As a pioneer of impact investing, Acumen has spent the last nearly 20 years leveraging philanthropy as patient, high-risk capital to support social enterprises creating solutions to the problems of poverty. Using philanthropy as capital is essential to prove which markets have real potential for growth and which business models can survive and scale in these parts of the world.
A number of companies in Acumen’s portfolio—and across the social enterprise space—have evolved since then and are now demonstrating a viable path to profitability while showing their ability to serve low-income customers. These companies have proven their models and their financial sustainability and face a critical juncture in their journey to scale. At this stage, philanthropic capital is no longer the appropriate first source of financing because it should be focused on high risk state social ventures. We believe private, returnable capital is essential to accelerate the scale of these companies, so they can reach millions and change how we tackle some of world’s greatest challenges.
The problem is that this type of capital is very limited. While the sector has grown immensely since Acumen was founded in 2001, most capital still doesn’t have the appetite for these companies’ risk profile and investors instead put their money behind a small number of enterprises that have already scaled and are therefore considered more commercially viable.
We created Acumen Capital Partners (ACP) to structure and manage funds that fill a critical gap that exists for social enterprises. An evolution of Acumen’s investment model, ACP manages funds supporting established, high-potential companies to catalyze scalable solutions that deliver social and financial returns. We want to help prove the viability of social enterprises and help the market of capital providers evolve so more capital will enter the sector—and, together, we can transform the lives of low-income people everywhere.
Social enterprises are proving they can solve the world’s toughest problems using market forces. More investors need to see the potential these companies hold so, together, we can make a real impact in the world and demonstrate that business as usual can change. When we, as a society, have a broader vision of business’s role, we can uncover new models that drive the next wave of innovation, build new markets, catalyze industries and create a more sustainable, inclusive global economy.