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The U.S. government is investing about $200 million in overseas venture capital funds

OPIC’s budget comes from Congress, but the money it makes goes back to the U.S. Treasury.

OPIC Regional Director of Insurance James Williams stands in front of a booth in an exhibit hall.
OPIC Regional Director of Insurance James Williams (right)
Alex Wong / Getty Images

The U.S. government plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital funds overseas as part of an expanded federal program to do good around the world through what’s known as “impact investing.”

The program, unveiled Wednesday at a conference by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, will dedicate around $200 million over the next few years in 10 to 15 venture funds that focus primarily on making a social impact in overseas countries. The exact amount of money allocated could change, but is expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

OPIC will effectively serve as a limited partner in venture funds, much like it has in private equity — where it has spent $4.1 billion over the last 30 years.

OPIC’s expansion into venture capital comes during an administration that has tried to cut back on foreign aid. Trump’s initial budget blueprint, in fact, called for OPIC to be wound down and eliminated.

But OPIC’s David Bohigian told Recode in an interview that he had broad support from the highest levels of the current administration.

OPIC, unlike sovereign wealth funds, is not primarily concerned with making money.

“Our goal is to affect development outcomes — to give people in emerging markets better health care, better education, more energy,” he said on the sidelines of the Cross-Border Venture Summit in Menlo Park. “We’re trying to help the world with our investments, first.”

OPIC’s budget comes from Congress, but the money it makes goes back to the U.S. Treasury. OPIC’s board includes the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, along with several other Cabinet-level positions. It is led by a longtime Republican Party fundraiser, Ray Washburne.

Bohigian said that OPIC would invest in both growth and venture funds, though it would avoid seed-stage investments. While OPIC would invest primarily in funds that are solely dedicated to social investing, it would also retain the ability to decline a specific investment by a venture firm if the company was not aligned with U.S. foreign policy.

OPIC will look to invest in funds in places like Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

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