Who We Are - English title

Who We Are


Overview

Gazelle Finance is an investment fund manager that manages Gazelle Fund LP, with $42M in committed capital. The fund provides growth-oriented risk capital to SMEs in the Eurasia region. Gazelle Fund currently operates in Georgia and Armenia and intends to expand further in the Eurasia region in the coming years. Our investors include FMO (The Netherlands’ development bank), the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF), Partnership Fund (one of Georgia’s largest state financial institutions), and the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). We welcome you to review our website for additional information, and if you are interested in learning more, please contact us at info@gazellefinance.com.

Philosophy

Gazelle Finance seeks to unleash the potential of entrepreneurs by providing a combination of growth capital and technical know-how. We enable businesses with a track record of generating revenues and a sound plan for expansion to secure financing that would not otherwise be available to them. This growth capital product enables our clients to acquire the necessary equipment, property, personnel and working capital to expand their businesses rapidly, and sustain growth for the long-term. In addition, our team works with clients to identify expertise gaps and provides a technical assistance package that further enhances the overall financing offering. We form lasting partnerships with our investees. We grow together and benefit together.

What Makes Us Different

What sets the Gazelle Finance investment model apart from that of other providers of SME financing—and enables us to operate successfully where others cannot—is our financing product, which is similar in risk profile to mezzanine financing, but self-liquidating through pre-agreed re-payment terms for the investee. We have identified a market niche in the provision of SME finance, where we can operate on the risk-reward curve between banks and private equity funds.

Banks are highly regulated as a result of having retail depositors, and as such, are primarily asset-backed lenders, with their analysis focused first and foremost on security and collateral of their clients as opposed to analysis of their clients’ long-term growth strategies. This approach limits the ability to offer a risk capital product for successful, fast-growing SMEs, which often have already extended all of their available collateral to finance past growth.

On the other end of the spectrum, traditional private equity funds do provide risk capital, but they aim to generate their returns by selling their equity stakes in investees to third parties through trade sales or public listings. For the vast majority of SMEs in Gazelle Finance’s target markets, achieving exits through liquidity events such as these is highly unrealistic. Thus, Gazelle Finance vets its prospective investees and structures its investments to be sure that it can exit each investment position through the cash flows of the given investee.

Our financial products are similar to private equity products in that we provide risk capital highly tailored and aligned to time with the company’s cash flows and development needs and by serving as a partner to the investee. However, by focusing on two standardized types of products (each with a certain level of structuring flexibility) and streamlining our transaction processes, by taking some security (i.e., collateral, but at levels significantly lower than banks) and by structuring exits through the cash flows of the company, we operate somewhere on the spectrum between private equity funds and commercial banks. Likewise, we are able to invest in volumes greater than that of private equity funds, though still less than banks.

Gazelle Finance’s primary product is debt, in the form of an income participation loan (IPL). Our IPLs require significantly lower collateral security coverage than do banks, and we offer longer term loan tenors than do banks, typically five years. Our IPLs have a base interest rate priced at prevailing market rates, but in exchange for this tailored, patient capital with a higher risk profile due to lower collateral levels, we also secure a small percentage of the revenues of the investee for the term of the loan, similar to a royalty, allowing us to share in the upside growth of the company.

Gazelle Finance also offers an equity product, with a higher risk-reward structure than the IPL. Our equity ownership stake is typically less than 35 percent, allowing Gazelle Finance to have a seat at the table with our investees as a minority shareholder and to be a partner with a more substantial stake in the success of the enterprise than with the IPL. The equity participation is exited in multiple tranches in the last few years of the investment period through the cash flows of the company, typically through a buyback by the company or its owners, on pre-agreed terms, avoiding the need for third party sale.

Along with financing, Gazelle Finance also offers technical assistance to our investees, to enhance the capabilities of management to achieve company growth. Made possible by a special grant from donors interested in our mission, technical assistance is provided in the form of zero-interest loans, usually up to 10% of the total investment amount. These funds are typically used to engage consultants to address critical managerial or other business needs that can enhance the company’s growth trajectory.

By deploying a blend of these three deal elements---income participation loans, self-liquidating equity investments, and technical assistance---the entrepreneur and investor are essentially partners focused on achieving long-term growth of the company. Moreover, both entrepreneur and investor can focus on such growth without the distraction of preparing the company for sale of the entire business to a third party. We believe the Gazelle Finance approach to SME finance creates better alignment of interest between investors and owner-operator companies than is found among private equity investment and bank lending. Moreover, it addresses the gap in the SME market segment for active, hands-on investing typically associated with corporate private equity investing, minus the punitive nature of private equity redemption rights.

Mission and Principles

The mission of Gazelle Finance is to create a better financial future for capable entrepreneurs and the communities they serve. We adhere to core principles that define the way we do business:

Serve the Underserved

We identify the gaps and barriers in capital markets and provide a growth capital financing solution to carefully selected, capable and responsible entrepreneurs with strong and viable business plans but who cannot secure financing otherwise.

Embrace Entrepreneurship

We empower entrepreneurs with capital and expertise so that they can drive economic growth and development in their communities.

Align Interests

We build long-term partnerships by aligning our investment interests with entrepreneurs, focusing on growing their businesses for mutual benefit.

Invest Actively

We believe that successful investments require active and ongoing engagement by our investment officers, from origination all the way to our exit.

Enhance the Community

We believe that good jobs and viable career paths are the foundation of successful communities. When we capitalize and confer know-how to our partners we enable them to create high quality jobs, at their own enterprises and at companies in the supply chain, while promoting responsible business practices.

Deliver Returns to our Investors

We believe it is essential to achieve financial returns for our investors and development impact for the citizens of the communities we serve, thereby ensuring the availability of resources for continued economic and social improvement. We believe that with well targeted smart investments into promising SMEs, financial returns and development impact go hand in hand.

The Gazelle Finance History

Gazelle Finance received seed capital financing and incubation support from the Eurasia Foundation.

Eurasia Foundation has a long track record of supporting entrepreneurs and small business development in the Eurasia region. Since it began operations in 1993, Eurasia Foundation has promoted improvements to the operating environment for SMEs, reduced impediments to the emergence of small businesses, and supported entrepreneurs who are committed to growing their businesses and creating jobs. As part of this effort, from 1995 to 2004, Eurasia Foundation successfully operated an SME lending program in Armenia and Ukraine called the Small Business Lending Program (SBLP). Combining its own resources with those of other investors, Eurasia Foundation disbursed more than $17 million through 428 loans, creating more than 3,000 jobs. The default rate was less than 2 percent in Armenia and less than 1 percent in Ukraine. Gazelle Finance builds on Eurasia Foundation’s successful SBLP program by offering a new generation of financial instruments suitable to the current market dynamics in the countries it serves.

Jeffrey Liebert has successfully built, owned, managed, and financed multiple businesses in Eurasia and the US since the early 1990s. Mr. Liebert has a private equity and venture capital background, including five years working as an Investment Officer with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), where he helped to develop one of the first emerging market clean-tech venture capital funds focused on early and growth stage SME companies. Following IFC, Mr. Liebert co-founded an alternative energy company, Verdeo Group, which was sold to Sindicatum in 2011. In 2013, Eurasia Foundation provided seed capital to launch an independent fund manager, Gazelle Finance, led by Jeffrey Liebert, with the objective of providing SME finance to high growth SMEs in the Eurasia region. 

Investors

Gazelle Finance investors are leading international development financial institutions and one of Georgia's largest state financial institutions.

 

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Team

Jeffrey Liebert is the CEO of the fund manager Gazelle Finance and is leading the development of the Gazelle Fund, which invests in SMEs in Central...
Stephanie Komsa joined Gazelle Finance in September 2014 and serves as Chief Operating Officer of the company. Stephanie brings over 10 years of fund...
Natia Janelidze joined Gazelle Finance in October 2015 as the Chief Investment Officer for Georgia. Natia has over 10 years of professional banking...
Zakar Boyajyan joined Gazelle Finance in July of 2014 as the Chief Investment Officer for Armenia. Zakar brings 22 years of finance, banking, risk...
Miranda Kherkheulidze joined Gazelle Finance in April 2017 and serves as its Finance Director. She brings over 15 years’ of experience working in the...
Rifat Utiushev joined Gazelle Finance in July 2014 and served as its Chief Investment Officer for Kyrgyzstan until the end of 2016.  Currently...
Giorgi Jobava joined Gazelle Finance in September 2017 as a Senior Investment Officer in Tbilisi, Georgia. Giorgi brings 7 years of professional...
Emily Channon joined Gazelle Finance in October 2017 and serves as Operations Officer. Emily brings over 6 years of diverse financial experience with...
Janybek Monolbaev serves as an analyst at Gazelle Finance’s office in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Prior to joining Gazelle Finance, Janybek was a business...
Nino Sebiskveradze joined Gazelle Finance in August 2017 and serves as Executive Assistant and Office Manager. Nino brings over 10 years of...

Board

Horton Beebe-Center is the President of Eurasia Foundation. He joined Eurasia Foundation in 1993 and served as the first field officer, establishing...
Teresa Barger runs Cartica Capital, an emerging markets fund specializing in “active ownership” investing in listed equities in a concentrated,...
Terrence J. English is President of Sovlink Corporation and a founding shareholder, Investment Committee member and Director of Baring Vostok...

Advisors

Drew Guff is Managing Director and founding principal of Siguler Guff...
Mr. Japaridze graduated from the faculty of psychology of Tbilisi State University in 1982 and also holds a postgraduate qualification from the...