In episode 24 of the Investing in Impact podcast, we speak with Harlan Mandel, CEO of Media Development Investment Fund, on investing in independent media companies in countries where access to free and independent press are under threat.
MDIF is a not-for-profit investment fund for independent media companies in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. We provide affordable debt and equity financing supported by technical assistance to media companies that provide the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies.
Harlan has managed debt and equity investments in over 50 news outlets on five continents. He has extensive experience of working in emerging and frontier markets as an impact investment manager and attorney. He was MDIF’s Deputy Managing Director from 1998 until his appointment as CEO in 2011. Before joining MDIF, Harlan served from 1996 to 1998 as Deputy General Counsel of the Open Society Institute/Soros Foundations Network.
Prior to that, he practiced law in the New York and Los Angeles offices of Morrison & Foerster, specializing in international litigation, intellectual property and new media law. He received his JD from Columbia University School of Law in 1989, and holds a BA in International Relations and Asian Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
MDIF manages its investments through a fund structure that includes private equity, debt and hybrid funds. With a current portfolio of more than $100 million, all of our funds provide financing to independent media in countries where access to free and independent is under threat. They include:
Emerging Media Opportunity Fund I
EMOF I is a $12.9 million private equity fund, providing early- to mid-stage growth capital to independent media companies in select emerging and frontier markets. It has deployed capital in countries including India, Brazil and Indonesia to a portfolio that includes rapidly growing digital players and younger startups. EMOF I is now closed to investors.
MDIF Media Finance I
MMF I is a $6 million blended-value loan fund providing affordable loans to independent media in OECD-DAC countries. It has invested in companies in countries including Malawi, Serbia, Ukraine and India. In a ground-breaking partnership, MDIF and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) provide investors with 55% first-loss protection. The fund pays a coupon of 4% to investors. MDIF is currently raising a second $6 million round of MMF I and it is open to investors.
MDIF General Fund
MDIF’s original evergreen fund currently invests in more than 20 countries. Since 1996 it has provided more than $100 million in debt and equity investments to leading independent media in 40 countries. The fund is currently open to investors.
MDIF Ventures is an investment pool that invests in young and growing media companies with a positive social impact and the potential to scale. It focuses on projects located or serving audiences in countries where access to free and independent news and information is under threat. It will invest $1 million in approximately 12 young and growing media companies in 2021 and builds on Digital News Ventures, a $3.8m seed fund focused on information and news-related startups launched in 2012. MDIF Ventures is not open to investors.
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