Craig Nakagawa started his career in global health and economic development in 1991, working for Lehman Brothers as an analyst in the firm's global pharmaceuticals practice. His investment banking experience centered on fundamental company analysis, corporate finance, and derivative finance. In 1999, he joined satellite venture Teledesic, where he was an associate in the corporate development and finance department. When the firm merged with ICO Global Communications, he was named a general manager in business development.
Beyond his daytime duties of strategy and corporate development, Nakagawa helped colleague Blaise Judja-Sato with his vision of bringing essential health services to the poor in Africa and beyond. In 2000, Judja-Sato founded VillageReach in Seattle, Washington. In 2001, Nakagawa left his investment banking career for what he saw as a higher calling — to use his financial expertise and business acumen to provide a better life for the world's poor as a social entrepreneur.
He was appointed chief operating officer of VillageReach. In this role, Nakagawa was responsible for organizational development and strategy and for assessing ventures for potential partnerships. In 2004, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation endorsed VillageReach by providing $3.3 million in critical funding to increase immunization rates, efficacy, and safety for five million people. Nakagawa has done what Nelson Mandela (a VillageReach honorary Board Member) expresses so eloquently: "We must not become immobilized by what we think of as the 'hugeness' of our problems. Let us consider what can be done, and start finding practical ways of doing things."
By 2007, Nakagawa became acting president and expanded VillageReach from a two-person venture in Seattle to an organization of 40 employees with six offices in two countries.