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GIF announces new Chair and Board members

By Zach Johnstone, Senior Advisor  |   Posted 17th April 2020

GIF announces the appointment of Sal Giambanco as Chair, alongside the appointment of three new Board members

GIF is delighted to announce that Sal Giambanco has been appointed Chair of the Global Innovation Fund Board of Directors following the departure of Kanini Mutooni, Managing Director of Europe, Middle East and Africa for Toniic, who leaves with the warmest thanks and best wishes of the entire GIF team. Alongside Sal’s appointment, GIF is excited to welcome on board three new Board members: Jim Clarke, James Habyarimana, and Elizabeth Peak.

As well as being a founding member of the GIF Board along with Nobel Sveriges Riksbank Prize winners Michael Kremer and Esther Duflo, Sal is a veteran of four Silicon Valley start-ups, including Omidyar Network (ON), where he helped to deploy over $1 billion of capital across a range of grants and equity investments. He also pioneered ON’s non-financial support to its portfolio by creating and leading its human capital team, an approach that has since been replicated across the venture capital community.

Prior to ON, Sal served as the 24th employee at PayPal, whose market capitalisation is now over $100 billion, having been hired by Elon Musk. His first start-up was ESS Technology, which invented the audio semiconductor. During his career he has worked closely with, and championed the success of, organisations including Wikimedia Foundation (Wikipedia), Crisis Text Line, Endeavor, Ignia, and Social Finance.

Sal spent ten years as a Jesuit in the Society of Jesus, and currently serves as a founding Board member of IMerit, an organisation based out of Kolkata which works on data for transformative technologies such as advancing cancer cell research, optimising crop yields and training driverless cars to understand their environment, and drives social and economic change by tapping into an under-resourced talent pool and creating digital inclusion.

Sal has been an invaluable Board member over the past five years, and we look forward to supporting him in continuing to position GIF for success in his new role as Chair.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Kanini for her hugely important and wide-ranging contribution to GIF throughout her time on the Board, firstly as a member, and later in her capacity as Chair. Through her leadership, vision, and deep commitment to tackling systemic development challenges, Kanini has been integral to the evolution and the success of GIF, and we look forward to continuing our close partnership long into the future.

We also wish to pay thanks to two other outgoing Board members: Michael Anderson and Vel Gnanendran. During his time on the GIF Board Vel brought specialist policy, political, and financial insight, and steps down following his departure from the Ellison Foundation to return to DFID to lead its climate work. Michael, a founding Board member, has helped to shape the very design of GIF as an investor in social impact grounded in the rigour of development economics. Michael’s experience at the highest levels of government, the law, and business have also helped GIF to implement and maintain the very highest standards of governance. We wish them both the very best, and look forward to remaining close thought partners.

Following these departures, we are delighted to welcome three new Board members:

  • Elizabeth Peak currently serves as First Assistant Secretary Human Development & Governance Division at DFAT, prior to which she was Minister-Counsellor (Economic) at Australia’s embassy in Beijing, China. She has previously held the role of Assistant Secretary South-East Asia Services and Investment Branch where she led services, investment and e‑commerce in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations and was deputy chief negotiator of the Australia-Indonesia Closer Economic Partnership Agreement and the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement. From 2010-11 she was legal counsel for negotiations towards Australia’s free trade agreements with China, Korea and Japan. Elizabeth has represented Australia in the United Nations on climate change extensively, including as Deputy Head of Delegation in 2011 and Director of the inaugural Office of International Climate Law in 2008-09. She has served overseas as Counsellor in Ottawa from 2006-08. Prior to joining DFAT, she was a lawyer at Freehills and Dwyer Durack.


  • James Clark is Co-Founder of Cabot Square Capital, a London-based private equity firm providing growth capital to small and start-up businesses in the UK and western Europe. James began his professional career at Lehman Brothers in 1980 in the mergers and acquisitions department, before joining the nascent mortgage-backed securities department in 1983, and was subsequently asked to move to Tokyo to help create a non-Yen credit trading business. During the US savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s James returned to New York to assist in acquiring and distributing distressed and structured assets for the bank. In 1992, he relocated to London to create a structured finance and principal investing business for the firm. In 1996, James co-founded Cabot Square Capital.  Investing on behalf of a wide range of institutional investors including charitable foundations, university endowments and pension funds, Cabot Square Capital has supported over 25 businesses through the provision of growth equity capital and organisation development strategies.  In addition to his roles at Cabot Square, James pursues numerous philanthropic and service-related activities.


  • James Habyarimana is the Provost Distinguished Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy. His research is focused on identifying low-cost strategies to address barriers to better health and education outcomes in developing countries. Ongoing projects include research to understand the effectiveness of centralised and decentralised programs, including the role of leadership, to improve teacher performance and learning outcomes in East Africa, as well as how electoral incentives shape the design and implementation of education and health policies in Tanzania and India. He serves on an Independent Technical Review Panel for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). He is a founding member and former co-Director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation (gui2de) and an affiliate of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL).

Sal Giambanco, Board Chair, said: “I would like to extend my gratitude to Kanini, Michael, and Vel for the enormous contribution that they have each made to GIF during their time as Board members and, in the case of Kanini, as Chair. On behalf of the whole GIF Team, I would like to thank them for their service, their leadership, and their wisdom. I am delighted and honoured to take up the role of Chair of the GIF Board of Directors, and to welcome Jim, James, and Elizabeth as members. I look forward to building on the achievements of GIF to date with the support of our talented team, our supportive donors, and our innovative investees.”