John Burns is a venture capital investment expert who has been directly involved with bringing risk capital to more than 40 companies in Maine, where he works as the managing director of Maine Venture Fund. During his 30 years of experience, Burns has witnessed how the growth-enabling environment that venture capital funds create for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have transformed businesses and improved the lives of entrepreneurs in his home state. So when the opportunity arose to share expertise with his counterparts in the developing world, he packed his bags and became a Financial Services Volunteer Corps (FSVC) volunteer in Tunisia.
In Tunisia, the regulatory framework governing the venture capital (VC) sector suffers from a number of weaknesses and shortcomings, including the lack of a diversified financial instrument toolbox to address the financing needs of entrepreneurs and SMEs. In an effort promote entrepreneurship in Tunisia, FSVC launched the Promoting Entrepreneurship for Private Sector Development in Tunisia program, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). As part of this program, Burns worked closely with the Association Tunisienne des Investisseurs en Capital (ATIC), a Tunisian private equity and venture capital association. Over the course of a week, he presented the current instruments used in the North American VC industry and helped ATIC members to become better acquainted with the financial instruments already available to them. These consultations were followed by a series of round tables in which Burns, ATIC members and regulators were invited to discuss reforms needed with regard to financial instruments.
As a result of Mr. Burns’ support, ATIC members felt better equipped to advocate for improved financial instruments in Tunisia directly to lawmakers. They understood the importance of the new suggested instruments, and a consensus was formed as to what steps were needed to implement the requisite legal and fiscal reforms that would subsequently help job creation and drive economic growth in Tunisia.
As for Burns, although it was his first volunteer experience with FSVC, he hoped it would not be his last. Back home in Maine, Burns continues his spirit of volunteerism by serving on the impact investing advisory committee for the Maine Community Foundation and mentoring others at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development.