Acumen West Africa
Our mission is to change the way the world tackles poverty, and we support companies and enterprises working to move people out of poverty. Acumen West Africa supports impact-focused startups in order to build an inclusive business ecosystem in the region.
Acumen is a global organization working to end poverty through patient capital. It invests in early-stage companies whose products and services enable the poor to transform their lives and supports these companies with tools to succeed and scale into long-term solutions. Each of Acumen’s regional initiatives has autonomy in how it supports businesses, and Acumen West Africa, covering Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone, has focused on agriculture and renewable energy since its launch in 2001. It is now open to inclusive business models from any sector within Acumen’s scope. “We are impact first and finance second,” says portfolio manager Andrew Tarazid-Tarawali.
Acumen West Africa operates as a venture capital fund supporting impact-focused startups that have validated their business model, have their first customers and that can scale up within their market. The organization typically provides funding as equity, but can also provide debt investment. It prefers to invest in one venture multiple times with the first investment ranging from $250,000–$750,000.
The organization measures impact with three pillars: breadth, depth and focus on poverty. It looks at how many people a startup reaches and how the company is transforming lives from an income or savings perspective. It also measures a company’s impact on poverty by looking at what percentage of its customer base or its suppliers is low-income. Acumen West Africa has invested in Farmers Hope, which produces affordable and effective organic fertilizer, and Easy Solar, a Sierra Leone startup that provides off-grid energy to over 300,000 people. The organization also makes an effort to look outside of major cities, traveling to regions where this level of investment is unusual. “If we’re going to reach the grassroots level we need to go where no one dares go,” says Andrew. It also runs a fellowship of leaders to create a network of social entrepreneurs committed to moving people out of poverty.
- Differentiate from what is on the market. Ask yourself how you’re going to be different, not just in your own market but from the many opportunities we see each month.
- Do your research. Investors are as different as entrepreneurs and we are building a long-term relationship, so we want to see that you know both the type of capital you require and the other areas in which you need support from us.
- Know your limitations. No matter how educated or knowledgable, we are interested in founders who are aware of their own weaknesses and who have built a team around themselves to fill in the gaps.
- Perfect your elevator pitch. We honestly do not have time to read every business plan. Your pitch should be on the first page and should show that you know what you are selling and that you know us as investors.
Applications can be sent via:
Main photo by Andrew Tarazid-Tarawali