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The “Missing Middle” is More Complicated

Posted By Heather Soehn, Upaya Social Ventures, Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

 

In our industry of impact investing, there has long been a lament that small and growing businesses (SGBs) are the “missing middle” of the space—these are the companies that are too large for microfinance funding and too small for traditional investors or even most impact investors. The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs defines this space as companies seeking to raise between $20,000 and $2M US with between five and 250 employees.

The conversation has been going on for years, first defined with great clarity in the Monitor and Acumen Fund study, “From Blueprint to Scale” in 2012.  Upaya’s Sachi Shenoy picked up the issue of a “pioneering capital gap with Brian Arbogast in 2013 and then revisited it with our board member, Nathan Byrd, earlier this year. A common theme of all this investigation is that while the potential for impact can be huge in this space, investing here requires patience, capacity building and a lot of risk.

Upaya invests exactly in the “missing middle” and for years we have felt—If not completely alone—pretty lonely.  We invest to create jobs for the extreme poor, which gives us a very particular approach to enterprise selection. While there has been much discussion, there have not been dramatic shifts to address the gaps. Players are entering the space but there is still a $930 billion financing gap. What is going on?

“This Missing Middles,” a report commissioned by the newly-created Collaborative for Frontier Finance dissects this segment with much greater granularity than ever before. It has not been helpful to talk about a financing gap for these kinds of companies because “these” kinds of companies are quite diverse.  The report helpfully breaks them down into four groupings:

  • High Growth – Disruptive business models that could be tech-led, asset-light, growing at 66% in the CFF study.
  • Niche – Innovative products or services targeting niche markets
  • Dynamic Enterprises – “Bread and butter” businesses (trading, manufacturing, etc.) that have moderate growth and scale potential but significant livelihood impact
  • Livelihood Sustaining – Sustainable businesses that may have outgrown microenterprise and are supporting families with incremental growth

This report resonates with us so well because conversations with other seed stage or early stage impact investors sometimes remind us that “one of these things is not like the other.”

Upaya looks for companies that can be sustainable job-producers that return our investment, preferably with some upside. It’s not that we lack the ambition or focus of other early investors who are looking for “rocket ships” or “massive scale.” It’s that we know our market. The “Dynamic Enterprise” group is a very good description of many of the companies that we see and want to help reach 1,000+ sustainable jobs.

In what might be a surprise, the high growth ventures are generally on a trajectory to create fewer jobs due to their business model. So we wish them well, along with our colleagues who invest in them, but they’re less interesting to us unless there’s strong job creation. (As an aside, these are also the kinds of businesses that directly refute Mulago Foundation’s Kevin Starr’s post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review from August. The only key to poverty alleviation is not making sure that the companies that provide goods and services to the poor can scale; starting with a reliable job and income is a more direct assault on poverty, even if it comes in 1000-person increments.)

What this study does so well is explain why the “missing middle” has felt stuck for so long. It’s not that there’s not enough interest in funding these companies. It’s that we need to be more creative in our approach. There is no one financing solution for these different kinds of enterprises. So many impact-driven organizations, including Upaya, are making fairly straight-forward equity investments. In fact, the typical venture style equity investment doesn’t fit well with any of these groups. Even the high growth ventures, which account for only 1% of the segment, are likely to need longer time horizons than closed-ended funds provide.

Upaya had already started exploring what investment alternatives are available to us as a foreign investor in India, but this report gives us renewed energy. It also underscores that what we do really matters. There are not enough impact investors focusing on the “bread and butter” businesses that are the “backbone of local economies and are important sources of jobs for low- and moderate-skilled workers.”  Hopefully, with a better understanding of the environment we’re working in, investors can all be more successful in achieving our impact goals by better serving the entrepreneurs in our portfolios.

 

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This piece was written by Kate Cochran, CEO of Upaya Social Ventures and was originally posted on the Upaya Social Ventures blog.

Tags:  impact investing  Job Creation  missing middle  Pioneering Capital  Social entrepreneurship  social impact 

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Chipping Away at the MSME Financing Gap

Posted By Emma Marks, Small Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund, Monday, November 5, 2018

MSMEs are widely regarded to be among the primary drivers of economic development, employment, and innovation in emerging economies. However, a disproportionate number of MSMEs face challenges accessing the financial services they require to cover their day-to-day operations and scale into robust, sustainable businesses. Often, they have needs that exceed microfinance ceilings, and they cannot access financial services through banks or similar providers without established credit histories, well-documented business records, or sufficient collateral. Likewise, traditional banks tend to overlook potential MSME clients due to actual and perceived risks, transaction costs, and a general lack of familiarity with pro-poor business models.

The latest article from S3IDF advocates for tools like loan guarantees as a means to addressing the root causes of financial exclusion. By having “skin in the game,” banks and other financing institutions are more likely to engage seriously with the assessment process in a manner that will leave them better positioned to finance similar deals in the future and to extend other financial products and services to other MSME clients.

Tags:  access to finance  emerging markets  inclusive innovation  missing middle  social impact 

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GroFin - Transforming SGBs in Africa & the Middle East

Posted By Shailen Neewoor, GroFin, Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2018

Gain a deeper understanding of how GroFin, through its unique investment model in SGBs, is positively transforming small and growing businesses and the local communities they support. The inspiring success stories of its entrepreneurs exemplify the collaborative efforts of GroFin staff, investors, partners and clients. The 2017 GroFin Impact Report, Nomou Impact Report and Aspire Impact Report translates its faith in the power of the collective by asking the question “If not us, who? If not today, when? If not with our finance and support, how will these small businesses grow and succeed?”

2017 GroFin Impact Report

As at end 2017, GroFin has financed 675 small and growing businesses, supported 8,840 entrepreneurs, sustained a total of 86,190 jobs and touched the lives of 430,955 family members in the local communities across our 15 locations of operation in Africa and the Middle East. The report indicates that GroFin has made more investments in its priority sectors of education, healthcare, agribusiness, manufacturing and key services. Furthermore, GroFin invested US$ 60M in nearly 88 new small and growing businesses, with over 50% of the SMEs operating directly in our sectors of focus, sustaining 14,000 total jobs and supporting an additional 72,000 livelihoods. And to reinforce its value proposition of providing 'support beyond finance' the company introduced the GroFin STEP (Success through Effective Partnerships) Programme to support its SMEs and Entrepreneurs.

2017 Nomou Impact Report

The Nomou Programme is a regional initiative in MENA which was co-created by GroFin and Shell Foundation. As a result of the collaborative efforts of its investors, partners and clients, the Nomou programme is contributing to the alleviation of poverty and improvement of livelihoods in the communities where the programme operates, as well as striving to reduce the adverse impact of the humanitarian crisis in the region.

In 2017, the Nomou Programme supported 1,005 entrepreneurs, made investments into 103 SGBs, sustained a total of 10,287 jobs, touched the lives of 51,435 beneficiaries and added economic value of US$ 149 million per annum through its investee SMEs across Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Oman.

2017 Aspire Impact Report

Since their inception in 2014, the Aspire Small Business Fund (ASBF) and the Aspire Growth Fund (AGF) have sought to promote local entrepreneurship, employment and economic value-add in the Niger Delta. With the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) as anchor investor, the Aspire Enterprise Development Funds epitomise GroFin, a private development finance institution, and SPDC’s efforts to serve the local community with a combination of investment funds, business skills and market linkages.

In 2017 GroFin increased its commitment to supporting SMEs in the Niger Delta Region by investing in an additional 17 small and growing businesses and extending further funding of US$ 2.5M (140% increase from total amount invested as at end 2016). As at end of 2017, GroFin has supported 365 businesses, invested in 53 SMEs and sustained a total of 1,975 jobs under the Aspire Funds.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  2017  A Access to Finance  Access to Finance  Africa  Agriculture  ANDE Africa  ANDE Members  Base of the Pyramid  Business  business training  capacity development  DGGF  East Africa  education  finance  impact  impact investing  impact investing; gender lens investing; gender; w  impact investment  impact measurement  innovation  Investors  Kenya  MENA  missing middle  Philanthropy; impact investing  Private sector development  Rwanda  SDGs  SGB  SGBs  SGBs; accelerators; East Africa  SGBs; Environment; accelerators; energy  SGBs; West Africa; Senegal; Africa; MENA; Entrepre  small and growing agrobusiness  smes  social impact  South Africa  sustainability  sustainable development  Tanzania  Training  Uganda  West Africa 

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ANDE Webinar Recap: U.S. Global Development Lab’s PACE Initiative

Posted By Lauren Farello, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For those of you who were able to join us for USAID’s “Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative” webinar, thank you! Our presenter, Rob Schneider, division chief of global partnerships at USAID, shared valuable information about how USAID is supporting entrepreneurship and impact investing through the PACE Initiative and how ANDE members can participate in the new call for concept papers.

 

To recap, USAID’s third call for the submission of Concept Papers through the PACE Initiative is focused on fostering entrepreneurship and catalyzing private investment into early-stage enterprises operating in developing countries. PACE is looking for partners that are testing blended finance solutions to address the “missing middle” in sustainable, replicable, and/or scalable ways. Concept papers must be submitted by July 31, 2017 at 12PM (noon) Eastern Time.

 

We hope you find the webinar and the following resources helpful:

If you’d like to watch the recorded webinar, the link is here. The link to the PPT slides can also be found here.

 

Please don't hesitate to reach out with comments about the webinar.

Tags:  capacity development  grants  missing middle  PACE  scale  SGBs 

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ANDE at Skoll: Embrace Emerging Market Entrepreneurship to Fight Poverty

Posted By Stephanie Buck, Aspen Institute, Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Twice a year, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) convenes our Executive Committee—a group of fifteen international development leaders that guide ANDE’s strategy and provide operational oversight.

At the most recent meeting, we opened with a “pop quiz” — What are the three biggest challenges facing small and growing businesses in emerging markets over the next three years?"

Randall Kempner, ANDE's Executive Director dives into this question and the top three answers in this blog post for the Skoll World Forum

 

Tags:  Entrepreneurship  missing middle  Philanthropy  Sector Trends  sustainability  talent 

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Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) follow-up info

Posted By Kristen Gendron, U.S. Agency for International Development, Friday, January 30, 2015

ANDE members,

Thanks to those who joined yesterday's webinar on Development Innovation Ventures (DIV)! It was great to connect and hear your insightful questions.

We are excited about working with ANDE members to help drive great innovators to the financial and non-financial resources DIV can offer. I am sharing with you some tools that will be helpful in those efforts. Below/attached you’ll find:

  • Quick description of DIV  
  • Draft social media content: many DIV applicants have found out about us through social media
  • DIV Factsheet (attached): feel free to share widely

I look forward to connecting further with your organizations in these efforts. Please feel free to reach out to me in the ANDE portal anytime.

Warm regards,

Kristen and the DIV team

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About DIV

Development Innovation Ventures is an open competition supporting breakthrough solutions to development challenges around the world. DIV is looking for applicants in any sector, from any organization, company, or individual in almost any country in the world whose innovative ideas match our principles of cost-effectiveness, evidence of impact, and potential to scale. DIV invests grant financing in winners ranging from under $150,000 to $15 million.

Social Media Tools

Twitter

  • Looking for seed financing or scaling support? @DIVatUSAID winners receive up to $15M. Apply today http://goo.gl/dHJ44d
  • Help spread the word about @DIVatUSAID to innovators in #GlobalDev around the world! Apply now! http://goo.gl/dHJ44d
  • #Innovation competition @USAID looks for bold #globaldev ideas from anyone, anywhere. Apply to @DIVatUSAID now. http://goo.gl/dHJ44d

Facebook

  • Do you have the next big idea to change the world? Apply to USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures. You could receive up to $15M for your innovative solution. http://goo.gl/dHJ44d
  • Need seed funding to test and scale your development solution? USAID’s DIV accepts proposals year-round for innovations that will solve the world’s biggest development challenges. Apply now! http://goo.gl/dHJ44d
  • USAID’s DIV is an open competition supporting breakthrough solutions to development challenges around the world. Ideas can come from anyone, any sector, anywhere. Submit your application today http://goo.gl/dHJ44d 

Fact Sheet

Attached to give innovators an overview of DIV. This also on the DIV website.

 

*PS  - If you missed the ANDE - DIV 101 session yesterday and would like to watch, please connect with your membership manager Susannah Eastham.

 Attached Files:

Tags:  Acceleration  Access to Finance  early stage ecosystem  finance  Global. Development  Grants  Grants Rockefeller  High-Growth Entrepreneurship  impact evaluation  impact investment  innovation  Investors  missing middle  Philanthropy; impact investing  Private sector development  Public sector  social ent  social enterprise  social impact  social metrics 

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Can crowdfunding help the 'missing middle' ?

Posted By Olivier Lafourcade, Investisseurs & Partenaires, Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In its last article, the Devex Impact reporter Adva Saldinger presents how crowdfunding, this innovation and powerful tool efficiently addresses the challenge of financing the missing middle in Africa.

Kiva, a US-based web platform helps raise large capital amounts at a very low cost to finance social business projects. For example, within 30 hours I&P has successfully raised a $ 15,000 loan to develop and implement a solar-powered engine to help deliver clean tap water in Mauritania.

David Munnich from I&P answers Adva’s questions on the opportunities and limits of this new financing instrument.

Read the article

Tags:  crowdfunding  impact investment  investisseurs&partenaires  missing middle 

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