Tag Archives: impact entrepreneur

Estación Vital fights chronic diseases in Nicaragua

“Being an entrepreneur is almost a spiritual experience; you have to know clearly what you want so your inner demons will not counter you at any stage of your project.”

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Valores Fundamentales – lo que buscamos cuando se seleccionan emprendedores

Ben Powell - Impact Investing in Action 2013 (1)La Aceleradora Agora está diseñada para emprendedores con potencial real para hacer una contribución importante y positiva al mundo. Cuando se seleccionan nuestras clases, nos fijamos en una serie de factores que incluyen que tan innovador es el modelo de negocio, la escalabilidad y el impacto social; pero el factor más importante es la calidad del emprendedor. Averiguar quienes son los emprendedores más prometedores para la Aceleradora es una de nuestras tareas más difíciles, sobre todo en vista de la enorme energía y la innovación que estamos viendo entre emprendedores que trabajan en América Latina. No pretendemos tener todas las respuestas, pero hemos encontrado que el uso de una serie de valores fundamentales como marco puede ser increíblemente útil para comprender la motivación de un emprendedor, para impulsar su empresa al éxito.

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Agora Accelerator Provides Birds-Eye View for Entrepreneurs in Latin America


Luciérnaga distributes small solar lighting technologies that affordably meet the
lighting and device charging needs for energy poor populations in Central America. Luciérnaga fights energy poverty, delivers clean energy, and strengthens markets. The company has sold 3,400 solar lights, providing 17,000 people with access to light and allowing them to save up to $220 per year.

Luciérnaga participated in the 2014 Agora Accelerator. We interviewed the Founder and Managing Director, Sebastian Africano, to learn more about why he decided to apply for the Accelerator and what value he gained.

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Thinking Outside the Box in Latin America

“There has never been an example of an economy that has suffered as a result of giving women access to capital, knowledge, networks, and entrepreneurial tools. The only places where women don’t add as much to the economy as men are places they aren’t allowed to. The world has too many problems to only have half our brains working on them.” – Anne Welsh McNulty

Business has provided billions of people around the world with endless opportunities. From personal laptops to affordable air travel, innovative business models have provided us with a wealth of comforts the world over.  However, there are still those who live day to day without products, services, and opportunities that so many take for granted.

More than 20% of Peruvians (6.5 million) do not have access to electricity. 35% (16.7 million) of all Colombians are unbanked, as is 65% of the population of all of Latin America. (1) Nearly 54% (8 million) of Guatemalans live below the poverty line ($1.25/day), while 75% (11.3 million) of the population participates in the informal economy. (2)

Though these statistics may seem daunting at first, three regional innovators are successfully tackling these challenges – Alicia Kozuch, Founder of Buen Power (Peru), Ana Barrera, Founder of Aflore (Colombia), and Sophie Eckrich, Founder of Teysha (Guatemala). These entrepreneurs are harnessing the power of business to electrify remote rural communities, build trust in often uncertain financial systems, and create a direct connection between artisans and customers – all while making a profit and shifting the way their respective industries view success.

Alicia, Ana, and Sophie are all 2014 McNulty Fellows, an annual scholarship award funded by the McNulty Foundation. Each year, the McNulty Foundation selects three outstanding women entrepreneurs accepted into our Accelerator program and funds their participation in an effort to amplify market-driven solutions to pressing issues in Latin America.

LIGHTING UP PERU

IMG_5211 (1)In Peru, the combination of the Andean Mountains and Amazonian Jungle creates a complex geography that often prevents entire communities from connecting to electrical grids. It’s these conditions that motivated Alicia to look beyond the problem and look to a solution.

Buen Power doesn’t just provide an affordable and sustainable source of light to off-the-grid rural communities; the company has built a business model that creates local micro-entrepreneurs by integrating teachers as distributors of dLights. “We are utilizing teachers – since they are going to these remote communities anyway. While they are back in their home cities on the weekend, we train them in solar energy, and provide them with sample lights and specially created picture books which we have designed. They then hold community meetings in the communities where they work – and teach the community members about solar energy and its benefits and offer the lights for sale. These teachers earn a commission on sales. We are also creating other micro-entrepreneurs – by supporting about 50 other locals who buy our products at wholesale and sell at retail in their very distant communities.”

Q'ero girls with dlight - Buen powerAlicia recently received an email from a friend who works in remote Peruvian communities that stated, “Last week, we arrived in Q’ero well after dark. We saw a light in the distance which slowly moved towards us. These three beautiful girls came to meet us with you will never guess what – one of your dLights! What an amazing sight – never before have we been greeted in the dark.”

Alicia recalled, “The story brought tears to my eyes as I could clearly see, from an outside source, that our work was touching lives that we didn’t even know about. What an incredible feeling! It’s these moments that keep me going through the hardest days.”

Buen Power is currently in the process of opening 6 new locations in Peru. Next, the companies plans to replicate this distribution system country-wide. They recently received a $100,000 grant from USAID to pursue their “radical new distribution method for rural electrification”. (3)

BRINGING TRUST INTO FINANCIAL SERVICES IN COLOMBIA

IMG_4547 (1)Ana is thinking big. “Within the next 5-10 years I would like to see that Aflore has revolutionised the way of addressing the unbanked [adults who do not have bank accounts], in such a way that it has inspired others to innovate and develop other products and services to serve them properly.  After spending so many years working at the forefront of financial innovation in large investment banks,  I now believe that it is actually in this market segment where innovation should really happen, and most likely, the only segment where it really matters.”

Besides the unbanked, Ana has found that many of the people in Colombia who do, in fact, have bank accounts withdraw their money as soon as it lands in their accounts. She believes that this problem of financial inclusion is not an issue of access but rather one of engagement. Ana explains that, “Aflore’s main innovation is the channel: distributing financial products through a network of informal advisors. These informal advisors are people that are already trusted in their communities and who are seen as financial role models. We leverage these existing trusted relationships not only to get people to engage in financial services but also to access information about our clients (personal and financial) that allows us to do risk assessments of a demographic that the banks are not attending.”

Jeny, one of Aflore’s first clients, illustrates the success of this business model. Jeny has been unable to get a loan from a bank in the past because she withdraws her minimum wage salary each month as soon as it is deposited. In steps Yaneth, an Aflore advisor.

In addition to being an advisor, Yaneth is also one of Jeny’s closest friends. Yaneth has built a small but successful clothing manufacturing business from her home and has become a trusted source of financial advice for Jeny and other women in her community. When Jeny’s mother fell ill, Yaneth offered Jeny a $100 loan to visit her family. When Jeny repaid this loan, she was then extended a $500 loan to buy a washing machine. Jeny has also repaid this loan and is considering borrowing an additional $1,000 to invest in her husband’s business.

“This year, we are focusing on proving and building the channel. We aim to finish the year with a network of 120 advisors,” Ana concludes. “We aim to put in place an operation that will allow us to scale our business significantly during 2015.”

HUMANIZING FASHION IN GUATEMALA

IMG_5312 (1)The Teysha team “wants to see a fashion industry that values the creators of the goods just as much as the design and look”. They believe “that in order to create a more vibrant and prosperous world for all, we need to know each other better and value each other’s talents more”.

10250257_644211412316537_6710091512219631956_nWith this philosophy in mind, Teysha has built a business model that creates social, environmental, and economic value for all stakeholders, every step of the way. Sophie explains the Teysha business model: “We work directly with groups of artisans to connect them to our customization platform, combining the forces of textile makers, leather workers, shoe makers, to make one of a kind goods. Our customers are able to customize their goods by learning about the various villages and techniques we feature. Through this model, we create a direct connection between the customer and the maker, and create a bridge between cultures.”

10155167_640971995973812_3946401823499050900_nThis model has the potential to revolutionize artisanal fashion in the region because rather than simply analyzing market trends, producing a product, and selling it – Teysha is building a platform to connect the producer and the consumer and empowering them to work together to create a product that uses the skills of the artisans and satisfies the desires of the person purchasing the product. By bringing this human element to the fashion industry, consumers consciousness and product transparency is reaching an entirely new level. Sophie affirms that “we are working to make ethically and authentically made goods the norm within the fashion industry”.

IN CONCLUSION

These three women have overcome countless barriers in incredibly difficult business environments. The McNulty Foundation recognizes the importance of this type of innovation, values the passion, endurance and leadership these women have shown, and is committed to supporting the growth of these game changing businesses.

Anne Welsh McNulty, co-founder of the McNulty Foundation, believes “Women don’t need to be told to be leaders or to find solutions to economic and social problems in their communities. All they need is access to the economic tools and networks traditionally denied to them and they will build the solutions on their own, because that is a human desire, not a gendered one.”

Successful Impact Investment in Nicaragua

photo 1 (1) (4)Aida Patricia is the founder of Oscaritos, a textile business that she started in Nicaragua in 1996 with only 100 dollars from a microfinance loan. In November 2013, Aida completed the repayment of a debt investment from Pomona Impact, an angel investment group founded in 2011. We had the opportunity to speak with Aida and congratulate her on the successful repayment.

Aida, tell us a little about your history with Pomona.

I entered the Agora Accelerator so I could prepare my company to receive investment and had the opportunity to present my company to a group of investors. It was in Granada, in 2011, where we met Pomona. They paid a lot of attention to our company and when we spoke with them, they directly asked us how much we need, and that is how it happened. They gave us a loan of $30,000 that we invested as working capital. This investment has really helped us to grow, in fact we doubled our sales this year. We are working on a report where we document our significant growth and the impact is has had for us and on the lives of our many employees.

How was the process of working with Pomona?

The link was Agora. Agora was always aware of our relationship and served as an intermediary, helping us communicate with Pomona and prepare the right documentation throughout the entire process. Sometimes, as a SME it is hard for us to understand what investors need and their way of thinking. Agora helped us establish the relationship with Pomona and was there every step of the way. However, the relationship became more than just a business deal. Our colleagues told us that it is amazing what we have with Pomona, a relationship was more than just about a loan. They really came to be part of the Oscaritos family. It was a successful investment and we thank them very much for that trust they had in us. I want to send Mark and Rich our deepest appreciation from everyone at Oscaritex. I do not have the words needed to thank all that we have achieved thanks to Pomona.

Richard Ambrose, co-founder of Pomona Impact, added a few remarks on Aida and the investment process:

In our opinion, Aida represents the untapped entrepreneurial energy in Central America that is ready to be unlocked. I credit her and Oscar (husband) for the courage, vision and uncompromising honesty needed to get the business started WHILE delivering on her social mission.  Instead of mimicking the harsh working conditions that many garment manufacturers use to drive production, she built an open-air production facility that invites natural light and fresh air as well as a respectful working environment for her employees.  

Agora was instrumental first in identifying her as a worthy candidate for its accelerator and second in providing the additional training necessary to help get Oscaritos ready for investment.  Throughout the life of the investment, Pomona even received additional support from Agora to assist with some reporting issues that Oscaritos was having trouble completing.  This translated to both cost and time savings for us (Pomona).  Quite simply – Agora continues to impress!

We received the final repayment of the loan from Oscaritos on time and with an equitable financial return. We maintain a close relationship and look forward to collaborating on future projects. Thanks to all involved!

Are Millennials the key to Impact Investing’s Success?

There has been a lot of talk recently about the so-called “Millenial” generation. This distinctive group of idealistic, well-traveled twenty- to thirty-five-year-olds has been successful in carving out a niche for itself in popular culture. It is a bunch that has been typecast as earnest, educated, and intent on pursuing social good. And while their ambition is admirable, the question remains about how this group will ultimately leave its mark on the greater worldwide movement to create impact through business.

Among the wide range of commentary describing Millennials in recent memory, one thought sticks out among the rest in trying to pinpoint some common factor within this diverse Facebook Generation: money. Or, more specifically, what Millennials do with it.

Take Institutional Investor, for example, which recently ran an article on the rapidly expanding world of impact investing:

“ ‘Today, that view is still pretty pervasive, that there’s capitalism and making money on one side, and philanthropy on the other. I think the younger generation is seeing that as a false dichotomy, or at least something that will increasingly become a false dichotomy.’…Millennials are more likely to embrace a philosophy that financial interests and social interests ought to directly overlap, thereby ostensibly benefitting both wallet and world.”

And here’s essayist William Deresiewicz, writing in the New York Times in November 2011 on “Generational Sell”:

“The millennial affect is the affect of the salesman….Here’s what I see around me, in the city and the culture: food carts, 20-somethings selling wallets made from recycled plastic bags, boutique pickle companies, techie start-ups, Kickstarter, urban-farming supply stores and bottled water that wants to save the planet. Today’s ideal social form is not the commune or the movement or even the individual creator as such; it’s the small business…. Nonprofits are still hip, but students don’t dream about joining one, they dream about starting one. In any case, what’s really hip is social entrepreneurship – companies that try to make money responsibly, then give it all away.”

Well, maybe not all of it – but, nevertheless, the social enterprise is the new skinny jean. The skyrocketing growth of the “impact space” in recent years is evidence enough that Millennials are taking seriously the desire to solve the problems they see in the world around them.

The Millennial Generation is digitally savvy and well connected, but is that enough to push the conscious capitalism movement forward?

The will to help is certainly there, but not everyone sees the Millennials as having the necessary skill set or temperament to actually instigate meaningful change. As David Brooks of the New York Times opined earlier this year, “It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings.”

“The Millennials bring a lot of positive energy to the impact investing space, which is great,” said one social entrepreneur who is actively involved in the impact-investing space. But that isn’t enough. He continued,

“Millennials are certainly having a positive effect on the movement, but they have to replace some of that youthful energy and blind optimism with a more grounded sense of practicality and discernment. At times, they come across as downright self-involved, droning on and on about ‘how much good’ they’re doing on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They’re going to have to trade some of that energetic fluff for a critical eye in order to truly bring impact investing into the mainstream of society.”

In other words, they need to do something substantive. Liking and retweeting alone does not a global movement make. These actions by themselves are not game-changing.. It may get you a write up in Vanity Fair, if you’re lucky, but it doesn’t forward the larger concept of a socially conscious capitalism.

What is clear is that the Millennial generation has in spades the aspirations necessary to do good, innovate, and improve the world around them – all while gleefully throwing a wrench into the notion that profit and progress are diametrically opposed. So the question then becomes whether caring about the plight of those around you by RT’ing about it is really enough to accomplish what this group of eager aspirants wants to get done.

The gap between enthusiasm and action is of course a hard one to bridge. But remember – Millennials have money, and they want to feel good about what they do with it. In order to be taken seriously, however, the Millennials’ emotional energy needs to be harnessed, converted, and applied into real-world action that takes this generation beyond their newsfeeds and into the news cycle.

Agora DCIMPACT League Forms, Holds First Event

Agora DCIMPACT League members, left to right, Ann Winstead-Derlega, Katie Riedel, P.K. Tran, Julia Patton, Nadia Marquez, and Arlene Alvarez pose with Agora CEO Ben Powell.

The DCIMPACT League joins Agora Partnerships in its goal to raise $10,000 within the next year to support, empower, and unite impact entrepreneurs throughout Latin America. Agora is leading the charge to find real solutions to real problems in Latin America. We are joining their mission to accelerate the growth of early-stage impact entrepreneurs in the region.

When I first met Agora Partnerships’ co-founder and CEO, Ben Powell, he explained to me the Greek origin of “Agora;” a marketplace for exchanging goods, ideas, and great conversation. He outlined the need for human potential alongside access to capital to address the world’s most pressing socioeconomic and environmental issues. I was immediately enthralled.

As a Latina, I find unique meaning in the term “agora.” In addition to its Greek etymology, I cannot help but be reminded the word’s Portuguese meaning – now. It evokes a sense of urgency, an imperativeness that is so needed in today’s change makers.

The mission of DCIMPACT is to support and engage local thought leaders and young professionals with the growing global need for impact. Hosting events around the District, we can begin to bring light to the world’s most pressing socioeconomic needs addressed by Agora Partnerships and engage our network with needed solutions.

I am joined by a group of stellar board members and supporters throughout DC. We unite in our shared vision for equity, access, and solutions to the gross socioeconomic disparity experienced by individuals not just in Latin America, but around the world.   Each of us brings a unique excitement to DCIMPACT, Agora Partnerships, and  Agora’s impact entrepreneurs from Mexico to Chile as they are facing and solving some of the region’s most intractable challenges.

We held our kick off event on August 23 in DC, a cocktail party that featured a short film on Agora Class of ’11 company CO2 Bambu, a silent auction, and plenty of Latin food!

To learn more about the DCIMPACT League, our mission to raise $10,000, and how you can get involved, email us at agoraleadershipcouncil@gmail.com.

Un saludo cordial,

Nadia Marquez
President, DCIMPACT
agoraleadershipcouncil@gmail.com

In Search of Early Stage Impact Entrepreneurs: Agora in Guatemala

Left to right, Neela Pal, Maria Rodriguez, and Sara Lila Cordero during a campus visit to the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, a leading private university in Guatemala City.

I joined Agora Partnerships for this summer, tasked with answering the question (more or less): Where are all the women impact entrepreneurs?

This seemingly simple query led me to…Guatemala. Over the past month, I designed and implemented a series of recruitment presentations for Guatemala—the country that has yielded two of Agora’s most successful and charismatic women business owners: María Pacheco of Kiej de los Bosques and María Rodriguez of ByoEarth (“the Marías,” as we affectionately call them in-house). My recruiting team included: the effervescent Sara Lila Cordero, who heads all things marketing and communications in Agora’s Nicaragua office, and Rodriguez, an Agora Class of ’12 entrepreneur who is locally known as “the worm girl,” thanks to her on-the-rise organic composting business.

During our week-long “roadshow” in Guatemala, we spread the word of Agora’s 2013 Accelerator program, making stops at the major metropolitan—and entrepreneurial—centers of the country: Guatemala City, Antigua, and Quetzaltenango. The level of individual activity and collective energy we encountered during our visit far surpassed expectation.

At the HUB in Guatemala City.

In five action-packed days, we met with: international NGOs like the Rainforest Alliance and Counterpart International; regionally-focused investor groups like Grupo DNA; and dynamic local change makers, including Nikki Bahr (founder of CSR consultancy Sustainable Strategies), Daniel Buchbinder (founder of rural entrepreneurship group Alterna), Gabriela García Quinn (Guatemala director of Central American social change outfit Glasswing International), and Ivan Buitrón (leader in AGEXPORT, which supports, literally, thousands of export-ready Guatemalan businesses). We also met with prospective entrepreneurs, paying a visit to the ultra-cool Campus Tecnológico in a gritty corner of the city, as well as presenting at the up-and-coming, “green” HUB space.

Sara Lila presenting to 120 rural women at a Vital Voices conference in Quetzaltenango.

Everywhere, we shared our vision—to be a one-stop shop for early-stage impact entrepreneurs serious about scaling their business and, in turn, their social impact. And everywhere, we heard the same story: while there are many one-off interventions, there are no comprehensive solutions like Agora’s Accelerator that gets small to mid-sized enterprises ready for growth capital and connect them with a growing network of impact investors.

As I met with actual entrepreneurs, I was struck by their hunger for additional resources and supports. At Quetzaltenango, for instance, Sara Lila presented on the Accelerator to a group of 120 rural women, largely micro-business owners, affiliated with the Vital Voices network. We had the enviable position of presenting right before lunch. However, the interest lasted far beyond our ten-minute “pitch.” Dozens of women approached us afterward. Hidden in their questions, I heard hope—that the Accelerator would be the solution for their businesses.

In Guatemala, the market of scalable social enterprises may be finite, but the vision and collaborative attitude of its leading players is anything but. Take, for example, Philip Wilson’s award winning company Ecofiltro, which is popularizing a simple yet effective clay filter as an ecological solution to water filtration. We toured his factory at the base of Antigua’s volcanoes, which he hopes will serve as a model operation for emerging countries globally.

“The Marias” are generous-spirited leaders, who when they encounter problems or gaps, create smart solutions. In addition to her innovative business venture, María Rodriguez is in the process of helping to incorporate the HUB in Guatemala City, which will provide much-needed convening space for start-up talent. And, María Pacheco brought international women empowerment non-profit Vital Voices to the country to tackle economic disparities along gender lines. The secret sauce to Agora is its people, and the human potential in Guatemala last week felt limitless.

Neela Pal joins Agora Partnerships from the Yale School of Management, where she is studying social sector management and organizational behavior. For her summer internship, she is helping Agora develop a recruitment strategy to increase women-owned and managed business enterprises in its Accelerator program.

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.

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.