Edward Yee, co-founder Givfunds Social Venture and nsave

Edward Yee photo

Edward co-founded nsave and Givfunds. Edward is a Rhodes Scholar, WEF Global Shaper, and has been awarded Forbes 30U30, the Commonwealth Youth Award (Asia), and Prestige 40U40. He initiated Givfunds in 2017 following an encounter with his co-founder during a 16-day journey on an Indian sleeper train. Both founders identified a common issue in the market, where social entrepreneurs from rural and demographically disadvantaged areas were unable to secure funding. Givfunds was started as an impact fund to provide catalytic debt financing to neglected social enterprises. Currently, Givfunds continues to expand, and has successfully executed over 90 deals with a 0% Non-Performing Loan (NPL) rate. He started nsave to disrupt the global financial system, providing those in distressed economies with a safe place to save through offshore saving accounts.

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur? 

I never set out with the explicit goal of becoming an entrepreneur, and even today, I do not give myself that label. My primary aim was to address impactful problems, Givfunds and nsave emerged as the optimal vehicles for tackling those issues. The overarching objective was always problem-solving. Establishing a charity in Givfunds and a venture backed start-up in nsave proved to be the most effective means of addressing the challenges. 

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Nsave logo, black text on white background

“A vehicle to solve social problems”  

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it? 

When I considered the problem worth solving. 

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why? 

Successful entrepreneurs need   

Grit: they will need to work hard, be persistent, and resilient in order to navigate the many challenges of entrepreneurship. 

To be Audacious: they will need to believe in solving a problem that has not yet been solved 

And they will need to be foolish: they will need to maintain a foolish level of stubbornness to adhere to the idea despite facing numerous obstacles throughout the process. 

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur? 

Building! The process of constructing something from nothing. 

What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why? 

At an individual level, Charlie Munger, the former vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a benefactor to numerous American universities, inspires me for his highly practical and pragmatic approach to business. On the organizational front, I am particularly inspired by the Aravind Eye Care System (AECS), recognized as the largest provider of ophthalmological services globally. Despite conducting nearly 350,000 eye operations annually, 60% of these are provided at minimal to no cost. Whether at the individual or organizational level, I am inspired by their impactful contributions and their adeptness in finding optimal solutions to challenges. 

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss? 

Although I would value a 5-minute conversation with them, the source of my inspiration lies in their sustained dedication and consistency of work over months, years, and even decades. True wisdom extends far beyond a 5-minute interaction. 

What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business? 

The most satisfying moment was when I realized that Givfunds would endure and continue to make a meaningful impact even without me. Today, both nsave and Givfunds continue to operate without me! 

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur? 

As your understanding of the problem deepens, the approach to solving it undergoes significant changes. Key lessons I have learnt in the process: Understand the time commitment required for problem-solving, and the need to cultivate patience. Prioritize building relationships, maintaining consistency, fostering trust, and actively listening to users. 

How have you funded your ideas? 

Both Givfunds and nsave began as self-funded projects. In the case of givfunds, we used our personal capital for lending purposes. Subsequently, Givfunds secured funding through various philanthropic investors, while nsave received financial support from venture funds, including Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital, SV Angel, and other renowned VCs. 

Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you? 

The Queens Commonwealth Trust (QCT) played a significant role for Givfunds recently. Specifically, the QCT supplied funding that facilitated the international expansion of Givfunds from the UK and established connections for us within a global network of peers. 

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?

Currently based in Bogota  


If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?

The guidance I would offer to new entrepreneurs depends on their specific needs, but as a general principle, I recommend directing them to engage with their users to gain a deeper understanding of the existing challenges. 

Any last words of advice? 

Entrepreneurship is not a reliable path; despite its glamorization by society, the highfliers are the outliers. Make sure you have a compelling and robust WHY before embarking on this journey.