Date: June 8, 2012
By: Jesse Grainger
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.
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.”
“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.”