Deborah La Franchi of SDS Capital Group

GP Rising Star Winner and President and CEO of SDS Capital Group

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We are pleased to introduce you to Deborah La Franchi, president and CEO of SDS Capital Group.

When you were young, what did you think you would be doing for work when you “grew up”?

My career has centered on tackling poverty – no surprise to those who have known me since my teens. Growing up, my parents owned a small grocery store where we all worked. In 8th grade, I made a deal with my dad that I could take Time, Newsweek and LIFE magazine home each week as long as I returned them in two days. As I read about global poverty, I knew it was something I wanted to address in my career. In college, and later graduate school (public policy and MBA), I developed skills to address poverty with plans for a career in government. My pivot to private equity was certainly the big unexpected twist in my career.

What do you love most about working at SDS Capital Group?

I am grateful to work with amazing people each day. Our SDS team is driven and passionate, our investors believe wholeheartedly in investing their capital to reduce poverty, and the businesses and real estate developers we finance are true visionaries – transforming communities and lives. Whether funding Appalachian businesses, revitalizing historic Selma, Ala., or providing quality housing for California’s homeless – I love working with remarkable people who are committed to making a difference.

If you weren’t in the PE/VC industry, what would you be doing?

My career started in public service. I joined Mayor Riordan in the mid-90s in Los Angeles. I intended to focus on addressing poverty, and seriously thought I would someday run for office as I concluded this path would give me a larger voice in shaping policies that would benefit the poorest communities. I suspect, had I not been introduced to private equity when I was, I likely would have followed that path and found myself in a very different place today – but still very focused on poverty.

What’s the most amazing place you’ve visited that you urge everyone to see (once everyone starts traveling again!)?

My passion for travel is deep – I’ve backpacked across more than 40 countries. Picking one place is almost impossible, so I’ll name three I keep returning to: Italy, Thailand, and Turkey. All have amazing people, food, cultures, ambiance, and history. Thailand has changed the most – while my friends and I used to pay $4 a night for a bungalow on amazing island beaches, these same beaches are covered in luxury resorts. Yet – it is still so remarkably beautiful. All are worthy of a bucket list!

What’s the most surprising thing people don’t know about you?

Overseas travel has shaped my career, starting in 1990 when I studied in Budapest, Hungary. I witnessed the devastation of 50 years of communism in so many of the Eastern European countries I visited. After college, as I backpacked across Asia for six months, I saw how liberalizing economies and increasing education spending were dramatically reducing poverty and spurring growth. My later $20 a day travel through East Africa over three months (1995) included some of the most amazing natural and historic wonders. Unfortunately, deep and stifling poverty was ever-present. Each experience showed me how government could crush or improve economies and peoples’ lives, moving me towards a career in government to help reduce poverty.

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