Funding early-stage innovators to disrupt the cycle of poverty
Acumen is taking a new approach to helping those who are living in poverty. Rather than give money away, the organization invests patient capital in emerging businesses working to disrupt the cycle of poverty. These businesses can provide low-income individuals with affordable goods and services, transforming the lives of their customers and creating jobs that lead to economic growth.
But starting and operating a sustainable business in the developing world comes with a unique set of challenges. To help the companies it invests in grow and scale, Acumen offers active post-investment support and counseling on strategy, governance, customer insights and fundraising.
In 2018, Acumen became an inaugural partner in Moody’s Reshape Tomorrow™ initiative. With funding from Moody’s, the organization has been able to bring a more regional focus to its post-investment support and improve the way its local teams engage with these companies.
“Moody’s commitment to our work and understanding of our patient capital model is invaluable,” says Acumen Business Development Lead Xaira Ferrara. “Working with Moody’s has better enabled us to develop the right interventions and tools at the right time to help our enterprises reach scale.”
“Working with Moody’s has better enabled us to develop the right interventions and tools at the right time to help our enterprises reach scale.”
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT LEAD, ACUMEN
Bringing a regional focus to supporting entrepreneurs
The work of social enterprise CEOs who are tackling poverty is difficult and lonely. In a competitive funding landscape in which many stakeholders expect quick returns on their investments, these entrepreneurs often struggle to find capital for their ideas. And if they are able to launch their businesses, they have to ensure that those enterprises are financially sustainable while navigating the challenges of operating in emerging economies.
Acumen’s CEO summits, a key component of its post-investment support, give CEOs of early-stage companies the opportunity to connect with each other and receive guidance from Acumen’s network of experts in areas such as sales and marketing, strategic finance and talent development. The summits, which are typically held annually, take place in different regions around the world, including India, Latin America and East and West Africa.
In 2019, Acumen gave its regional teams and leadership more autonomy to develop and design summits. Previously, Acumen’s global offices planned and coordinated the summits.
Empowering the teams that operate in these regions — and that best understand the needs of local entrepreneurs — gives attendees a more valuable experience focused on their unique circumstances. With the funding provided by Moody’s, the teams were able to bring in experts from Fortune 500 companies to facilitate sessions. Each facilitator had intimate knowledge of the local markets and was able to advise participants on best practices to incorporate into their business models.
Integrating this local context into the summit gave the CEOs the opportunity to not only learn about best practices, but to share them with each other. Following the success of the new format, Acumen plans to help its other regional offices identify and contract local facilitators for future summits.
Creating connections and community for CEOs
Over the past six years, Acumen’s CEO summits have benefitted 34 entrepreneurs from 33 social enterprises in Acumen’s portfolio.
Entrepreneurs who have attended CEO summits
Social enterprises in Acumen’s portfolio that have benefited from a summit
A typical day at a summit includes a blend of community- and capacity-building activities. In one session, participants might read theories and writings from the world’s top leaders and thinkers and discuss how questions of moral leadership apply to their business decisions. In another, they might hear case studies on technical topics such as how to build a solid corporate governance strategy in an emerging organization.
Through Moody’s support, Acumen has been able to enhance the quality of these summits and help the entrepreneurs in their portfolio develop both their technical and leadership abilities.
Participants in the CEO summits leave having built not just their technical capacity and leadership capabilities but a sense of community. “This was an incredible opportunity to be able to bond and learn from like-minded peers facing similar challenges, both inside and outside our organizations,” says Marta del Rio, CEO of Wasi Organics and a participant in Acumen’s CEO Summit in Bogota, Colombia, in 2019.
“This was an incredible opportunity to be able to bond and learn from like-minded peers facing similar challenges, both inside and outside our organizations.”
MARTA DEL RIO
CEO, WASI ORGANICS
As Acumen continues to refine its CEO summits and strengthen its local teams, it plans to host more summits in regions that have not yet participated.