Tag Archives: impact

Advanced Biocontrollers assists farmers in Nicaragua

“Agora teaches you not only the financial components necessary for success, but also the personal and emotional components.”

Demetrio Diaz believes in the necessity for both a balance between conventional and organic agriculture and an increased environmental consciousness among farmers. Demetrio’s fascination with organic agribusiness has guided his adult life, leading him to enroll in Masters courses in Agribusiness. Upon completion of his classes, his awareness of the pervasive use of chemical contaminants drove him to create a venture producing organic fertilizers and developing biopesticides for Panamanian farmers. But he wanted to do more, dreaming of a company dedicated to providing farmers all throughout the region with eco-friendly products. These products would adapt to each producer’s needs, reduce the chemical contamination of the environment, and, eventually, change the industry.

In 2014, he was ready to actualize his dream. Demetrio pulled together a multidisciplinary team of chemists, biologists, and businessmen dedicated to this mission of improving agricultural production with eco-friendly biopesticides. Thus was born Advanced Biocontrollers.

Working with a system of direct distributors to personally communicate with farmers, Advanced Biocontrollers addresses the problem at its source. These distributors are tasked with bringing the eco-friendly products to the countryside and instructing the farmers in the need for and use of these tools. Combining traditional and biologically-enhanced agriculture, Advanced Biocontrollers thus raises the environmental consciousness of its customers, empowering them with tools to increase agricultural efficiency while simultaneously improving their health and that of the environment.

Eager to develop his business, Demetrio applied and was accepted into Agora’s 2016 Accelerator Class. Through the retreat, consulting, and investor roundtables, Demetrio acquired a stronger and clearer business plan, a partner with both financial and operational expertise, and invaluable contacts with interested investors.

This newfound competence and financing allowed Demetrio to rapidly expand into neighboring nations. Nicaraguan peanut farmers were among the first to benefit. Combatting a blight of white mushrooms that was resulting in an annual crop loss of up to 40%, these farmers had been using a standard biopesticide harmful to both themselves and the environment and largely ineffective. After being introduced to Advanced Biocontrollers’ biopesticides, they changed tactics. The results were remarkable.

Those who treated their land with Demetrio’s biopesticides reported successfully harvesting 100% of their crops. At the same time, they reduced their own risk of exposure to harmful chemicals and the environmental contamination from chemical runoff.

Working everyday through the innovative techniques of nanotechnology and applied biotechnology, Demetrio has created a successful business out of a simple dream. His team is blazing trails and opening doors, researching new ways to better equip the agricultural industry and empowering an ambitious 20-year-old whose monthly salary has risen from $500 to $1200.

Demetrio is motivated every day by both his family and customers, and by the gratitude of his customers, whose lives and agricultural practices are being changed for the better. In five years, he hopes to be operating out of ten countries in the region and offer 15 different products to his clients, and he is well on his way to reaching this goal.

Demetrio runs Advanced Biocontrollers on a stubborn belief in his dreams and the irrefutable need to help others, and it is changing the world, one field at a time.

Learn more about Advanced Biocontrollers at http://www.abiocontrollers.com.

Now That’s Some Good Tech!

What I love most about working with tech companies is (1) the passion their teams bring for building accessible products that improve lives (working with entrepreneurs is always the best part!), (2) their ability to rapidly iterate and develop new products/features, and (3) their significant potential for scale.

Since moving to Chile in March 2016, I’ve been consulting with four technology start ups driven to solve massive challenges across Latin America and the Caribbean. With the right technology, efficient sales channels, and the right team, they can achieve serious numbers in terms of people reached and value generated. To provide a glimpse of the teams behind the tech, here are the stories of my four clients at Agora Partnerships.

Brave UP

Education Technology | Launched 2015 | Chile

Brave UP, led by CEO Alvaro Carrasco and COO Robinson Salinas, is an education technology start up with a program and platform for revolutionizing the way school stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administrators) communicate. After University Alvaro and Robinson set their minds to creating a solution to bullying in high schools. Although it started with the intent of giving voice to vulnerable children, Brave UP soon realized violence in schools is not just a stand alone problem, but an effect in schools with low social cohesion. To address bullying would require holistically addressing the widening holes in social fabric of schools throughout Chile. Meanwhile, schools started asking for more functionality in the application, to serve as a way to share information beyond abuses. Since 2015, Brave UP has grown into a mobile platform schools use to connect stakeholders along seven strategic lines ranging from sending announcements to parents, to sharing non-curricular opportunities with students, to Brave UP Mode abuse reporting. Together with in-person programming and support services to school workers, Brave Up is enhancing communication, inclusion, and participation of stakeholders, growing trust and social capital in schools, and thereby reducing learning issues and bullying. Brave UP is actively giving Chilean schools tools to thrive, and growing quickly.

Outlook: Brave Up is now in 10 schools with the aim to reach 25 schools and $60k revenue by the close of 2016. They are raising $300k in convertible debt or equity to grow the team, develop the product, and invest in sales and marketing.


Credit: Brave UP

Veerhouse Voda

Housing/Construction Technology | Launched 2012 | Haiti

Brendon Brewster is the bold entrepreneur who after seeing the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti decided to do something about it. Veerhouse Voda, a Haitian manufacturing and construction company, produces disaster resilient, energy efficient buildings for institutional clients while also distributing materials to hardware retailers in Haiti and the Caribbean. Made from expanded polystyrene (EPS), the core Veerhouse product is converted from raw plastic beads into light-weight wall and roofing panels. Veerhouse also manufacturers the lightweight steel framing used to form the building structure. Veerhouse, with their Dutch-created, Euro code building system, designs and constructs beautiful, high-quality, earthquake resistant buildings in a fraction of the time of traditional building systems in Haiti, saving clients money and resources. The material is not only insanely energy efficient but can be recycled to form new materials in the future.

Outlook: Veerhouse Voda has grown quickly in recent years, is projecting revenue of $3M in 2016, and is currently preparing to raise $2M+ in equity or debt to provide the capital needed to continue to build the business.


Credit: Veerhouse Voda


Environmental Technology | Founded 2013 | Chile

When it comes to going green, allGreenup is THE mobile platform citizens, companies, and governments turn to. The team is revolutionizing the relationship between citizens, businesses, institutions, and the environment, enabling reduction in resource consumption and expenditure while creating an engaged community of conscious consumers. The platform provides citizens with a CO2 emissions application that tracks behaviors and rewards users for reducing their emissions (through recycling, car sharing, non-petrol transport). Once users have enough allGreenup points they gain access to a range of discounts and award packages through allGreenup’s corporate clients, ranging from a discounted Coca Cola to free international travel. allGreenup also serves private companies with both an employee sustainability engagement platform and  environmental cause marketing partnerships. As part of the Poch environmental group, allGreenup is well positioned to grow quickly across Latin America.

Outlook: allGreenup is actively signing new contracts and attracting new users. They have a full-time team of 6 members, are projecting $293k revenue in 2016 and are currently raising $500k to invest in sales and marketing, operations, and product development.


Credit: allGreenup


Safety and Transportation Technology | Launched 2013 | Uruguay

In 2013 Marcelo Wilkorwsky (aka Mr. Pig) was fed up with corruption, crime and traffic issues in the city of Montevideo. Since the government was failing to address the issues effectively, Marcelo launched the Mr. Pig Twitter feed in 2013 for citizens in Uruguay to post safety and traffic related incidents. It took off. Within a year there were more than 100,000 followers (3% of Uruguay’s population), many posting reports each day. Both the value of the idea and the need for a more dynamic platform became clear through user traction. The Oincs platform emerged. A public safety tech start up, Oincs is a real-time data crowdsourcing technology improving the city living experience, empowering citizens to navigate Latin American cities more safely and rapidly through their mobile platform.

Outlook: Since growing to 140,000 users (60,000 active in the past 6 months), Oincs has been generating revenue while developing new strategies built around value added services for their users and clients. Oincs is currently raising $300,000 in equity investment to develop their product, grow their team, and expand to new markets, beginning in Mexico.

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Credit: Oincs

Now that’s some good tech! While all four companies have created real value and are solving real problems through their products, in a way developing the technology is the easy part. It’s the entrepreneurs and their teams that are now tasked with the steep slope of turning smart ideas into brilliant businesses, supported by the strategy, operations, leadership, knowledge, and resources they need to grow. Agora is here to help.

For more posts from Brian Bell click here

Agora Entrepreneur Turns off Lights, Aims to Innovate Solar Energy Sector in Guatemala

quetsol - out of the dark(GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA) Today, Juanish Rodriguez, founder of the Guatemalan solar company Quetsol, will be turning his lights off until he can turn lights on for millions in his home country.

Via the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, Quetsol is seeking the $50,000 it needs to launch a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) solar power kit. The new model bridges the gap between the high price of solar technology and the severe energy needs of Guatemala’s poorest rural communities without access to electricity.

To get a sense of this technology’s potential, do the following: Imagine a woman—let’s call her Juanita—lives in an indigenous community three hours by foot from an electrical grid. She wants power in her home so that her children can read and she can spend time with her family at night without inhaling kerosene fumes. She has heard that solar power can reach anywhere—she cannot access electrical lines, but the sun is within everyone’s access—but cannot see how she can scrape together the upfront cost to purchase solar technology when her family can barely afford candles.

Now imagine a scenario in which Juanita gets solar power into her home right away without needing to pool together her next six month’s savings. From each month’s earnings, she decides how much to contribute to her electricity and buys it only as she needs it. Imagine a solar company that allows Juanita to invest in a permanent energy solution at the speed that she can afford because they believe income grows after a home has electricity.

This last scenario is the one that Mr. Rodriguez will be unplugging his own lights to make a reality. The PAYG model is the innovation that the solar industry has been lacking when it comes to reaching the world’s poorest communities. It makes solar a realistic energy source for the 2.6 million Juanitas in Guatemala, and 1.6 billion throughout the world, who rely on candles and kerosene to light their homes. By eliminating the high upfront cost that prevents millions of people from purchasing solar, PAYG opens up renewable energy to thousands more. And by providing an easy financing option—pay-when-you-can vs. pay-on-this-date—it will get this solar into more homes, faster.

In fact, Quetsol expects to see sales increase by 1700%, distributing 100,000 kits and reaching over 505,000 people in the next five years. While Quetsol’s current solar kits save clients 20% of their previous candle and kerosene costs, the new model elevates this to 44% savings. The most promising aspect, though, is that a Pay-for-Service model like this one have the potential to be replicated as easily and successfully as telecommunication companies have done so throughout the world.

So, one last scenario to imagine: A new generation of utility companies that drive rural development and protect the environment at the same time.

The first prototype is currently being tested, but Indiegogo is the critical next step forward. Contributors will be able to directly sponsor a family if the campaign goal is reached. The minute that the campaign goes live, Mr. Rodriguez will sit in a pitch-black room and refuse to turn on his lights until the goal is reached. Visit Quetsol’s website and Indiegogo page to help them turn on the lights for Juan and, more importantly, for thousands of Guatemalans.

WHO: Quetsol
WHEN: February 18, 2013
WHERE: http://www.indiegogo.com/Quetsolturnliveson

  • Founder and CEO of Guatemalan solar power company Quetsol to sit in a dark room until crowdfunding goal is reached via Indiegogo
  • Campaign goal will allow Quetsol to launch Pay-As-You-Go solar technology to Guatemala’s poorest communities that lack electricity
  • Quetsol intends to distribute over 100,000 solar kits to Guatemalans in the next five years and pioneer a sustainable utility company movement for the world’s most marginalized communities
  • Visit www.quetsol.com for more information
  • View the following pitch Juan gave at the 2012 Unreasonable Institute –http://www.vimeo.com/47107967

Women Entrepreneurs Focus of New Collaboration Between Agora Partnerships and The Eleos Foundation

Agora Class of ’11 entrepreneur Aida Mayorga is the owner of Oscarito’s, a children’s clothing store based outside Managua, Nicaragua.

Agora Partnerships, a Washington, D.C.- and Managua-based nonprofit dedicated to accelerating the growth of early-stage, impact companies throughout Latin America, today announced a partnership with The Eleos Foundation that will unleash the potential of women in Latin America through the power of entrepreneurship.

The Agora-Eleos LatAm Women’s Fund, a collaboration between the two organizations, will provide gender-lens investing opportunities for early-stage impact investors to accelerate the success of women-run companies, as well as those that support the empowerment of women and girls, in Latin America.

“The Agora-Eleos LatAm Women’s Fund embodies the very heart of the Agora mission,” said Agora Partnerships CEO and Founder Ben Powell. “Leveraging the power of the market to create an environment ripe for social entrepreneurship gets at the core of what we do. And with a special focus on providing gender-lens investment opportunities, the fund with Eleos creates a special kind of economic and social force that will positively impact communities for years to come.”

Agora Partnerships, through its Impact Accelerator, surfaces high-potential

An employee of Kiej de los Bosques, an Agora Class of ’11 company run by Maria Pacheco of Guatemala.

entrepreneurs seeking to create impact and then provides them with the strategic consulting, mentoring, leadership development, and a community of peers. The Eleos Foundation, working with Agora, conducts due diligence on companies in the Accelerator that meet its investment criteria and then assumes the role of lead investor in those companies in which it decides to invest. Individual and institutional investors are given the opportunity to co-invest in selected deals through individual series LLCs set up by Eleos Investment Management LLC. The structure of this partnership fills a critical need for both entrepreneurs and investors.

Those interested in learning more about Agora Partnerships, the Eleos Foundation, or the Agora-Eleos LatAm Women’s Fund should contact Becky Bailey (bbailey@agorapartnerships.org) or Karla Newendorp (karlanewendorp@theeleosfoundation.com).

About Agora Partnerships

Agora Partnerships is an early pioneer of the impact-investing and -entrepreneurship movement, with a core focus on supporting ventures at the seed and early stages. Launched in 2005 as an alliance between entrepreneurs from both Nicaragua and Columbia Business School, Agora created the first impact-investment fund of its kind in the region, trained thousands of small-business entrepreneurs in Nicaragua and has helped drive approximately $5 million into more than 40 small businesses across Central America. Today, through its Accelerator program, Agora is committed to creating a pipeline of small-business entrepreneurs (between about $50,000 and $1 million in revenues) from across Latin America: entrepreneurs who are ready, willing, and able to build a more sustainable and successful economy. Agora’s mission is to unleash their potential and the potential of business’ new role in solving our common challenges.

Visit our website at www.agorapartnerships.org, follow us on Twitter @AgoraPrtnrships, and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AgoraPartnerships.

About The Eleos Foundation

The Eleos Foundation and Eleos Investment Management LLC, invest in and partner with social entrepreneurs who effectively implement high impact, early stage, pioneering market based solutions in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty. Eleos provides opportunities for co-investors to invest in funds at the forefront of pioneering markets. Eleos also develops and facilitates partnerships with social entrepreneurs, negotiates alongside them, and empowers them to get to scale and attract the necessary capital investment.

To learn more visit www.theeleosfoundation.com.

4 Influential People in Impact Investing You Need To Know – Part 2

Richard Ambrose of Pomona Impact.

In part two of our “4 Influential People in Impact Investing You Need to Know” series, we talk with Richard Ambrose of Pomona Impact, a pioneering angel investment group that targets small- to medium-sized impact businesses across Central America and Ecuador.

Pomona has been a leader in the impact investing space since its inception in 2011. In fact, the firm has invested in two Agora Class of ’11 companies – Kiej de los Bosques and Oscarito’s.

1. How important are accelerators to the future of impact investing?

Accelerators are the linchpin to the development of the social business ecosystem, the bridge that links and prepares social entrepreneurs to partner with impact investors.  Without accelerators, many social entrepreneurs with very good ideas would flounder and fail and many small impact investors, like Pomona Impact, would simply not have the capacity and reach to execute on their missions. Accelerators are the single greatest catalysts to the growth of the industry.

2. How do you think “Impact Investing in Action” has helped to build the field?

Impact Investing in Action has done much of the heavy lifting to assemble the infrastructure necessary to propel social entrepreneurs in Central America forward and attract impact investors to the region.  It has helped to identify businesses that create real impact and show potential for strong growth, and provided entrepreneurs with skills-building training and coaching on how to ready their businesses for outside investors.  This improves the landscape of investable social businesses considerably.

In addition to generating a compelling pipeline and providing a platform for them to present to investors, Impact Investing in Action has enabled Pomona Impact to connect with a number of other investors with a similar mission and interest in Central America.  This has sparked efforts for greater collaboration (among investors) and an exchange of best practices that is certain to increase investment to the region.

3. What are the main challenges facing impact investing?

In my view, the two largest challenges are 1) investment pipeline and 2) involvement/investment in earlier-stage companies.  With the help of Agora, other accelerators, and the increasing availability of investment capital targeting the region, we feel pipeline will continue to grow and become less of a problem.   The larger hurdle is getting investment to seed and early-stage social businesses.  Early-stage companies require much more work and oversight from accelerators and technical consultants and yet do not have the funds to pay for it.  The risk/return profiles of these firms also make them tough cases for investment, even for impact investors with highly concessionary return targets.

4. What does the future hold for the impact investing movement?

I think we’ll see greater collaboration between impact investing and sources of philanthropic capital.  The Monitor report titled “Blueprint to Scale” highlights many ways this can take form.  One of the most compelling ideas is using philanthropic capital to invest along side impact investors on a given project while serving as a first loss tranche.  This improves risk-adjusted returns (for investors), ultimately encouraging greater flows of investment to higher risk ventures, such as start-ups and early-stage businesses, as well as businesses operating in volatile countries.

4 Influential People in Impact Investing You Need To Know – Part 1

Kevin Jones, Cofounder of SOCAP and Good Capital

Beginning this week, we are meeting with some of the most influential field-builders in the impact investing space. First up, we talk with Kevin Jones, the co-founder of two key impact investing organizations, Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) and Good Capital.

SOCAP is an annual event series that connects leading global innovators – investors, foundations, institutions, and social entrepreneurs – in an effort to build a market they describe as “at the intersection of money and meaning.” Good Capital is a venture capital firm that invests in both for-profit and not-for-profit social enterprises.

Jones has emerged over the years as one of the movement’s most passionate advocates and is working to build the infrastructure necessary to make this innovative form of investing sustainable.

1. How important are accelerators to the future of impact investing?

Accelerators are increasingly important to help entrepreneurs learn the skills, and make the connections, necessary to make their social enterprises both sound businesses that are investable, as well as helping to keep them focused on creating the greatest positive impact in the world.

2. How do you think “Impact Investing in Action” has helped to build the field?

Impact Investing in Action helped clarify the still-evolving ecosystem of syndication and fundraising for early-stage social enterprises. Practitioners learned valuable tips from each other over the course of the conference. Furthermore, investors had the opportunity to discover interesting businesses that they wanted to help reach the next stage of growth.

3. What are the main challenges facing impact investing?

Impact investing benefits from a huge and growing demand by investors to put their money where there is meaning as well as profits. The challenges involve the lack of a track record and financial exits for the enterprises, as well as fewer second-time, proven entrepreneurs who are ready to take their businesses to scale. Another issue involves investor uncertainty – how can investors effectively mix their demands for financial return and desire to make a difference in the world?

4. What does the future hold for the impact investing movement?

The needs of the world are growing, and public sector dollars to support, or create a safety net for, solving these problems are declining and will continue to decline. Philanthropy is learning how to come to the table to help early-stage innovation get off the ground. For-profit impact investment in positive social change is the only way to put our available resources to work to meet the world’s needs. I expect investors to come to understand how to put impact first in the key, catalytic, early-stage investing that will fuel this mix of a movement as an asset class.

Impact Investing in Action 2012 Wrap Up

Agora's Class of '12

Entrepreneurs, investors, field builders and thought leaders from around the impact investing world filed into Emory University’s Goizueta Business School on the morning of May 23. The previous night, a pair of receptions marked the beginning of Agora Partnerships’ (in conjunction with Village Capital) second annual impact investor conference – Impact Investing in Action.

All 106 attendees arrived with varying degrees of aspirations, desires and ambitions, though driven by the same belief that business can and should be used as an agent for positive social, economic, and environmental impact.

From Earth to the Moon

In total, 11 Agora entrepreneurs from Central America and Mexico traveled to Emory with the intent of impressing 16 investors representing 20 different firms.  The primary goal of the conference was to drive investment to these high-performing, high-growth impact entrepreneurs…..and the results?

Within 48 hours of the conference’s completion, 7 of our pitching entrepreneurs had already secured meetings with investors amounting to over $17 million in potential investments.

Agora entrepreneurs meet with potential investors following Impact Investing in Action.

The majority of the entrepreneurs hailed from Agora’s Class of  ’12 and represented a diversity of impact areas including traditional economic development, energy/environment, education/culture, technology/healthcare, and housing.

Over the course of the three-day conference, a range of panel discussions covering such topics as the “Story of a Deal,” the role of philanthropy in Impact Investing, coordinating capital for investment, industry challenges, and the importance of accelerators to the impact investing movement

The conference is the culmination of Agora’s Accelerator Program, an intensive 6-month program designed to give outstanding early-stage impact businesses poised for expansion access to the social, human, and financial capital needed to accelerate their growth.  The Accelerator Program includes workshops, seminars, strategic consulting, and mentoring in a variety of areas ranging from leadership to marketing to investor pitch development.

“The most beneficial thing I got out of the accelerator,” Maria Rodriquez of ByoEarth, a member of Agora’s Class of ‘12, stated, “was the strategic roadmap for my company’s scaling-up process.  Also, I received direct contact with investors that focus on the Central American region and an investment memorandum directed specifically to investors.”

Agora entrepreneurs from the Class of '12.

“The most beneficial factor of the Accelerator Program is the knowledge that the Agora team believes in me and my project,” Leonel Roman the founder of Class of ’12 company Wifinic stated. “They put their best effort into contacting the right investors for it. My company is a better company after going through the Accelerator Program. I am more confident in myself and have learned a lot from the team and from the other entrepreneurs. From Granada (the Entrepreneur Retreat) to Atlanta (the Investor Conference) was like from the Earth to the Moon.”

Investing. Connecting. Learning.

Impact Investing in Action attracted a range of investors from throughout the space including Calvert Funds, Good Capital, Halloran Philanthropies, RSF Social Finance, and Pomona Impact.

“We’re really here because of the success we had last year,” Rich Ambrose of Pomona Impact, an impact investing firm focused on Central America and Ecuador that funds social businesses ranging across all sectors, stated. Pomona invested in two members of the Agora Class of ‘11.

“We’re really here for three reasons,” Ambrose continues. “First, this is a great chance to see entrepreneurs pitch. There was such a high caliber from last year that we were really excited about getting the opportunity to see the entrepreneurs this year. Second, we were keen to meet other investors. This is a great opportunity to connect with others investing in this space. Third, it’s a great learning experience.”

“These companies have been through a rigorous selection process,” Daryn Dodson of the Calvert Fund stated about the pitching companies. “They have already developed materials that make what they do very easy to understand.”

“We love to see entrepreneurs who are passionate about solving a social problem in the world and haven gotten some traction in that pursuit,” Dodson continued. “At the end of the day, it’s critical to have a partner such as Agora that’s engaging in the governance and vetting of entrepreneurs in order to figure out what and where the exciting deals are and who is leading these enterprises that are looking to create positive impact in the world.”

Class of ‘13

Up next, recruitment efforts get underway for our Class of ’13 where we will be extending our reach beyond Central America and Mexico and working to accelerate impact companies throughout South America as well.

For now, the all-important due diligence process is just beginning among entrepreneurs in talks with investors. There’s still a long way to go to turn these initial conversations into concrete investments; however, the entrepreneurs are exiting the Accelerator equipped with the skills, tools, and resources necessary to scale their companies’ growth and, in turn, extend their impact.

“The conference projected Laudex to another level,” Francisco Cordero of Laudex, another Agora Class of ’12 company stated. “Within a few days we were part of a very interesting network of social impact investors and entrepreneurs. I think the best measure of success is how many connections were made throughout the conference, and from what I can tell, it will take us all a long way.”

7 of 9 Class of '13 companies are currently in talks with potential investors.

Agora Entrepreneur Retreat: Granada 2012

Members of the 2011 and 2012 Classes of Agora entrepreneurs gather at the start of the Entrepreneur Retreat earlier this month

16 Entrepreneurs, One Retreat           

For three days in March, the picturesque colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua, a centuries-old city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, was home to 16 early-stage entrepreneurs who are working to create jobs and improve livelihoods in some of the poorest, most underdeveloped regions of the Western Hemisphere.

The entrepreneurs are participating in Agora’s Accelerator and collectively lead nine companies from throughout Central America and Mexico. They represent a range of industries from vermicomposting and recycling initiatives to telecommunication and financial services. Collectively, Agora’s Class of ’12 is on target to create more than 300 new jobs in the next three years and be a catalyst for wide-spread positive social, economic, and environmental impact in their local communities.

“A Spa for Entrepreneurship”

Agora Entrepreneurs and Staff participate in a team-building exercise.

The retreat offered the opportunity for these impact entrepreneurs to begin preparing for the upcoming Investor Conference May 22-25: Impact Investing in Action. Over the course of the retreat, the entrepreneurs practiced presenting their pitches to their peers and gained instant feedback from fellow entrepreneurs, investors, and Agora staff.

The retreat aimed to help entrepreneurs better understand and clarify their business models, discuss what investors look for, and deepen their leadership skills in order to be able to better create impact through their business. As with the inaugural 2011 retreat, the event served as a unique platform for these often-isolated men and women to come together and learn from one another.

Aside from panels and workshops, the retreat was characterized by scenes of entrepreneurs meeting, talking, and collaborating with one another. “It’s difficult being a social entrepreneur at times,” Maria Pacheco, a member of Agora’s 2011 Class, reflected. “Getting the chance to meet with other entrepreneurs who are working on other great projects is so inspiring. It’s so great to know you’re not alone.”

Jose Bolanos provided inspirational coaching for the entrepreneurs throughout the event.

The retreat laid the foundation for the development of a community among the entrepreneurs.  Now they have stories, experiences, and visions that apply to each other on a variety of levels. They became more than just associates; they became connected by their common vision to use their businesses to make the world a better place. The retreat created a sense of trust and collaboration among the participants that prompted one entrepreneur  to describe the event as a “spa for entrepreneurship.”

“It’s a great opportunity to get away from the day-to-day,” Francisco Cordero, the owner of 2012 Accelerator Class company Laudex, stated, “and recharge your energy with new insights, deep introspection, and a fresh outlook for the future of our companies.”

“The synergy created when people are working in the same direction creates a power rarely seen in other walks of life,” Ricardo Destarac of 2012 Class member DoGood, stated. “ It also entails an immense responsibility to remain committed.”

“Starting a relationship with an investor is like falling in love.”

The retreat was highlighted by panel discussions and presentations from various corners of the impact investing paradigm.

The retreat was highlighted by panel discussions and presentations from various corners of the impact investing paradigm. Oftentimes, the most pressing questions on the minds of the entrepreneurs involved how to adequately attract investment. What are investors looking for? How can I best prepare myself to attract investment?

“I’m interested in companies that have decided to take a more difficult path in business terms but are doing a lot in social terms,” angel investor Marc Jacobson stated. “Does the business really have a significant social impact? We’re looking for passionate entrepreneurs. We are open to all sectors.”

“Our purpose in the last 10 years has been to push for a lot of growth in impact investing and to also make a lot of noise,” Morgan Simon, Executive Director of Toniic reflected. “We’ve been very happy with our experience with Agora. Through Agora, we’ve worked with some of the best impact entrepreneurs in Central America.”

“Agora’s role can be enormous,” Rahul Desai of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) added. “Starting a conversation with an investor is like falling in love. If you give a good impression, the whole relationship can go well. Sometimes, entrepreneurs are so involved in the business and stuck in the details. Agora can highlight the most important features for the investors and help entrepreneurs make a positive first impression.”

Impact Investing in Action

At dawn on March 10, the entrepreneurs began filing out of the stunning Hotel Granada and boarding vans and taxis destined for Managua International Airport. The late-night pool parties, evening galas, motivational talks, and coaching sessions were over. Now, each entrepreneur was tasked with taking what they had learned to further prepare themselves for May’s Impact Investing in Action.

Though the retreat was over, the chairs stacked, and caterers sent home, the entrepreneurs are left with an intangible, though very real community of support and inspiration that will help guide them along their respective journeys.

“The retreat was a unique gathering of inspiring and world changing entrepreneurs,” Maria Rodriquez, the owner of 2012 Class member ByoEarth, concluded. “These businesses are making the world a better place and bringing prosperity to Central America [and Mexico]. I am truly humbled to be a part of this.”

To see more photos of the Retreat, like us on Facebook page HERE.