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10 Things We’ve Learned: #5 – Great people, every time, no exceptions

Acumen Fund is committed to sharing the learnings we have collected over our past 10 years. In this spirit, we have published  a document called “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.” Each week on the Acumen Fund Blog, we will be posting the next lesson in this series of “10 Things,” along with a guest response from a valued member of our community.

5. Great people, every time, no exceptions

“Nothing comes close to mattering as much as the entrepreneur and her team.”

Great business ideas are just that – ideas.  The real work is the drive and passion to execute in challenging environments.

Hundreds of business plans cross our desks every year, and we’ve learned that nothing comes close to mattering as much as the entrepreneur and her team.  A business plan, an innovative product, money in the bank – these are all secondary.

We are looking for world-class leaders who break every mold and are willing to walk through walls to solve a pressing problem for their customers.  These leaders are tough, disciplined and unrelenting; they are also empathetic, open-hearted and patient.  They must have exceptional financial skills, operational skills and what we call moral imagination: the ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and build solutions based on her perspective.

These leaders are rare. And we know it.  So we choose them carefully and consciously invest in them – in our portfolio companies, in our Global and Regional Fellows, and in the Acumen Fund team.

Too much development work assumes programs and policies matter more than leadership, but leadership matters most of all.

Click here for a response post on Lesson #5 from Pat Mitchell and click here for the full “10 Things We’ve Learned About Tackling Global Poverty.”

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