Impact Accelerator- Social change through the power of entrepreneurship and business

By Jesse Grainger, Agora Partnerships

Impact Accelerator: Social change through the power of entrepreneurship and business

Jesse Grainger, Agora Partnerships

Thirty-six entrepreneurs representing 25 companies from Mexico to Chile arrived in Managua, Nicaragua Monday, January 28 for the start of Agora Partnerships’ Entrepreneur Retreat, a four-day kick-off to Agora’s Impact Acceletrator

The phrase Impact Accelerator refers to a program that invests and leverages social, human, and financial capital into entrepreneurs working intentionally to create a more just, prosperous, and healthy world. Agora’s Impact Accelerator provides strategic consulting services to its entrepreneurs, prepares them for investment, and connects them to impact investors around the globe. The ultimate goal of the Accelerator is to help companies scale businesses that are creating positive impact.

These aren’t your average entrepreneurs. They’re cut from different fabric than “traditional entrepreneurship.” They are solving critical social, economic, and environmental problems in their communities through their businesses. From producing high-quality housewares from recycled materials using bottom-of-the-pyramid artisans in Mexico to growing sustainable cacao in the mountains of Belize, to leveraging user’s social networks to promote environmentally friendly behavior through an app in Uruguay, these entrepreneurs are collectively redefining the term entrepreneurship.

The Class of 2013

Agora’s Class of 2013 contains 27 companies from 13 countries, 9 industries, and 10 areas of impact. The class, as a whole, represents over $7 million in sales, more than 475 employees, and seeks approximately $20 million in investment. One particular point of interest revolves around the heavy participation of women in this year’s class; 44% of the participating companies are owned or co-owned by women.

“I think as a class, these entrepreneurs represent some of the most exhilarating business opportunities I’ve ever come across in Latin America, all with the potential to create significant social and environmental impact,” said Ricardo Teran, Agora Partnerships’ co-founder and entrepreneur-in-residence. “These entrepreneurs are committed, passionate, and focused on what they need to do to build successful companies that could scale the impact they seek.”

“It’s great to meet the entrepreneurs, especially other entrepreneurs here in Nicaragua,” says Ariel Chait of Agora’s Class of 2013 company Acopio, an IT company offering mobile technology solutions to collect, manage and share data along the agricultural value chain. “Being part of Agora’s Accelerator will strengthen the network of people we work with in Latin America. It’s great to learn from the stories of the other entrepreneurs. We believe what we learn here will lead to the growth of our social impact.”

A New Way Forward

Agora Partnerships was born in 2005 to accelerate companies that create positive impact. The Agora Accelerator welcomed its first class of nine entrepreneurs from Central America in 2011. In 2012, Agora accepted nine more entrepreneurs and extended its reach into Mexico. Now, in its third year, Agora has gone regional, accepting 27 companies from across Latin America. With this latest expansion, Agora aims to become the leading impact accelerator in the region, and is simultaneously forging a new path for economic development.

“We are building a community of entrepreneurs who are working to build businesses that create positive change in the world,” says Agora’s Founder and CEO Ben Powell. “In a county like Nicaragua, long-term development is not going to come from short-term development programs but from the accumulation of social, human and financial capital into companies that are solving social problems.”

The Network

Agora provides its services to entrepreneurs through an intricate network of mentors, investors, partners, portfolio managers, and fellow entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs: The entrepreneurs are at the core of everything that Agora does. Finding and accelerating the right entrepreneurs is a critical step towards building a better, more sustainable future.

Mentor Network: Agora Mentors assist Agora entrepreneurs and their companies in a variety of capacities, from providing specialized or technical expertise, to offering regular coaching and feedback, to participating in topical webinars, to sometimes just talking on the phone and making key connections. Mentor engagements are customized to the needs of the company and to the availability and interests of the mentor. Agora is continually searching for and adding new mentors to its network.

Investor Network: The Agora Investor Network (“AIN”) is a global network of impact investors committed to solving critical social and environmental problems by investing in early-stage impact entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Partnerships: Agora works with a variety of partners providing recruiting assistance to find entrepreneurs and media and marketing partnerships to spread the world about Agora and the greater impact movement.

Support: From recruiting for the Investor and Mentor Networks to finding the right entrepreneurs for the Impact Accelerator to identifying ways that people can contribute to your greater mission, Agora is looking for various forms of support. Learn about ways you can engage in any of the above initiatives by visiting the JOIN US page on our website.

Initiatives: Agora is currently leading two major initiatives to raise funds including theImpact Accelerator Fund and the Women’s Scholarship Fund (spearheaded by the Accelerate Women Now campaign).

“Ultimately, progress depends on a cultural attitude that social change is both possible and urgently needed, and that it can be accomplished through the power of entrepreneurship and business,” Powell says. “A question to ask our development funders is how their investments are helping to nurture this attitude in people, because that is precisely what development is.”

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