The untimely, tragic, and senseless death of Jason Spindler has dealt the global impact community a tremendous loss. Jason Spindler was an inspiration to many of us, as well as a colleague, advisor, teacher, mentor and friend.
Jason’s experience and expertise in the business and international development sectors, his passion for creating economic opportunity in emerging markets, and his talent for spurring cross-sector collaborations made him a nexus within the SOCAP Community and the impact space overall. To honor his memory we wanted to share the story of Jason’s career in impact and reflect on the many ways that he contributed to our community and our world.
Jason’s Impact Journey
Jason graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in International Finance and Development Economics. Early in his career, Jason worked in investment banking for Citigroup’s Debt Capital Markets Group and Questor Management Partners. His life and career changed dramatically in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Jason did not retreat from the horror of that day, but jumped in to help others in the midst of the crisis. After that, he began taking steps to change his life and career so that he could apply his knowledge and skills in the service of others full time.
In 2005 Jason joined the U.S. Peace Corps as a Business and Economic Development Volunteer in Peru. While there he served as advisor to the Board of Directors of Asociacion Civil Tierra, an internationally funded NGO focused on developing local agro-industrial businesses. He helped develop the organization’s long-term strategy for sustainability and led their transition to becoming a for-profit manufacturing business owned and operated by local farmers.
He went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law, where he focused on International Development Policy and Social Venture Capital. During his time as a student at NYU Law, Jason was recognized as an emerging leader in the space. He was awarded the Catherine B. Reynolds Fellowship for Innovation in Social Entrepreneurship for his work with for-profit, sustainable economic development initiatives and development venture capital. He also received the 2009 Helton Global Human Rights Fellowship for his innovative work linking in economic development to full citizenship and human rights.
His dedication to expanding economic opportunities that would lift people out of poverty, was fully realized in his co-founding of I-DEV. At the time of his death, he served as Managing Director of the strategy and investment advisory firm working to help organizations in emerging markets achieve their goals for growth and impact. Jason was living and working in Nairobi, where he had become a valuable player in Kenya’s economic development space.Over the course of his career in impact, Jason worked with and advised organizations all over the world on sustainable economic development.
Jason Spindler speaking on the panel The Role of Intermediaries in Supporting the “Missing Middle” at SOCAP18 with Roeland Donckers, Stephanie Kimber, Viola Llewellyn, and Aun Rahman (photo source)
At the most recent SOCAP, Jason spoke on a panel exploring the role of intermediaries in supporting small and growing businesses in frontier and emerging markets. He talked about I-DEV’s Venture Catalyst Fund I, which was developed to help companies in the early growth phase achieve scale through capital and strategic resources. An Impact Alpha article memorializing Jason and offering an account of his legacy as an “Agent of Impact,” reported that I-DEV has “helped 350 small and medium-size businesses in 45 countries, including 15 in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 40 businesses have raised about $80 million in follow-on investments and growth capital.”
According to his Skoll World Forum biography, over the course of his career in impact Jason “advised Fortune 500 Companies and leading impact sector organizations including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Grupo Bimbo, Ashoka, Acumen Fund, the Grassroots Business Fund, and the Inter-American Development Bank on emerging markets investment and business strategies.”
NYU Law released a statement after his death that echoed the thoughts of many within our community. “His tragic death is a loss not only to his loved ones, but to the community of individuals dedicated to improving the lives of others through social enterprise.”
The Spindler family has created a fund that will be used to continue Jason’s life’s work. In their statement announcing the fund, they wrote,
“Jason was an inspiration to us all to aspire to only the best, to never settle, to never take the easy road and to always focus on fighting for what you believe in – no matter the cost. Jason believed in fighting for economic opportunity, strengthening emerging markets, boosting small businesses and startups to drive greater opportunity for all…and ironically, with the intention of growing these things to combat the drivers of terrorism, warring and hatred. (If he were here now, he’d be working non-stop to provide emergency support at 14 Riverside, as he did when he responded to 9/11 in New York years ago).
He didn’t personally win this battle, but his life and work is not in vain.
We ask that you support this fund so that we can continue the legacy of Jason to strengthen economies in emerging markets to create greater opportunities. We will be supporting projects that support entrepreneurs in these economies. A cause that Jason lost his life working hard to fight for.
Jason is on the right side of history, and the memory of his achievements will be part of the DNA of a much better world. We will not allow this to deter us from a positive vision of Kenya and emerging markets.
Our Community Reacts
Members of our global community have been sharing their stories of Jason, and the impact he created worldwide.
Jason Spindler dedicated his life to expanding opportunity around the world. I saw his drive and the impact of his work with @ClintonGlobal. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and all of those around the world whose lives he touched. https://t.co/Q2Ng4f5bNL
— Bill Clinton (@BillClinton) January 17, 2019
I’m sorry to have to share that Jason Spindler lost his life in the Nairobi hotel attack today. Jason, we love you and will try to honor and keep up your good works on this earth, and know your warm smile and spirit is shining down on us.
— Morgan Simon (@MorganSimon1) January 16, 2019
Jason Spindler was a dreamer and a doer. He embodied the best of humanity. He cared more about others than he did himself. He left this world a better place and me a better person for having known him. Rest In Peace and know that what you did when you were here was worth it.
— Graham Macmillan (@grahamgmac) January 16, 2019
Jason Spindler was infectiously curious, empathetic, adventurous, and effective at making the changes he wanted to see in the world. He was a generous friend to me and so many worldwide. Yesterday he was killed in a terrorist attack in Kenya. We’ll miss you so much, Jason. pic.twitter.com/QRunx0Uu3Q
— Ross Baird (@rossbaird) January 16, 2019
I-DEV International offers original research, presentations, keynotes, and other resources that feature the expertise of Jason Spindler and his colleagues in impact.
The Future of Fair Trade…Is There One? By Jason Spindler and Patricia Chin-Sweeney for Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011
SOCAP18: Highlights & Trends at the Intersection of Impact + Capital By Patricia Chin-Sweeney
Co-Founder, I-DEV International (includes a recap of Jason’s last SOCAP Panel).