Monday, September 2, 2013

Patient Capital: Jacqueline Novogratz

 Jacqueline Novogratz is the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture capital fund that uses entrepreneurial approaches to solve the problems of global poverty. Acumen Fund has invested over $50 million of Patient Capital in 50 businesses that have impacted more than 40 million people in the past year alone. Any money returned to Acumen Fund is reinvested in enterprises serving the poor. 

Currently, Acumen has offices in New York, Mumbai, Karachi, Nairobi, and Accra.  Patient Capital, “takes the best of the markets as well as philanthropy and aid. Patient Capital is money invested in entrepreneurs building companies and organizations that solve tough problems like healthcare, water, housing, alternative energy.”

Patient Capital investing is a third way to solve tough problems. It bridges the gap between the efficiency and scale of market-based approaches and the social impact of pure philanthropy. Patient capital has a high tolerance for risk, has long time horizons, is flexible to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, and is unwilling to sacrifice the needs of end customers for the sake of shareholders. At the same time, patient capital ultimately demands accountability in the form of a return of capital: proof that the underlying enterprise can grow sustainably in the long run.

It is creating exciting new business models capable of bringing affordable, life-changing products and services to the poor. These businesses are transforming the lives of their customers, and are creating jobs that lead directly to economic growth.

Starting a new business is always tough and starting a business in the developing world can be much tougher. Launching a business that focuses on the needs of the world’s poorest often seems impossible. Patient Capital is the scarce resource that allows new, sometimes crazy, potentially world-changing ideas see the light of day.

Where did Jacqueline find her inspiration?  You can read about her journey in her memoir, The Blue Sweater:  Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in the Interconnected World. It tells the story of a woman who left her career in international banking to spend her life understanding global poverty and how to make effective inroads in its alleviation.

Her story begins back in Virginia where, as a young girl she was given a present of a blue sweater.  Beloved and well-worn, she eventually donated it to Goodwill after it no longer fit.  Eleven years later, when in Africa, she spotted a young boy wearing that same sweater, confirmed by her name tag still on the inside.  That her beloved sweater made the trek all the way to Rwanda was evidence enough for her that we are all inter-connected.

She shows, in ways both hilarious and heart-breaking, how traditional charity often fails but also how Patient Capital can increase people's self-sufficiency and change the lives of millions.  Her story is a call to action that requires us to think differently about how we engage with the world and how "aid" can become an effective turning point in the lives of many living in poverty.

[photo credit: <a href="">Acumen Fund</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>]

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