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Using Patient Capital to Build Transformative Businesses
Acumen Fund is a non-profit global venture fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. We seek to prove that small amounts of philanthropic capital, combined with large doses of business acumen, can build thriving enterprises that serve vast numbers of the poor. Our investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services - like health, water, housing and energy - through innovative, market-oriented approaches.
The ChallengeTremendous wealth is being created in the world today thanks to globalization and the power of technology and markets. Yet there is a growing gap between rich and poor. Something must be done to extend the benefits of the global economy to the majority of the world's population that lives on less than four dollars a day.
Why Charity Alone isn't the AnswerPoor people seek dignity, not dependence. Traditional charity often meets immediate needs but too often fails to enable people to solve their own problems over the long term. Market-based approaches have the potential to grow when charitable dollars run out, and they must be a part of the solution to the big problem of poverty.
Why the Marketplace Alone isn't the AnswerVery low-income people are too often invisible to businesses and society. Businesses see no significant market opportunity and governments view low-income areas as having insufficient tax revenues to pay for basic services like clean water, healthcare, housing and energy. Building new models that provide these critical services at affordable price - in the face of high costs, poor distribution systems, dispersed customers, limited financing options and, at times, corruption - requires imaginative business solutions and
partnerships supported by investors willing to take on a risk/return profile that is unacceptable to traditional financiers.
Changing the Development ParadigmWe believe that pioneering entrepreneurs will ultimately find the solutions to poverty. The entrepreneurs Acumen Fund supports are focused on offering critical services - water, health, housing, and energy - at affordable prices to people earning less than four dollars a day.
The key is patient capital. We use philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments - loans or equity, not grants - that yield both financial and social returns. Any financial returns we receive are recycled into new investments. In the past six years, we have refined the Acumen Fund investment model, built a world-class global team with offices in four countries, and learned what does and does not work in growing businesses that serve low-income people.
HistoryAcumen Fund was incorporated on April 1, 2001, with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation and three individual philanthropists. Since then our network of investors and advisors has grown to include a wide range of individuals and organizations who share our belief in using entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty.
- James Wu
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