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Risky business: how to de-risk your fintech startup before it’s too late

Posted By Akansha Kasera, Bankable Frontier Associates, Friday, April 6, 2018
Updated: Friday, April 6, 2018

By Maelis Carraro and Elizabeth Davidson

If you’re a fintech entrepreneur, it’s probably not news to you that failure is more likely than success. After all, an estimated 70% of tech startups fail, typically within the first two years after their first round of financing.

Catalyst Fund has been working with inclusive fintech startups, a field that presents unique challenges for entrepreneurs, over the past two years. In many countries, it is a sector that presents more regulatory constraints, limitations as to how companies can handle information, and stringent operational and capital requirements.

Different startups, common risk challenges

Despite working with a wide variety of fintech startups across different geographies and sectors, we have seen some themes emerge on the most common risks that can pose a threat to the success of the business at the early stage. All startups mention they lack the financial and human capital they need to grow their businesses. “Finding funding is a huge burden. The average startup CEO spends 70% of his time fundraising, which remains the number one challenge faced by local startups,” says Yoann Berno of Flowigo.

Finding people with the right skill sets who are willing to give up more secure job alternatives is also big barrier, yet fundamental to raising capital and ensuring smooth execution. “The biggest challenge is getting the team with the right skill set at first, especially when you’re a young company and don’t have a system or protocol for hiring and then you start growing rapidly,” says Destacame’s Jorge Camus. “It then gets challenging to manage the team, train them and really build a culture that allows you to get to your goals.”

Over 70% of our fintech entrepreneurs also noted that not getting to product-market fit is a major challenge they face. They felt they did not have a full understanding of their customers needs to build strong value propositions. Additionally, 40% mentioned they faced technology risks, including lack of accessible data to refine their products, and 33% pointed to specific ecosystem dynamics that might threaten their business ability to scale.

Want to mitigate risks? Start early!
Early identification of key risks can help fintech startups invest in the business support they need early on before a risk takes down the business. These risks can scare off investors, who want to ensure that entrepreneurs understand the key challenges they face. Instead of waiting for entrepreneurs to identify key risks, early stage investors can work with startups to tackle these risks before or in conjunction with their investment.

Catalyst Fund has taken just this approach. By working with our entrepreneurs to identify risks, we can tailor technical assistance to solve these risks so that investors are more confident in the future success of the business.

Taking an honest look at their own key risks can be difficult for entrepreneurs, who may be too deep in the weeds to step back and look at the bigger picture. This is why the Catalyst Fund developed a risk diagnostic to help startup leaders get a better grasp on their challenges, and understand those within or outside of their control. The tool offers a checklist of possible mitigation strategies for the entrepreneur. Here are a few strategies we applied through our technical assistance engagements:

Understand your customer to offer strong value propositions
For Miguel Duhalt at Comunidad 4uno, that meant better understanding what his customers valued most about its product in order to focus on high value customers and tailor their offering. When we first met 4Uno, a financial services distribution platform offering insurance, health benefits and payments services for domestic workers in Mexico, they struggled with picking the right product offering for the right customer segment. After working with them on customer research, we helped them segment their customer base to refine their product offering and marketing strategy. Since then, they tailored product packages for insurance to specific client profiles and also offer salary payment services via an app, which resulted in a growth spurt.

Figuring out the right way to engage with customers is also a challenge for entrepreneurs in these markets and a big risk to the company’s ability to take off. How can a mobile-based startup communicate its value proposition clearly and consistently with a rural customer base when only 50% own phones and only 20% are literate? WorldCover, a platform providing insurance to low-income farmers around the world, used a marketing MVP, or minimal viable product, composed of simple and clear images to cater to the illiterate majority of potential customers. They tested various solutions, from SMS systems to a “microphone man” going to communities to play a recorded message and frequent community meetings. Community meetings, with 95% attendance rates, allowed WorldCover to maintain a human touch with customers. Farmers trusted WorldCover more after more face-to-face interactions because “an impostor wouldn’t show up at your house every week after taking our premium money,” said WorldCover’s CEO, Chris Sheehan.

Build a product vision and roadmap that meets your business needs
On the other hand, PayGo, a pay-as-you-go gas solution in Kenya, realized they were struggling with technology risks. They needed to integrate with a scalable payments solution, track key gas system indicators, and find tools to measure, monitor, and run their field sales team and customer service, yet they did not have the tech skills in the team build the necessary back-end software technology. We worked on designing their product architecture and built a new version of the app they are still using today. “The architecture we built with Catalyst still holds,” says Nick Quintong, PayGo’s CEO. “It was fundamental for a team that doesn’t have software expertise to bring someone in to show us how it can be done with off-the-shelf software modules.” Without these key technology investments early on, PayGo would not be poised for the growth it’s enjoying today.

In Colombia, we helped Escala, a savings fund for corporate employees and their children, with similar challenges. Initially, technology was holding Escala back and preventing them from reaching more clients who could benefit from their services. We worked with Escala to identify and integrate the right tech processes to match their stage and helped them avoid spending important resources on expensive and unnecessary CRM tools. 


“We believe ESCALA Educación’s story proves that a model like CF is very valuable to get a company investment-ready.” 

Escala used their new tech structure to more successfully manage their two sets of clients — companies and their employees — and to raise a seed round, which included members of Catalyst Fund’s Investors Committee such as Accion Venture Lab. “We believe ESCALA Educación’s story proves that a model like CF is very valuable to get a company investment-ready,” said Tahira Dosani, co-managing director of Accion Venture Lab, at the SOCAP conference this year. “ESCALA combines a strong management team and exciting customer acquisition and engagement strategies” says Vikas Raj, co-managing director of Accion Venture Lab.

Get the timing right
Unfortunately, not all risks can be mitigated. For Flowigo CEO Yoann Berno, “timing is everything.” Flowigo, a SaaS company seeking to enhance operations of pay-as-you-go product distributors in Africa, faced timing risks that ultimately backfired. Its markets lacked the client density necessary from them to scale, and key infrastructure issues like connectivity posed an ongoing challenge. SaaS companies like Flowigo need dense networks of businesses to flourish, but in Africa, industries that count more than a few dozen major players are rare. Scaling a SaaS business while addressing 10 to 15 customers is a hard sell. Ultimately, Flowigo succumbed to the timing risk, deciding to pivot and wind down this line of business.

Overall, while not all risks are avoidable, you can’t avoid the risks you don’t know about or aren’t focused on. So for fintech startups and investors alike, identifying and mitigating risks early is key to success. To get started on identifying your fintech startup’s key risks and think of your mitigation plan, check out Catalyst Fund’s new risk diagnostic.

You can also check out De-risking your Fintech startup webinar where we go over the toolkit and risk assessment for Catalyst Fund companies here

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Tags:  Business  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  finance  impact investing  inclusive business  inclusive innovation  Incubation  Risk; Risk Assessment; ANDE Members  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  social business  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship 

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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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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.

Design

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.

Conclusion

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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Toilet Accelerator India Edition Challenge - open for applications until 10th July!

Posted By Claire Balbo, Toilet Board Coalition, Tuesday, June 20, 2017
 
Do you have a business or business idea for toilet innovations and service models, circular economy waste management and resource recovery, or mobile, digital and e-heath applications for sanitation in India?

Apply for over 100,000 Euro in support from global brand companies by 10 July 2017!

APPLY HERE!
The Toilet Accelerator India Edition challenge calls for applications from businesses that are addressing the most challenging water and sanitation issues in the country. 
Top 3 winners will be announced at the 9th Sankalp Global Summit from 6-8 December, 2017 in Mumbai. The winners will receive over 100,000 Euro of in-kind support from leading companies over a 12 month period, as part of the 2018 Toilet Accelerator cohort of the Swiss based Toilet Board Coalition. The Toilet Accelerator Program provides expert mentorship and support, as well as access to the TBC-Sankalp investor networks. The Toilet Board Coalition is supported by some of the largest multinational corporates like Firmenich, Lixil, Kimberly-Clark and Unilever.  

THE ACCELERATE INDIA SANITATION BUSINESS CHALLENGE IS OPEN UNTIL 10 JULY 2017
The Toilet Board Coalition brings together experts from business, investment, and the global sanitation community through our platform to cross-fertilise experiences, innovate at all levels, and catalyse the growth of profitable sanitation businesses that deliver sanitation to all.  The Toilet Accelerator is a corporate accelerator program to facilitate private sector engagement and mentorship to sanitation businesses and entrepreneurs serving low-income markets. For more information on the Toilet Board Coalition, please visit the website.
Sankalp Forum is one of the largest platforms promoting innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets and building the ecosystem for business-led inclusive development. Over the past nine years, Sankalp has showcased over 400 sustainable enterprises across India, Africa and Southeast Asia, enabled 500+ mentoring connections and facilitated over USD 240Mn of equity investments. For more information on Sankalp Forum, please visit the website.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us by contacting Claire Balbo: balbo@toiletboard.org
#WeCantWait to know about your business!!

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Tags:  entrepreneurship  India  sanitation  Sankalp  SDGs  SGBs  SMEs  social entrepreneurship  sustainability 

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Ennovent invests in Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala Innovations

Posted By Aditi Natarajan, Ennovent, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

 

Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding (IIH) has invested an undisclosed amount in Bengaluru-based Hasiru Dala Innovations Private Limited. The company was incubated earlier by the Foundation for Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship (FISE), a Tata Trusts initiative. This is the sixth investment made by Ennovent’s Impact Investment Holding.

Hasiru Dala Innovations is a for-benefit, not-for-loss social enterprise that is dedicated to creating reliable and sustainable livelihoods for wastepickers through innovative, circular-economy centric businesses (www.hasirudalainnovations.com). It currently offers total waste management services for the responsible bulk waste generator, event waste management services for the eco-friendly host and easy to use home composter kits for the environmentally conscious. The enterprise therefore focuses on social impact through livelihood creation for waste pickers and environmental conservation by diverting waste away from landfills and processing it usefully .The company was co-founded by Nalini Shekar, Shekar Prabhakar and Marwan Abubaker in Bengaluru.

Bengaluru generates a reported 3500-4000 tonnes of waste everyday, which has led to overflowing, closed landfills and illegal dumping of waste in open landfills. This has created an enormous strain on urban local bodies, which are unable to cope with the mounting levels of waste and the consequent environmental and civic fallout. Further, the lives of the city’s 25000-30000 waste pickers who deal with this issue on a daily basis is deplorable- harassed by citizens and the police alike, with unpredictable livelihoods and no social security, they have an average life expectancy of 39 years.

Hasiru Dala was started in 2013 as a non-government organisation (NGO) with the aim of integrating waste pickers into the city’s solid waste management system. Since its inception, it has worked towards improving the working conditions of thousands of workers in the informal economy, including waste pickers, sorters and itinerant waste buyers. Hasiru Dala focuses on social justice issues covering social security, identity, dignity of labour, healthcare, education and affordable housing through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization and leveraging assistance provided by the state and central governments and other relevant institutions.

Since its inception, Hasiru Dala has created over 800 full and part-time jobs and impacted over 22,000 households which now have access to better waste management services. Both organisations put together manage over 40 tonnes of waste every day.

With this investment, Hasiru Dala Innovations plans to expand its operations in Bengaluru and invest in technology in order to streamline its operational processes. It will also use the funding to improve on its service offerings, which currently include solid waste management, urban gardening services, waste management services for events and home composting kits. The investment will be also be used to scale up Hasiru Dala Innovations’ reach and impact within Bengaluru, as well as expand its services to other cities in India.

The contribution that Hasiru Dala Innovations makes to enhancing the lives of waste pickers is the primary reason for the investment. This is because the organisation’s impact is not just limited to their working lives but also to their holistic growth (through health, banking and insurance facilities) and the lives of their children through educational loans and scholarships,

Speaking about the investment, Joel Rodrigues, Senior Manager – Finance Services at Ennovent said “The problem of inefficient solid waste management in urban areas can be solved by using technology and formally integrating waste pickers into the city’s solid waste management system. Ennovent Impact Investment Holding is optimistic about the impact Hasiru Dala Innovations will have in delivering waste management services to urban households while improving the lives of waste pickers.”

Shekar Prabhakar, Managing Director, Hasiru Dala said “Hasiru Dala Innovations is delighted to have Ennovent Impact Investment Holding partner with us on this journey. It is heartening to have impact investors like Ennovent recognize that social enterprises like ours are trying to maximize social impact while keeping the business viable and sustainable. We hope to not just transform waste picker lives but professionalize and set benchmarks in every business that we are in. We look forward to Ennovent’s continued support in realizing our vision of a just, opportunity-rich world for waste pickers.”

Tags:  entrepreneurship  Environment  impact investing  India  sanitation  social entrepreneurship 

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TBC Accelerator Programme - Deadline for Applications 30th April!

Posted By Claire Balbo, Toilet Board Coalition, Thursday, April 13, 2017
 BE A PART OF THE #NEXTBIGTHING!

The Toilet Board Coalition is a business platform enabling private sector engagement; connecting large and small companies through their Toilet Accelerator; and ensuring close collaboration between private, public and non-profit sectors, with the common goal to accelerate the business of sanitation for all. It was formed in 2014 by four corporate members — Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, Firmenich, and Lixil, together with leading international organisations, development banks and sanitation sector experts. 

For more information on the Toilet Board Coalition, visit our website.

In 2016 we launched our corporate accelerator programme, The Toilet Accelerator,  to facilitate private sector engagement and bespoke mentorship to sanitation businesses and entrepreneurs serving low-income markets. The Toilet Accelerator works with promising sanitation business models that have the potential to overcome current barriers to access, use and adherence at scale. More than toilets alone, we are supporting commercially viable businesses at every point in the sanitation value chain including circular economy waste management models, digital and mobile applications for sanitation and e-health.

Last Call for applications - deadline 30 April 2017
If you have any questions, shout out to Claire Balbo: balbo@toiletboard.org
THE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY OF THE DECADE
#WeCantWait

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Tags:  accelerator  entrepreneurship  mentoring  sanitation  SGB 

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Innovation event in Nairobi

Posted By Meredith Ettridge, Royal Academy of Engineering, Monday, April 3, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4SwfFDxiz4

The 2017 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation final will take place at a celebratory evening event on 23 May. Finalists from a group of 16 talented entrepreneurs will pitch their projects to the audience and the judging panel during the event.

You will have the chance to vote for your favourite and see the winner be announced following the judges' final decision. More opportunities to network will follow as the event draws to a close.

Location: Radisson Blu, Nairobi, Kenya
Dates: May 23 2017
Registration is free: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/africa-innovates-tickets-32888087154#tickets

Contact: africaprize@raeng.org.uk

Tags:  Africa  Entrepreneurship  Events  innovation  Kenya 

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​Agora Partnerships Launches Application for 2017 Accelerator Cycle 2 Class

Posted By Elysa Neumann, Agora Partnerships, Thursday, March 9, 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKRdMGQbY_Q&feature=youtu.be

 
Agora Partnerships has launched applications for its 2017 Accelerator program.
 
Through its flagship Accelerator program, Agora Partnerships strives to accelerate the shift to a sustainable economy by providing entrepreneurs who are intentionally building businesses that solve social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean with the resources they need to grow. Since 2011, 125 companies working in 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have participated in the Agora Accelerator, raising USD $52MM in capital and creating over 5,000 jobs. This year, in solidarity with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agora Partnerships is aligning our Accelerator tracks to advance the SDGs.
 
The Accelerator is a 4-month program designed to provide high-potential entrepreneurs with the knowledge, network and access to capital necessary to create system change, through in-depth, personalized, 1:1 consulting; access to the Agora Partnerships’network of mentors, investors, and capital opportunities; and a global community of peers.
 
Agora’s Accelerator program is designed for companies who are solving social and environmental challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, matching the following criteria: 
 
  • early or growth stage, past proof-of-concept; 
  • currently looking for investment to scale; 
  • legally incorporated as a for-profit structure with basic accounting systems in place; 
  • average annual income of USD $50K to $2MM; and, 
  • with a clear, measurable and sustainable impact.
 
Agora Partnerships looks to work with entrepreneurs who embody the leadership qualities of agency, empathy, curiosity and perseverance.
 
To apply to Agora Partnerships’ 2017 Accelerator click here.
 
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Agora Partnerships is a network committed to leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs by finding innovative ways to drive more human, social, and financial capital to the leaders and ideas that will make our world a better place. To learn morevisit: AgoraPartnerships.org

Tags:  Acceleration  accelerators  Agriculture  Business  Caribbean  central america  energy  Entrepreneurship  Environment  impact  impact investing  impact investment  innovation  Latin America  nicaragua  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  small and growing agrobusiness  social ent  social enterprise  social entrepreneurship  social impact  sustainability  talent  Women 

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Off-Grid Refrigerator Partnership

Posted By Anne Stewart, Jibu, L3C, Thursday, November 3, 2016

Fellow ANDE Members: if you are interested in applying for the Global Leap competition for an Off-Grid Refrigerator solution,  Jibu would be happy to discuss partnership. While Jibu does not have refrigerator technology, we have a successful sales & distribution model in East Africa implementing innovative water filtration technology. Please email <anne@jibuco.com> if interested. 

Global Leap Awards: Off – Grid Refrigerator Competition.

The Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP), in partnership with USAID's U.S. Global Development Lab, Power Africa, and DfID has launched a joint call for high efficiency, low-cost off-grid refrigeration solutions. This call for proposals is part of the 2016-17 Global LEAP Awards Program, and is the first investment focused on stimulating innovation under Scaling Off-Grid Energy: A Grand Challenge for Development. The competition aims to increase the availability of high-efficiency, low-cost, high-demand refrigeration technologies, and in turn drive demand for off-grid solar solutions, such as solar home systems and mini-grids. Submit nominations by January 20, 2017.
For more information, please click here.

Tags:  East Africa  energy  Entrepreneurship  fridge  Jibu  refrigerator  water 

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TA Finance for SGBs - a scarce good down the road?

Posted By Pedro Eikelenboom, PUM Netherlands senior experts, Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some perspective...once upon a time...

Picture yourself at a roundtable session with the topic ‘financial   instruments to support private sector development – how can business and non-profit collaborate’.  Guest speakers include a representative from a development bank, a public enterprise development agency, a non-profit and an enterprise

It reads like one of the many 'powwows' on the topic, though the invitation to this event has long but expired - it took place in October 2005 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands….


The impact investment eco-system

Fast-tracking time to 2016, there’s a new world created around impact investing. It has grown into an enormous market place for innovative financial (and non-financial) products and instruments. Where investors and prospects meet up, advised by consultants, think tanks, investment networks and so forth.

Many type of impact investors have entered the market, from banks, pension funds, wealth managers, family foundations, governments, development finance institutions and NGO’s. Hereby gradually expanding their investment portfolio into high-risk sectors like agriculture, in challenging countries, and targeting enterprises with ticket-sizes between US$ 100k – 500k.

It’s a shift (change in strategy) by some investors, with many key players shifting their ‘grant funds’ to a ‘return on investment’ portfolio. Is the eco-system creating a scarce good out of grants (in most cases being technical assistance / knowledge sharing) directed to support capacity development within enterprises? 

The true price of grants

Impact investing cannot only be about moving investment capital to riskier endeavors. It’s a combination of capital investments and non-reimbursable investments (the so-called grants). And the latter being a crucial factor in supporting the public good impact through technical assistance or capacity building trajectories for the beneficiaries. Neither is it a combination of 90-10, where grants serve as a bit of technical assistance on the side.

Reaching the enterprises that have growth potential but limited access to finance, means taking risk (call it technical assistance, capacity-building, non-reimbursable grants, first loss, equity stake, if you like) through a structured deal proposal between the impact investor, (perhaps) a development bank, an NGO, a technical service provider and so forth.

Several studies have stated that there is sufficient capital in the world to invest in small and medium sized enterprises (the ‘missing-middle’), in volatile sectors and in frontier markets. So money is not the issue – though the non-reimbursable investments are unfortunately becoming a scarce good due to policy changes within the public and non-profit sector.

However, beyond the non-profit community, grants are often perceived as ‘little strings-attached subsidies’, which require no financial returns. Of course, non-financial impact (social, environment etc.) is sought, though it’s based on expectations (outputs, outcomes). If one fails to reach the objectives, basically there’s not much harm done, it is - in the end - a grant.

How can we change this mindset? Grants do have a ‘price-tag’, value or leverage when dealing with blended finance. I’m sure, many investment deals in frontier markets would and will not happen without some flow of subsidies structured in the deal. Surely not advocating that grants should have a ROI too – next to non-monetary impact (social, environmental) -, but we should not take for granted the indirect value or direct leverage a subsidy has in the impact investment space. What can grant providers request or negotiate more in return for their contribution? Elements such as securing a seat at the board table of an investee (steer company’s public good objectives), or commit private grant funding to the related capacity-building program of an investment.  

Transferring skills & knowledge to secure ROI

Potential investment prospects (enterprises) may have fragile balance sheets, weak governance or inefficient processes. For that reason they are often initially overlooked by investors. As the impact investment marketplace is moving towards the ‘high-hanging fruit enterprises’, the power of knowledge becomes even more visible. Short-term technical assistance (related to entrepreneurship development) can strengthen an enterprise, making it robust and subsequently ‘de-risk’ its profile to potential investors.

In the case for professional volunteer service organizations (i.e. PUM, IESC, ACDI/VOCA, SES etc.) – its transfer of knowledge is as crucial as the committed capital investment to enterprises. Next to that, these organizations have a wealth of data, network and track-record in advising enterprises around the globe.

In the access to finance space for entrepreneurs, professional volunteer service organizations can play a critical role in strengthening the business competences of enterprises.

The lack of available (and/or affordable) local network of skills and experiences, that can contribute to the range of challenges an entrepreneur faces, is the gap where professional volunteer service organizations can offer qualified, experienced volunteer professionals to donate their time in transferring knowledge with entrepreneurs around the world. 

A structured approach

A structured approach on enabling enterprises in frontier markets to grow is essential and contributes into embracing entrepreneurs beyond the ‘usual suspects’. Collaboration through acknowledging and applying each other’s strengths is the way forward in achieving a sustainable return and impact through investment. And not to forget the role of governments and multilateral institutions in continuing - or at least not further reducing - ODA funded enterprise development programs. Of course, few would disagree with this conclusion, though the eco-system unfortunately exhibits far too few cases to proof otherwise.

For more insights on the role and added value of professional volunteer service organizations like PUM can have in strengthening SBG's as to de-risking their profile to impact investors, download the enclosed (full) article. 

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Tags:  accelerators  Access to Finance  Business  capacity development  Capital Aggregation  early stage ecosystem  emerging markets  entrepreneurship  entrepreneurship ecosystems  impact investing  impact investment  inclusive business  Investors  partnership  Pioneering Capital  Private sector development  social business  social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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