Richard Harrison


Winner of the EPIC Awards 2020

"There is no doubt in my mind that my IXMBA from IE gave me the skills, confidence and network that has helped my build and lead a sustainable energy and finance organization to impact more than 1M lives in the next few years in one of the poorest countries on earth. IE simply took me to the next level. If that is not a great return on investment, I don't know what is!"

CEO of Smart Power Myanmar. IXMBA 2011.

Thanks to my curious and travel-hungry family, I have had the great fortune to have been able to live, study and work all across the globe. I was born in Kenya and grew up in Malawi, before finishing school and my undergraduate studies in the UK. Based in the City of London, my first job was as a financial journalist and then I moved into investment banking, before taking a mission-driven decision to move into international development, which took me to Pakistan, Myanmar, Zambia and Botswana. Then came a wonderful and challenging 14 months at IE Business School, which took my world into new directions. Today, I am the CEO of an organization called Smart Power Myanmar, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and an international NGO called Pact Inc, which seeks to end energy poverty in a country where only half the population has reliable access to power, through green energy and green finance. This role fulfills everything that I dreamed my career would be: I live and work in a beautiful country, and I am working in a space that sits at the intersection of everything our new generation is looking for: sustainable solutions to systemic problems at scale to help us live in ways that can improve our livelihoods whilst protecting our planet.

How did IE help you get to where you are today?

There is no doubt at all that my International Executive MBA from IE Business School helped me to elevate my skillset, lift my game, and broaden my vision, enabling me to secure my initial $5M investment from The Rockefeller Foundation to start Smart Power Myanmar. Today, after just two years, we have leveraged more than $20M in additional investment into the energy sector, and in the next 3 years we envision that we will catalyze an additional $100M. This will go a long way towards providing energy access to more than 1M people in one of the poorest countries on earth. Thanks to my IXMBA, I have a richer network, and a broader grasp of the skills required to found and lead an organization that is working in an extraordinarily complex environment. It simply would not have been possible without that degree from IE in my pocket!

Which are your three most notable achievements in your professional life?

1) Establishing the first ever adult male circumcision program to protect people from HIV transmission in Zambia, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID. Our work demonstrably reduced HIV incidence rates in Zambia.

2) At the age of 22, becoming Editor of a monthly commodities journal in London. It had always been my dream to work for the FT or The Economist, but this was pretty exciting too!

3) Founding Smart Power Myanmar – bringing the worlds of development and private green finance together under one mission to end energy poverty…sustainably.

Does success have a secret formula? If so, what is it?

When I was younger, success seemed to be all about power and position. Today, I know that has nothing to do with it. Success is personal, and is more about doing what you love with people you respect, spending as much time on your family and non-work life as you can, being humble, and listening to people — and then combining that with an ethos to never stop learning and asking questions, and working hard. But above all, never lose the ability to laugh at yourself.


Every alumni has a story that deserves to be told.
Share yours or nominate someone EPIC for next edition.