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Management Fees for Emerging Market VC Funds Should be Predictable

Posted By Dave Richards, Capria Ventures, Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The traditional PE-birthed model for management fees does not align interests for LPs and GPs for emerging market VC and early-growth PE funds that are under $100M

As a global emerging market fund investor, we evaluate more than 200 VC/PE fund proposals per year across Africa, Latin America, and South & Southeast Asia. We also talk every week with multiple fund investors (most call themselves “LPs” or limited partners) to get their feedback on funds that they are seeing and evaluating.

The Fees Tug of War

One of the most focused on and hotly discussed topics is fees. Fund managers (most call themselves “GPs” or general partners) are “defending” their need for the proposed management fees in order to have sufficient resources to professionally manage their investing strategy, with the largest item being the principals’ and staff’s compensation expenses and profit-sharing fees that give them upside if they can deliver profits (aka “carry”). The LPs are trying to understand why the GPs need to pay themselves such large salaries and question if there is sufficient “skin in the game” from the GP principals to align interests long-term. The LP’s concern is that GPs can be paid handsomely, or maybe even excessively, via management fees even if the GPs invest their money poorly and don’t deliver expected returns. The default ask by GPs in under $100m funds is “2 & 20” – 2 percent per year as management
fees and 20 percent of carry. These two items are generally the core “fee package”. I have previously shared about a better way to align LP/GP interests on carry, so here I’m going to focus on the management fee component.

I Approach the Management Fee Conversation from a Different Angle As a fund investor, I often ask the GP the following questions:

 What is the smallest annual operating budget you need to do a quality job of managing this fund? And what is your preferred budget? Explain both scenarios with trade-offs.
 You are proposing to increase your firm’s annual operating budget by 200% (or whatever it is) with additional fees generated by this new fund. Where will you be spending the incremental fees?

Why do I ask these type of questions? Because I really don’t care about what percent management fee they are asking for, what I care about is what size of operating budget they need and the logic behind that. E.g. how much is going to hire new staff, compensate current staff more, move into a fancy new office, upgrading to business class travel, paying for overpriced attorneys, and … drum roll please … going to pay principals.

What is the most common answer? Poor quality “hand waving” type answers. A remarkable number of managers, even experienced ones, have not really thought through how to address such a straightforward question. And they generally won’t admit it. They haven’t done the work to research and prepare a bottoms-up budget forecast. They just assume it is ok to ask for 2% or even 2.5% “because doing business is expensive in this place.” I think to myself, would they invest in a startup business where the CEO hadn’t done their homework on revenue forecasts and operating budgets? See my other post on why fund managers need to be entrepreneurs as well.

So, I send them back to prep a bottoms up operating budget forecast for the “minimal” and “preferred” scenarios and ask them to send to me before our next call. Most LPs Focus on Incentivizing Capital Deployment Beyond Investment Period. In the 2% management fee scenario, most old-school LPs are “ok” with the basis of the 2% fee to be “committed capital” during the investment period (usually 3-5 years for VC funds). Then LPs want the basis of the management fee to shift to something like “net invested assets” – that is, the amount that has been deployed to investee companies.

1 . The thinking is that this will motivate the GP to quickly deploy reserves which is somehow correlated to speeding up when they will be able to exit the investments. They also prefer to not pay management fees on management fees and fund expenses.

2 . The problem with this approach is that this results in a dramatic cliff on fees right after the investment period ends. For instance, VC funds often initially invest smaller amounts in many companies and then hold substantive reserves to double and triple down on the best companies that emerge. So, it is not uncommon at the end of the investment period for the fund to have deployed only 40-50% of the committed capital. This would mean a 50% drop in management fees right after the investment period.

Then It Gets Even More Complicated.

So, then often the discussion turns to the basis post investment period to being “net invested assets + something else”. Often the something else is some quantity of reserves, but then this gets really complicated to define. Here are the problems with this approach to post investment period management fees


1 This is generally the cost basis of investments made by the fund, less the proportion of shares sold. So, if the fund invested $1m in a company, the value would initially be $1m. If the fund sold 50% of its shares in that company, then the value would be reduced to $500k.
2 If you have a $50m fund and the forecast is for $10m in fees & expenses over the 10 year duration of the fund, then the fund’s investable capital is $40m. When you pay management fees based on committed capital, you are paying it on the full $50m.

 The GP is incentivized to increase net invested assets ASAP at or after the investment period whether this makes sense or not in order to earn higher management fees;
 The GP is incentivized to hold on to investments longer and write them down/off more slowly because that would reduce management fees post investment period;
 The GP will need to start fundraising for a successor fund earlier to reduce the period of lower management fees after the investment period – paying less attention to their current fund and its performance; and
 GPs are (understandably) going to ask for a higher management fee during the investment period due to the unpredictability of fees post investment period.

But the biggest problem with this typical approach is that it creates unpredictable management fees for both the GP and the LP. The net is that this is an over-engineered fee structure with a lot of perverse incentives that misaligns the LP and GP interests.

Predictable “Budgeted” Management Fees are a Better Solution

I believe there is a simpler and much more aligned approach to setting management fees – a pre-defined management fee budget for the entire fund duration. This approach defines a year-by- year budget which recognizes that there is some additional heavier lifting in the early years as the portfolio is being selected and then a predictable, graduated budget in the outer years. This enables the GP is focus on maximizing the fund’s results without having to think about how their buy/sell decisions are impacting their operating revenue, nor does it incentivize the GP to pre-maturely raise another fund.

Example: For a $50m fund, the agreed budget might be $1.25m for the first 2 years and $1m for the next 2 years of the investment period. Then reducing to $850k in years 5 & 6, $700k in years 7 & 8, etc. (Of course, you could convert this back into a percent of committed capital for each year.)

The discussion then can focus on what the right budget is based on the investment strategy. And you could even decide to have checkpoints along the way managed by the fund’s advisory council (often called LPAC, with members from the fund’s largest investors) to review the budget needs and have some authority to increase or decrease modestly. But be careful about making it too easy to change the budget as this could create unintended misalignments.

Summary: Pre-determined budgets for management fees for the duration of the fund are a
benefit to both fund managers and fund investors creating better long-term alignment.

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MDIF closes $6-million media impact fund

Posted By Peter Whitehead, Media Development Investment Fund, Tuesday, March 20, 2018
New York, March 19, 2018: Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) today announced final close of MDIF Media Finance I, a $6-million impact fund investing in independent news media in select emerging and frontier markets.

“We are delighted to have closed MMF I and ramp up financing for companies that provide the news, information and debate that people need to build open societies,” said Harlan Mandel, MDIF Chief Executive Officer. “MMF I loans will help build companies that expose corruption, hold governments to account and provide balanced coverage of elections.”

MMF I provides affordable debt to independent news companies in a range of countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. The fund will invest in companies in countries such as India, Ukraine, Bolivia and Lesotho.

MMF I notes pay 4% annual interest and, under a pioneering agreement with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), MDIF and Sida provide investors with 55% first-loss protection. Sida also provides technical assistance grants to fund investees to build their management capacity.

MMF I investors include the Open Society Foundations (Soros Economic Development Fund), Dreilinden, a Dutch family office and Antonis Schwarz.

“MMF I will finance investments in software, equipment, content production, workspace, as well as working capital and short-term cash-flow needs – all vital for company growth,” said Mr. Mandel. “With the successful close of MMF I, we are now looking forward to launching MMF II later this year.”

About MDIF

MDIF is a New York-based not-for-profit investment fund for independent media in countries where independent media are under threat. It has 22 years’ experience of helping build quality news and information companies – print, digital and broadcast – in emerging markets. It has:

  • invested more than $166 million in 114 media companies
  • worked in 39 countries on 5 continents
  • a current portfolio of more than $60 million invested in over 50 media organizations

For more information, contact Peter Whitehead, MDIF Director of Communications,, +44 7793050670.

Tags:  emerging markets  impact investing  impact investment  social business  social impact 

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Shortlist and Spire: Building Africa’s First Full-Stack Talent Platform

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Shortlist and Spire: Building Africa’s First Full-Stack Talent Platform
By Grace Horwitz 

Last November, Spire Education, one of Blue Haven’s portfolio companies, merged with Shortlist, a talent sourcing and screening business operating across India and Kenya. The merger was a first for the Blue Haven portfolio, but also for the broader human capital industry in East Africa. With complementary offerings, the combined Shortlist-Spire team is now capable of supporting clients across the talent spectrum. As Shortlist CEO, Paul Breloff, put it in his November announcement, “This is a match made in heaven…Shortlist can help companies build their teams, and Spire can help make sure those teams are equipped with the skills needed to succeed.” As we celebrate the three-month anniversary of the Shortlist-Spire union in Nairobi this week with Paul, Jenn (former Spire CEO and now MD of Africa for Shortlist and Spire) and the rest of the Shortlist-Spire team, here’s why we’re excited to have them in the Blue Haven family.

Last year, Lauren and I discussed why human capital is important to us as investors. While our website is littered with the logos of portfolio companies, a more accurate depiction of what we’re betting on might be a photo collage of the teams behind them. Companies are only as good as the people that run them, and that means hiring, training and retaining the best talent. Regardless of the industry, most executives cite people as their most important asset. However, in their quest to retain more “A-players,” very few feel as though they’ve cracked the code to maximize potential across roles, levels, and functional areas.

This problem is particularly challenging for quickly-growing small and medium sized businesses that lack dedicated resources and the staff time to focus on talent. As part of a small organization, I’m familiar with this tension. It took my boss, Lauren, over a year to hire her first Associate (me) because she was juggling days that looked like this. We just hired our second Associate, Sarah, and I’m positive I’ve underdelivered in the onboarding and training category in more ways than one (sorry Sarah!). This makes for a vicious cycle — small and medium sized businesses are painfully constrained for time and resources, making it difficult to invest in hiring, upskilling, and retaining employees, which in turns puts even more pressure on an already overworked team — a so-called talent hamster wheel.

The reality is, sometimes we need help from the outside. But when it comes to hiring and developing your employees, it can be hard to find the right partner. The traditional mode of outsourcing HR activities tends to be of the transactional, hit-and-run nature — hire a head hunter to track down a bunch of CVs ASAP, and they do it, but without understanding culture, the business itself, or what soft skills a candidate will require. Or management brings someone in to conduct a half-day training for junior staff, and while you may feel pretty good after a couple of trust falls, three months down the road you realize that the exercise had no real impact on your employees’ performance. And when these talent service providers are all separate companies, you spend a lot of time re-explaining exactly what you’re looking for in an ideal team member — wouldn’t it be nice if the same people who hired your new sales team were the ones who trained them too?

Point solutions that claim to offer “just-in-time” support are not always the best approach, especially in the context of building an effective team that is capable of achieving its full potential over time — weeks, months and years. Most firms (unless you’re Google) don’t have the privileges of skimming the best candidates from the top of a stagnant talent pool. That means employers have to start taking a more integrated and proactive approach across the talent life cycle to truly optimize investment in talent. They will need to leverage a combination of technology and human touch to test the competencies of candidates rather than taking resumes at face value and spend time with employees to teach the soft skills and attitudes that drive success in management roles.

Having seen our portfolio companies struggle with talent issues of all flavors and varieties, we are pumped about what Shortlist-Spire is bringing to market in Kenya. Spire and Shortlist focus on different pieces of the talent value chain, but long-term results will be mutually dependent. While Shortlist screens candidates on the basis of competency (not just CV and connections!), Spire helps those candidates reach their full potential through end-to-end talent development and training. In an ideal world, this makes for a seamless bump-set-spike model of maximizing human potential. Though I think both Paul and Jenn would agree that there is still lots to figure out, the Blue Haven Team is excited to be along for the ride!

Originally published on Medium.

Tags:  East Africa  talent 

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Collaborate to make green mainstream

Posted By Leanne Feris, Fetola, Monday, February 26, 2018
Updated: Monday, February 26, 2018

Collaborate to make green mainstream

Dear friends and colleagues!

Are you keen to participate in our ecosystem, working to create a cleaner, more efficient and sustainable way of living, and doing business?

Have you heard of GROUNDSWELL Africa – Fetola’s new initiative to help solve environmental and social challenges by supporting viable business and social enterprise solutions? Targeting  water scarcity, resource efficiency and waste management, phase one of the drive to ‘make green mainstream’ is supported by seed funding from J.P.Morgan. It will take 30 entrepreneurs through an intensive growth program, and assist hundreds of others through the GROUNDSWELL helpdesk.

Fetola’s reputation is built on growing the economy and creating jobs, by building businesses that last. We invite your help to make sure this happens in the ‘green sector’.

How you fit in

Are you one of the skilled and passionate organisations or individuals in industry, government and research agencies that already work in the water scarcity, resource efficiency and waste management sector? Would you like to collaborate with like-minded people for mutual benefit, stimulating engagement and tangible results?

GROUNDSWELL is an opportunity:

·       to identify potential providers for your business;

·       to give back by helping young entrepreneurs (and to test the waters as a mentor if you haven’t done this before);

·       to talk to young entrepreneurs with innovative ideas and offerings;

·       to showcase your business offering;

·       to spot potential partnerships; and

·       to create corporate enterprise and supplier development sponsorship packages.


Four ways to engage

Please let us know if you are keen to engage in the ecosystem as:

1.     Programme Advisory:  As external sounding board on an ad-hoc basis, when sector-specific needs and challenges arise. 

2.     Support to entrepreneurs: Providing sector-specific knowledge to the training and group mentoring taking place over the next 18 months. For example procurement opportunities, industry challenges and technical / legislative roadblocks.

3.     Volunteer mentoring:  Sector-specific support to supplement the business mentors.

4.     Networking & ecosystem events: Meet the entrepreneurs and engage in broader industry forums.

To register your interest in any of the opportunities, click here, or read more about it here. If you’d like to apply to the GROUNDSWELL programme, click here.

Alternatively, please pass on this opportunity to those in your network who might benefit.

Tags:  Acceleration  entrepreneurship  Environment  mentoring  Scale  sustainability  water 

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BCtA Webinar Series: Women’s Economic Empowerment and Inclusive Business

Posted By Nazila Vali, Business Call to Action at UNDP, Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018


A Perspective from and for the Base of the Pyramid to Enhance Economic Opportunities for Women and Accelerate the Realization of the SDGs.

1st Webinar: Tuesday 30th Jan 2018, 4:00-5:00 pm (GMT+3)
2nd Webinar: Tuesday 6th Feb 2018, 4:00-5:00 pm (GMT+3)
3rd Webinar: Tuesday 13th Feb 2018, 4:00-5:00 pm (GMT+3)

We are excited to announce BCtA’s new webinar series featuring presentations and discussions with key experts who have helped to empower women at the Base of the Pyramid (BOP) market through their research, products or services development, policy or advocacy work. This is a unique chance to engage on both conceptual and practical issues around women’s economic empowerment for the BOP market.

The initiative is built on the recognition that there is a documented business case for the private sector to actively engage women as consumers, producers, suppliers, distributors of goods and services or employees. Women’s empowerment is a prerequisite, as much as it is an outcome, for achieving all the SDGs. Our webinars will demonstrate that businesses can be profitable and contribute to a company’s overall objectives while also helping to serve the interests of women at the BOP. 

Webinar discussions will feed into an insight report that will provide a comprehensive knowledge base to better understand the needs of BOP women at the BOP, thus informing and improving future programme and product design.

1ST WEBINAR | Women’s Economic Empowerment: the (Inclusive) Business Case
  • Aditi Mohapatra, Director, Women’s Empowerment at BSR
  • Anna Falth, Global Programme Manager, Empower Women at UN Women
  • Katy Lindquist, Communications Executive at AFRIpads
Moderated by Paula Pelaez, Programme Manager, Business Call to Action
To register and read more click here

2ND WEBINAR | Women's Economic Empowerment: Navigating Enablers and Constraints
  • Georgia Taylor, Technical Director at WISE Development     
  • Mashook Mujib Chowdhury, Deputy Manager, Sustainability, at DBL Group  
  • Nicole Voillat, Group Sustainability Director at Bata Brands
Moderated by Carmen Lopez-Clavero, Programme Manager Specialist, Private Sector and Economic Development at Sida
To register and read more click here

3RD WEBINAR | Women’s Economic Empowerment: Measuring Inclusive Businesses Impact   
  • Dr Catherine Dolan, Reader in Anthropology at SOAS, University of London, Visiting Scholar at Saïd Business School
  • Diana Gutierrez, Global Programme Manager, Gender Equality Seal for Private Sector Global at UNDP     
  • Anuj Mehra, Managing Director at Mahindra Rural Housing Finance Limited, India
  • Vava Angwenyi, Founder, Vava Coffee LTD, Kenya
Moderated by Nazila Vali, Knowledge and Partnerships Lead, Business Call to Action at UNDP
To register and read more click here

You will have the opportunity to share questions and comments when registering, during the webinar itself, and immediately following via a post-event feedback form.

We hope you can join us! Space is limited, so please register via the link below:


Tags:  business  inclusive business  sustainability  wee  women  women's economic empowerment 

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Three Powerful Tools for Fintech Practitioners

Posted By Jane Del Ser, Bankable Frontier Associates, Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By David del Ser

(Watch our video)

Since we launched the Catalyst Fund in 2015, we have helped 15 fintech entrepreneurs deploy novel approaches to bring products and services to their customers. We have distilled the successful patterns and behaviors we have observed into toolkits and posts for those considering fintech methods for their businesses, whether they be startups or established players.

At a high level, successful fintech startups adopt principles of Design, Risk Management and Product Management, and also put modern technologies like smartphones, artificial intelligence and cloud computing at the core of their value propositions. At successful fintech startups Designers, Product Managers, CEOs and Engineers reinforce each other in multidisciplinary teams to explore the overlap between what customers find desirable, what engineers can build, and what the business requires to grow.


The function of Design is to represent the voice of the customer at all times to make sure a company stays centered on what matters most. Design is not a one-off process. In the spirit of customer validation, designers keep tight feedback loops with customers throughout the product development process, from early prototypes to usability testing of new features.

Through user research (UX) techniques like online surveys and one-one-one interviews, designers invest heavily during initial stages in order to know their customers like the back of their hand; what are their problems and pain points, and how can their company help? In fact, designers segment customers into personas to allow the team to constantly keep in mind different user profiles and needs.

Aesthetics matter. Designers work hard to perfect a product’s UI and its look and feel, so it can live up to the high expectations created by WhatsApp or Google. But great design goes beyond just user research and visuals during early product design stages. Successful inclusive fintech startups map out the Customer Journey and Service Blueprint in detail to fully understand the perspective of the user each time they  interact with the company.

Ultimately, great design creates trust, that elusive quality that all startups are chasing and that distinguishes them from their competitors. We’ve captured our lessons for startups to build trust with their customers through their products or services in our Design for Trust Toolkit.

Product Management

But designers can’t work in isolation; they need someone to lead the orchestra - and that’s where a product manager comes in. The PM takes a big picture view and works to ensure that designers, engineers and marketers all work towards the same goal. Crucially, she makes sure the product or service goal is backed by data and evidence. She keeps the whole process nimble through quick agile iterations focused on the activities of users, from initial onboarding to the retention phase. For example, using A/B Testing and usage analytics she captures details of how each users is interacting with every screen to inform engagement.

The effective product manager is very focused on the key metrics for the business, such as customer lifetime value or acquisition costs. She also works hard to explore the best channels to find new customers, including viral referrals and social media. As an example, our portfolio company Destacame has seen lead acquisition costs dropping to less than $3 through these types of digital channels. We explore some of the different tools and frameworks to help startups focus as they chart their journey from idea, to minimum viable product (MVP) and growth in our upcoming product/market fit toolkit.

Modern Technologies

And finally, you can’t have good fintech without the “tech” that is enabling these new approaches.

Most important are the smartphones, which run fintech apps and also act as channels to find and interact with users. For instance, several of our startups use WhatsApp to offer customer support and drive virality, communicating with users in the way they prefer. Smartphones can also be used to generate and capture user data, which is particularly valuable when targeting low-income consumers who traditionally have been anonymous. In that vein, our portfolio company Smile Identity validates and authenticates customer identities using selfies taken on their phones.

In addition machine learning and other artificial intelligence systems can improve customer value propositions and to automate internal processes like credit scoring using data from smartphones and other new sources like satellites. As an example, our portfolio company ToGarantido is exploring chatbots for sales of their insurance policies and customer support. Harvesting is using satellite data to understand credit and insurance risk with just a GPS read. Worldcover doesn’t even need customers to file a claim as their satellite systems award them automatically.

And software engineering helped Escala and Paygo Energy to automate most of their back-office processes to be responsive to their customers. It is easier and more affordable than ever for startups to leverage affordable SaaS solutions to architect their systems. Likewise, cloud computing is also a powerful technology that offers simplicity, lower costs and flexibility. There is no need to commit capital to purchase hardware and the team requires less engineering talent to keep the servers going.


In our experience, companies that harness the powerful combination of design, product management and modern technologies create better and more tailored value propositions. That makes for happier customers, which is what makes businesses thrive. By driving more usage, the fintech triad can create more impact in low-income populations. And digital channels and automated processes can significantly lower costs of serving customers, allowing for expansion to new markets and reducing exclusion.

Learn more by joining us for our webinar on the Catalyst Fund toolkits during the ANDE Sector Update call in January. Register here.

Tags:  Acceleration  accelerator  accelerators  Africa  ANDE Africa  Base of the Pyramid  brazil  Business Models  capacity development  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  finance  financial inclusion  fintech  Grants Rockefeller  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive innovation  India  India; ANDE members  innovation  Kenya  Latin America  mentoring  Mexico  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  smaholder farmers  smes  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social innovation  webinar  West Africa 

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GroFin opens 16th office across Africa and MENA, to invest in SMEs in Senegal

Posted By Nishika Bajaj, GroFin, Thursday, December 14, 2017

GroFin, a pioneering SME development financier, has opened its 16th office in Senegal, furthering its expansion into West Africa’s Francophone belt after Ivory Coast.

With the opening of this office, Senegalese entrepreneurs can expect to benefit from the unique model of appropriate, medium-term finance and specialised, value-added business support that GroFin extends to Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) across its locations of operation.

Headquartered in Mauritius, GroFin currently has an investment footprint in 14 countries across Africa and the Middle East – straddling key economies in Eastern Africa, Western Africa, Southern Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – with one to two countries expected to be added each year.

GroFin’s latest in-country expansion heralds a new investment horizon for its flagship Small and Growing Businesses Fund (SGB Fund). Launched in September 2014 across nine African countries, the Fund has capital commitments of USD 100 million, making it one of the largest funds specifically targeting SGBs in Africa.

The SGB Fund follows on the fully invested GroFin Africa Fund, marking 13 years during which GroFin has supported over 8,500 entrepreneurs and invested in 640 SGBs, as well as sustained 104,950 jobs, benefitted 524,770 livelihoods and added economic value exceeding USD 700 m per annum through its investees, as at 30th June 2017.

With an evergreen structure, the SGB Fund was created by GroFin together with the Shell Foundation, an independent charity; the German Development Bank, KfW; the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries, Norfund; and the Dutch government through the Dutch Good Growth Fund (DGGF). 

Tags:  Base of the Pyramid  SGBs; West Africa; Senegal; Africa; MENA; Entrepre 

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Preparing for Scale: Developing and Retaining Talent

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The EY “Preparing for scale” webinar series aims to support impact entrepreneurs and their management teams to overcome barriers to growth. Presented in association with AcumenEchoing GreenANDE and Toniic, the webinar series will provide insightful, practical advice on how to understand and overcome these barriers to growth, as well as tangible examples of how they have been overcome in practice by leading impact entrepreneurs. 


ANDE hosted the most recent webinar on this series, with a focus on talent. Click the link below to access the recording and presentations. Please note, you will have to "register" first, and then you will have full access to the recording. 


Developing and retaining talent

Tuesday, 24 October 2017, 15:00 GMT



  • Antony Maina, ANDE - Antony represented ANDE's work on talent in our East Africa Chapter.
  • Jay Lee, Rippleworks - Jay covered how to enhance the employee value proposition as a means to developing and retaining talent.
  • Caroline Gertsch, Amani Institute - Caroline explained a model for leadership and management development training programs.
  • Glynis Rankin, Creative Metier - Glynis discussed the value of executive coaching in developing and retaining talent.


Access the recording here. 

Tags:  Scale  talent 

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From Micro to Small: How an SGB is helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses in the Philippines

Posted By Stephanie Buck, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The bright oranges, purples, blues, greens, and yellows advertising everything from coffee, to laundry products, to shampoo, to cigarettes are a common sight in the Philippines. These are the colors of the Sari Sari stores. Sari Sari roughly translates to “variety” in Tagalog. The stores often jut off of the owner’s home and can carry as many as 200 different types of products in one small area. And they are more than spaces to buy items for daily use. They are gathering places, an extension of the customer’s own pantry, and usually owned by women. There are upwards of a million Sari Sari stores throughout the country and while they may help their owners scrape by, they tend to remain very small and not hugely profitable.

When Mark Ruiz sees these stores, though, he sees their potential, and a question surges to the front of his mind: how can these micro-businesses grow and better meet the needs of their communities?

This question nagged at him, even while he was moving up the career ladder at Unilever, focusing on sales, customer marketing, and channel strategy. He enjoyed his work, and was grateful for the experience, but he started to feel like something was missing. His desire to help people grew stronger, and still the question would not let him go. He knew that, whatever the answer, he needed to have a business-based solution. And because of his experience and expertise in helping top Unilever clients improve their businesses through customized support in management and retail solutions, he thought, “Why not give that kind of tailored support to the smallest of store clients as well?”

And so, after seven years, Ruiz left his corporate job to co-found a social enterprise with his good friend, Bam Aquino. They eventually created Hapinoy, a play on Tagalog words that means “Happy Filipino.” After extensive research, Ruiz and Aquino determined that the main things these Sari Sari stores would benefit from would be access to capital through micro-financing, training, and new business opportunities. Focusing on these three components could help integrate the stores into the formal economy, and create alternative distribution methods to give marginalized populations better access to essential goods and services. 

Keep reading to learn how Hapinoy is helping these entrepreneurs grow their businesses from micro to small > 



Tags:  Information and Communication Technology  mobile  Southeast Asia 

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How Mobile Technology is Saving Lives in Nigeria

Posted By Stephanie Buck, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, October 4, 2017

In April 2015, a strange illness began spreading in Ondo State in Nigeria. Dozens of people started experiencing blurry vision, headaches, blindness, and loss of consciousness. Around the same time, people in nearby Rivers State began to suffer the same symptoms, sending communities into a panic, and claiming the lives of 66 people. Rumors of Ebola spread, but proved to be wrong. Instead, the mysterious disease was linked to methanol poisoning as a result of a pesticide-contaminated batch of a locally brewed gin, called Ogogoro. In total, it took more than six weeks to contain the Rivers State outbreak.

But in Ondo State, while 18 people still died tragically, the outbreak was contained in two weeks. Why the difference?

Keep reading > 


This excerpt is part of a series of stories ANDE is carrying out in partnership with Qualcomm Wireless Reach, another ANDE member. Read more stories at If you'd like to submit your own story for consideration on this site, please contact Stephanie Buck


Tags:  Information and Communication Technology  mobile  West Africa 

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