Wayne Kawarabayashi serves as the Partner, Chief Operating Officer, and Head of Mergers & Acquisitions at Union Square Advisors, an investment bank that provides trusted strategic advice to technology companies for both their M&A and financing needs.
From reviewing Echoing Green Fellowship applications to directly supporting Fellows as a donor and Brain Trust advisor, Wayne has been a long-standing supporter of Echoing Green since 2012. Recently, Echoing Green caught up with Wayne and asked him what he enjoys most about our Brain Trust model, his experience reading and reviewing applications for the Fellowship, and more.
You have been involved with Echoing Green since 2012 as a donor, advisor, application reader, and more. How did you become introduced to Echoing Green?
I was first introduced to Echoing Green when I worked at Barclays where they hosted a Brain Trust event for Echoing Green. It was an inspiring opportunity to meet “up and coming” social entrepreneurs and to work with them to solve their business challenges, whether it was additional fundraising, networking for an advisory board, or developing supply chain relationships. It was also the first time that I was introduced to Cheryl Dorsey, Echoing Green’s President, who spoke at the event. I was impressed by her enthusiasm and commitment to Echoing Green’s mission. Since the beginning, Echoing Green has embraced diversity and empowers and supports social entrepreneurs who come from very diverse backgrounds, seeding the next generation of a more inclusive group of transformational leaders.
How has your role and commitment to Echoing Green changed or grown throughout the years?
When I first joined Union Square Advisors, I got reconnected to Echoing Green through the Chairman of my firm, Carter McClelland. At the time, Carter began to develop a close relationship with Echoing Green and is now an active co-chair of the board. I re-engaged with Echoing Green by starting to participate in the monthly Brain Trust events, an event that I attended while at my prior firm. Soon after that I was invited to read applications. I have continued to participate in the application process every year. I am always amazed by the quality of the applicants, their innovative ideas, and their desire to effect meaningful change to improve social and racial inequities. It is always a difficult task to select the cream of the crop as they are all truly deserving.
What is your favorite aspect of the Brain Trust?
Every few months, I have the opportunity to meet one of the Echoing Green Fellows and help them tackle challenges that entrepreneurs face in growing their business. I still recall one of my earliest Brain Trust sessions where I was introduced to Emily Cunningham, a 2014 Fellow, and co-founder of MoringaConnect. While we discussed ways she could build connections in the U.S., it was also wonderful to learn about how her organization was empowering rural farming communities in Ghana to access the global market. The opportunity to meet a small slice of these social entrepreneurs and to impart our business experience to help them sort through their organization’s challenges is a joy.
What is the most interesting take away you’ve gotten from a Brain Trust?
I always learn something at each session, whether it is from the Fellow themselves or from the industry veterans. There is always a good collaborative and spirited discussion with everyone contributing their ideas and drawing from their own experiences. I also relish the opportunity to meet new individuals each time and to build relationships that extend beyond the Brain Trust session.
What does being part of the Echoing Green community mean to you?
I am fortunate to have been introduced to Echoing Green over a decade ago and remain grateful to be part of this community. Every time I read a newsletter or email, it brings a smile to my face, knowing that there are Fellows out there who continue to bring innovation and passion to tackling global problems. I am blessed to be able to support these social entrepreneurs in the small way that I do.
Given your strong commitment to our work, what excites you about Echoing Green and how do you see yourself supporting Echoing Green’s impact in the future?
One of the aspects of Echoing Green that I really enjoy is that each year I get to participate in the application review process. Each candidate has an innovative approach to solving a global issue and brings a lot of energy to the business ideas they are pursuing. I look forward to continuing to read these applications, learning about the next generation of future social entrepreneurs, and supporting the newly minted Fellows through the Brain Trust events. Over time, as these organizations flourish, I hope there are opportunities for me to help them with my network of relationships or advice I can impart.