The power to overcome adversity is an internal, renewable energy source that endures obstacles, no matter how insurmountable they appear, and is at the core of realizing true potential.
Growing up, I had to navigate learning disabilities, dyslexia, and a speech impediment. I was dismissed from school more times than I’m proud to admit due to my frustrations with the scholastic setting. From an early age, I had to learn how to embrace hardships outside of my control instead of fleeing them. I had to use ingenuity to trick my own hardwiring in order to find success. Over decades of dealing with hardship, I’ve come to dedicate myself to prevailing against my fears in order to become the best version of myself. In turn, I hope to use the lessons I’ve learned about the importance of exploration and innovation to assist in improving the world.
My name is Bo Parfet; I am an explorer, mountaineer, impact investor, author, philanthropist, and founder and CEO of Denali Venture Philanthropy. Our vision at Denali centers on financing humanitarian-focused entrepreneurs whose ethos maintains a laser focus on social change.
I began my professional career at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) before shifting to corporate finance as an investment banker at J.P. Morgan on Wall Street. I possess a master’s degree in Applied Economics from the University of Michigan and earned my MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Continued education in the conventional classroom setting was an essential part of my growth; however, I made arguably my most significant strides as a leader when I explored and climbed the seven highest mountain peaks on each continent, the Seven Summits.
With only a rudimentary knowledge of mountain climbing, I embarked upon a journey that would become a ceaseless passion of mine. My first expedition was to Mt. Kilimanjaro, in Africa, followed by excursions to Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania), Mount Everest (Asia), Cerro Aconcagua (South American), Mount Elbrus (Europe) and Mount McKinley or now called Denali (North America.)
These adventures were rife with hardships, unique obstacles, and existential threats: starvation, death drops, exhaustion, the threat of drowning in crocodile-infested waters, renegade militias, and corrupt army officials all exacerbated mountaineering’s inherently perilous nature. (For further insight into the dangerous treks I’ve made climbing the highest point on each continent, consider my book Die Trying: One Man’s Quest to Conquer the Seven Summits)
Fearlessness, overcoming adversity, and an unwavering commitment to your team in instances of vitally consequential duress taught me the valuable lessons that exploration provides us.
Climbing mountains gave me a broader perspective of the world’s most impoverished communities and helped me arrive at the profound truth that we are all connected. If we possess the ability to lift up others in need, it is a noble duty that we must see through. My mission after each climb became giving back to the people of that respective continent.
After a trek in Africa, I connected with an organization that creates scholarships for children in poverty-stricken areas looking for ways to reinvest in their communities and enroll in educational opportunities to become lawyers, accountants, and healthcare professionals. With the guidance of the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), I raised enough funds to give two South African students scholarships to medical school.
I am a member of renowned The Explorers Club, which promotes the scientific exploration of space, air, sea, and land in furthering education and research around the biological, physical, and natural sciences. In order to become a full-fledged member, individuals must participate in a scientific experiment or expedition of note to ensure their commitment to improving the world through exploration.
Through the organization I founded, Denali Venture Philanthropy (“Denali”), I’ve maintained a devotion to innovating in the world of investing. Since 2013, our impact investment group has built upon a family legacy of altruism—my great-great-grandfather was the respectable philanthropist Dr. William Upjohn—within a modern and innovative framework. Our chief principle at Denali is that we are all connected. Advocating for positive, groundbreaking, and continuous improvements to the lives of vulnerable communities across the globe is at the center of our core mission.
Denali Venture Philanthropy uses established portfolio principals to create debt and equity investments in for-profit enterprises, non-profit institutions, and social impact funds. We use our resources and wider market forces to our advantage to help solve some of the most common issues impacting the world today; we’re devoted to improving the quality of and accessibility to healthcare, defending the environment, combating poverty, and increasing comprehensive educational opportunities for the most neglected.
My life’s work has come to be defined by exploration and innovation, for which I am very thankful. It compels me as much today as it did when I managed the difficulties I faced as a child. Stay curious, and you’ll eventually confront the real matters worth solving. Exploration itself is a part of innovation, and it teaches you to leave your comfort zone in the most extreme circumstances in order to achieve the most growth.
Whether as part of a community or part of a business, maintaining an insatiable curiosity and urge to explore will always place immense obstacles in your way. However, as I’ve learned over the journey of my life so far, it is also the key to driving innovation and an end worth pursuing in itself.