All posts by Dorrit

Panel at SOCAP – Building the Impact Entrepreneur Movement.

This week, Agora staff are live at SOCAP11 in San Francisco. Today, Founder Ben Powell will be participating in a panel alongside Agora Entrepreneurs Tegu, CO2 Bambu, and Michelle Viegas, Operations Senior Associate at the Inter-American Development Bank. The panel, “Building the Impact Entrepreneur Movement: Perspectives from Top Early Stage Entrepreneurs in Central America”, will be live at 1:45PM PDT.

We’ll be live-blogging the panel, so stay tuned for updates! If you want to watch the panel live, tune in to the SOCAP livestream.

[liveblog]

Connecting Entrepreneurs with Investors.

Within 48 hours of completion of the Conference, Agora Partnerships helped catalyze over U$3.5M in potential Impact Investments.

Last month, Agora’s Impact Investor Conference served as a bridge between impact entrepreneurs and impact investors.

Over the conference’s three days, all the hard work that went into the Accelerator Program came to fruition, for both the entrepreneurs who pitched and for the investors who attended. Over 60% of our Accelerator companies are in advanced stages of due diligence. In fact, after the conference, all of the investors who attended are looking into one or more deals.

Another interesting component of the conference was the live feed that streamed over the internet to over 50 viewers. Not only did the live feed let more people participate remotely, but 3 investors who were watching live have reached out to engage entrepreneurs for future collaborations.

Set in beautiful Granada, Nicaragua, not only was the Impact Investor Conference an inspiring experience, but the results proved to clearly demonstrate the tangible opportunities created by our Agora Accelerator program.

Do you want to be a part of the change? Apply if you are an impact entrepreneur, nominate a company in Central America, or become a mentor for Accelerator entrepreneurs now.

Tegu: The Wooden Block. Reinvented.

Operating in Honduras, a country suffering from wide unemployment and increasing poverty, Tegu is a high-end manufacturing company that is innovating the traditional building block to give children better materials to play with. Tegu serves to high-end customers in the US and Europe while developing both a system to plant trees in Honduras and a scholarship fund to facilitate education for the local youth. After buying a set of Tegu blocks, clients can choose how they prefer the company to help Honduras.

Serving Honduras is a foundational priority of the company and to measure their impact, Tegu tracks: hectares of trees planted, students provided with full scholarships (number of funded school days), and permanent jobs created by the company.

Chris and Will, founders of Tegu, were part of Agora’s first Accelerator class and embarked on a six month program that helped them build and garner human and social capital around their company’s needs, prepare an Investor Packet, and connect with impact investors and entrepreneurs in the region to increase their growth and social impact.

What’s most interesting about the Accelerator program is just how each entrepreneur is growing and learning from the process and the community. In the video below, founder Will Haughey tells the Tegu story and how the Accelerator has supported their growth:

Tegu Video at Agora Investor Conference

Agora is now accepting nominations and applications for the Accelerator’s second class. Apply or Nominate today.

Francisco Noguera Repost

Francisco Noguera

June 22, 2011 — 02:45 pm

Agora’s Recent Entrepreneur Retreat, in Granada.

Agora’s Impact Investor Conference: Accelerating the Central American Deal Flow

In the midst of all the talk and philosophical discussions about the promise of Impact Investing, I would actually like to read and write more about deals, the ins and outs of the investments through which this idea is coming into fruition. Such reading material is scarce though. I dare to say that actual deals taking place are equally so.

A topic that needs more analysis is the seemingly massive intermediation gap in this industry. We read about investors and entrepreneurs, but rarely about the wide and expensive gap that exists between the two. Actual figures are difficult to find or estimate, but costs associated with finding and preparing enterprises that match a certain impact area and geographic focus seem considerable for investors. Add to this the costs of due diligence and the lengthy process involved in getting a company to “investment-readiness”, a fuzzy, often-used term.

Agora Partnerships is acting on this gap and taking investment-readiness preparation to a level that I was, until now, unaware of — as far as the small and growing business (SGB) space is concerned.   In July, they will host the first Impact Investor Conference in Granada, featuring nine early stage enterprises that went through a competitive selection process to reach the Agora Accelerator Program. These ventures are, in effect, ready to engage in a transaction with an impact investor.

But what does this actually mean?

Through Agora’s Accelerator Program, all companies received business, leadership, and communications training, as well as intense consulting on the implications of seeking and receiving impact investments. Financial and legal reviews will be available for most of the firms, conducted by third party providers with high credibility and a strong track record in the Central American context. All companies are GIIRS rated, and thus fully invested in the impact investing philosophy, placing as much emphasis on their business strengths as on their abilities to generate social and/or environmental value.

Agora’s proposition brings tremendous value to the domain of impact investing, making it more likely for deals to start occurring. I encourage you to read more about the conference, which should undoubtedly yield deals and lessons to be shared with the broader sector.

 

Agora Founder Speaks at Georgetown Graduation

A month ago, Agora’s Founder Ben Powell was given the opportunity to address Georgetown University’s Masters of Science in Foreign Service graduates, along with Madeleine Albright. Being a graduate himself, Ben used this chance to tell the group of their newfound responsibilities — both to themselves and to the rest of the world. The crux of what he shared with the crowd is the following:

Image: Ben Powell at Georgetown Graduation

The story I want to tell is not about how I started Agora Partnerships — the non-profit that I run — or the rejections, mistakes, the highs and lows I’ve experienced building this organization — that’s a better story for the pub. But the idea of Agora, that’s what I want to talk about.

And this idea is pretty simple.

Developing world entrepreneurs can solve many of our problems better than governments or aid programs, if we only paid attention to them.

To read the full transcript of the speech, click below.

(PS. Now, you can catch up with Ben via Twitter at @BenAgora.)

Continue reading Agora Founder Speaks at Georgetown Graduation

Agora Entrepreneur: Kiej de los Bosques in Guatemala

Image: Kiej de los BosquesAgora entrepreneur Kiej de los Bosques is a social company established in 2004 with the objective of generating income for artisans – 90% women –  who although they have great abilities, are disconnected from markets, and are not able to live up to their potential. Founder María Pacheco says:

“We think poverty is a circle that starts with an unequal distribution of income generating opportunities between the rural and urban areas of underdeveloped countries. This leads to weak rural economies, where education is not a possibility. Lack of education has great incidence in high birth rates and low income, and these two circumstances combined will become low-income homes where food is not enough and education will once again, be beyond the possibilities of the next generation, thus perpetuating what we call, the ‘No Change Circle’.”

Pacheco’s experience working with rural communities since 1993 working with small groups of farmers and artisans in Sacalá Las Lomas in the Guatemalan highlands and Jocotán in the Guatemalan Dry Corridor indicates that this “No Change Circle” can be changed — if at least one of the variables is addressed. In both cases, the main objective of Kiej de los Bosques’s intervention was to increase the income of the beneficiaries – and it was like igniting development!

The income generated by this two productive chains – Wood in Sacalá and Natural fibers in Jocotán – have both impacted directly in the nutritional and educational indicators of the artisans’ children, and have also empowered the producers, formed new businesses and created a bankable saving capacity in the communities.

To create revenues, Pacheco decided to put the artisans’ products on the market under a new brand.

“When we saw how this circle changed dramatically in the communities we were working with, and we measured the role markets have had in the generation of prosperity in these rural initiatives, we decided to create an umbrella brand to consolidate the productions of several artisans’ groups and add value to the handicrafts that are traditionally made in Guatemala and in 2006, Wakami was born!”

For more information on Kiej de los Bosques and other Agora entrepreneurs, come join us at our Impact Investor Conference in Nicaragua.

Agora Entrepreneur: Plantech

Agora entrepreneur, David García of Plantech, is dedicated to making products that have direct environmental impact by using organic compounds for fertilizer. Plantech is a biotechnology company that produces organic alternatives to traditional agrichemicals, allowing farmers to produce quality crops at a low cost and minimize their exposure to hazardous substance.

“One thing that most motivates me to pursue this project is to assist in the development of technology, especially biotechnology, in Costa Rica and the rest of the region. In recent years, our countries have been merely spectators to advancements in areas like computing, electronics and biotechnology – all important elements for economic development in up-and-coming societies. If Central America wants to be part of this scenario – and reap the benefits – it is necessary to undertake local projects, within our means, that directly improve our own societies. Technologies made for us and by us will greatly benefit our countries.”

For more from David, check out this video:

 

For more information on how to help David and other Agora entrepreneurs, learn more about our Impact Investor Conference.

Agora Entrepreneur: Oscarito’s

“We are always inspired because we love what we do, but we are also motivated by our ability to provide jobs in a country where there are so few employment opportunities. We are committed to moving forward in spite of the difficulties we face.”

Aida Patricia Mayorga of Oscarito’s is dedicated to the principles behind Agora’s mission: using business for social good. Oscarito’s designs and produces clothing and uniforms for children and infants as well as embroidering services for corporate promotional materials. Ten years after starting with a $100 microloan, Oscarito’s has more than 45 employees and international clients. What’s more amazing is the company’s commitment to social and environmental responsibility. Oscarito’s production processes have been certified by ISO 14001.

Aida explains more about the company and their impact entrepreneurship drive in the video below:

For more information on Oscarito’s and Agora’s other entrepreneurs, visit our website.

Entrepreneur Retreat Roundup!

Last week’s Entrepreneur Retreat ran from May 4th to the 7th, bringing together the best impact entrepreneurs from all over Central America and great mentors, advisors, and investors. Over those four days, friendships were formed, knowledge was shared, and business ideas thrived.

Image: Agora Accelerator Entrepreneurs

Synthesizing the impact of the Entrepreneur Retreat, Agora entrepreneur Tegu described the experience, saying:

“The event has helped me to no longer feel isolated and alone in doing business. It is incredible to see how so many people are investing in the region, not only in business but the entire community.

I see the benefit of being connected with people of this caliber. And I think it will be good to develop our ideas. That transcends our team and now we have a community of 20 people who can provide constructive feedback.”

– Chris Haughey of Tegu

Links for more information: