economies around the world, are the seeds of 21st century economic growth, peace and prosperity. That’s why we track the deals, trends and long-term actions and thinking around these core issues. We help our readers find the alpha in impact: The ImpactAlpha.

How does ImpactAlpha continue to identify fresh and relevant content across such a wide range of verticals?

Zuleyma Bebell: ImpactAlpha’s ability to identify and produce fresh content is a direct result of the growth of impact investing as an industry. It really is a global movement. To keep up with that movement we’ve built knowledge and networks across geographies, in global development and finance, from smallholder agriculture to education and health to climate solutions. Our team cares as much about the financial engineering needed to finance small farmers in frontier markets as how artificial intelligence will shape the future of work and good jobs. It’s all in a day’s work!

ImpactAlpha is gearing up for an exciting fall season with new compelling content across podcasts, video and events, plus data products. We are elevating our editorial leadership and content production to a new level. This fall we’ll have weekly packages to better highlight our original features. Special sections (with expert partners) will turn our thematic coverage of Climate Finance, Women Rising, Inclusive Prosperity and more into value-added knowledge products.

We produced this month’s GSG Honors, presented by Sir Ronald Cohen and myself at the GSG Impact Summit in Chicago. Opportunities like this are a gold mine for new content, partnerships and collaborations.

We have two exciting data collaborations in the works, the Impact Investing Network Map, with the Case Foundation, and the Accelerator Selection Tool, with Conveners.org, Sphaera and Artha. The Network Map is an informational tool for newcomers to impact investing, and useful for veterans as well. The Accelerator Selection Tool helps social entrepreneurs easily find information that best fits their needs, while providing data about social entrepreneurs and market trends to accelerators and investors. Both are indispensable tools in our call for transparency and accountability for our industry.

Why did ImpactAlpha choose Medium as a platform for its content?

Zuleyma Bebell: Medium has multiple advantages for ImpactAlpha. Its design is simple and elegant and could help us easily improve our readers’ experience. We also value the platform’s user engagement capabilities. They way it integrates with other social media platforms and allows users to easily like, share and highlight articles helps us to amplify our content to our smart and engaged target audience.

Going forward, how is ImpactAlpha poised to address the challenges and opportunities facing impact investing journalism?

Zuleyma Bebell: At a time when we are inundated with content on different media, the challenges for impact investing journalism are similar to journalism in general—to rise above the noise and deliver information that is true, relevant, smart and actionable. We have cultivated relationships that have allowed us to become the inside-outsiders, the outside-insiders – the only independent media venture full-time on the impact beat.

Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?

Zuleyma Bebell: I am lucky to live in a time when we have plenty of courageous, graceful, intelligent and independent women to look up to. First Lady Michelle Obama, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Justice Sonia Sotomayor are just a few of the many women who embody strength, determination and perseverance and give a new standard to hold myself up to. And, of course, I look up to my mom, the bravest and most selfless person that I know.

What advice do you have for the next generation of journalists interested in covering social and economic development?

Zuleyma Bebell: I am not a journalist, but having the privilege of working with my co-founder, David Bank, has shown me what makes a great journalist. We set out to cover impact investing with dedication and objectivity, we want all investments to become impact investments and we can do that if we open our eyes and explore impact investment and social enterprises with a critical eye: Follow the money, ask tough questions, demand results.

What are your favorite books, websites, films and resources related to entrepreneurship and social innovation?

Zuleyma Bebell: I enjoy reading case studies of industries unrelated to media. I’ve been reading Entrepreneur magazine, it’s always inspiring to read success stories of entrepreneurs that have fought long and hard to get to where they are and to learn about their habits. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about personal growth and have been dedicating time to meditating which allows me to be more conscious about my time and as a result to be more productive. The podcast “Masters of Scale” with Reid Hoffman is a great resource and for fun, I like to watch HBO’s Silicon Valley. It’s a good reminder to not take work too seriously!

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