Acumen Blog


Do you have what it takes to be Unreasonable?

In the summer of 2009, an enthusiastic student from the University of Colorado – Boulder came into Acumen Fund’s New York office for a meeting. We sat down over coffee, and he told me he was launching a business accelerator to give social entrepreneurs wings. To be honest, I thought he was talking about Red Bull. His idea struck me as a bit crazy – perhaps even doomed to fail.  Boy, was I wrong.

That college student was Daniel Epstein, and his crazy idea was – and is – the Unreasonable Institute. The Unreasonable Institute is a mentorship and training program for entrepreneurs tackling the world’s biggest social and environmental problems. Each year, a select group of 25 entrepreneurs live under one roof in Colorado for six weeks; they receive mentorship, refine their business plans, and build relationships with prominent partners in the sector (full disclosure: Acumen is one such partner) who have the potential to bring capital to their businesses. Against all odds, Daniel and his team created what is now one of the most interesting and innovative social enterprise incubators I’ve seen.

Over the past couple of years, I have recommended multiple startup social enterprises to Unreasonable and seen them emerge stronger, sharper, and more ready for the world. Unreasonable is now taking applications for its next program that begins on September 26, 2012. Applications close November 10th so don’t hesitate, apply now.

Now in its third year of existence, Unreasonable consistently outdoes itself and has shown me that the idea is so crazy, it just might work. I tip my skeptic cap to the Unreasonable team, and don a much more optimistic one – they helping improbably ideas become possible, and filling a gap that our sector desperately needs in getting early stage social enterprises off the ground.

Rob Katz is a Portfolio Manager in Acumen Fund’s India Office.


Announcing a New Investment: SolarNow

Acumen is pleased to announce a $1.4 million investment in SolarNow, a company that sells and finances solar home systems in Uganda. We sat down with Shuaib Siddiqui, Acumen’s Portfolio Director to learn more about the deal and why he’s excited about this innovative company. [Read More]

Letter from Jacqueline: My Week in Ghana

I am writing on a return flight from Ghana. The country has not seen a single case of Ebola, yet the impact of fear is profound. As travelers enter the country, attendants screen for high temperatures. Hand sanitizer dispensers are omnipresent. Hotels and conferences have seen massive cancellations. Everywhere are constant reminders of our fragility and the strength of our connectedness. [Read More]

Six online courses we’re taking this year

+Acumen’s free online courses are a great way to learn tools that will help you develop both professionally and personally. Whether you are a social entrepreneur who wants to market to your customers or a young professional that wants to strengthen your leadership skills, we are offering six courses this Fall that will help you develop the tools, knowledge, and networks to change the way the world tackles poverty. [Read More]

Four Emerging Leaders Building the Future of Pakistan

With 60% of Pakistan’s population living under less than a dollar a day, the external narrative of Pakistan is characterised by what the country lacks; a lack of security, a lack of women’s rights, a lack of access to education, and the list goes on. What this narrative ignores are the individuals who work tirelessly to plug those gaps. From human rights to education to food security, Acumen Pakistan Fellows are affecting change through organizations committed to tackling poverty. Their work is truly inspiring, promising a hopeful future for Pakistan. Here are four fellows that are building this future for Pakistan and come together periodically to share learning experiences and grow as leaders. Through five seminars, the fellows have strengthened skills of adaptability, communication, empathy and problem solving through listening. If you are committed to creating change in your community, apply now to be an Acumen Pakistan Fellow. The deadline is 29 September. [Read More]

Acumen Partners with AlphaSights to Better Access Global Expertise

In our work investing in social enterprises that deliver critical goods to the poor, there is a substantial amount of work to evaluate each investment opportunity. A critical part of the diligence process, particularly when it comes to emerging markets, is speaking with industry experts who can provide reliable information about sector trends, market dynamics and public policy – all of which affect our evaluation of potential investment opportunities. [Read More]


Our manifesto begins, “it starts by standing with the poor.” Yet for good reasons, the sector has found it challenging to measure which customers are actually being served through social impact investments – getting accurate data on incomes is notoriously difficult and the logistical challenge and cost of conducting surveys in person prohibitive. [Read More]

Questions for Aspiring Leaders

Bavidra Mohan, Acumen’s India Fellows Manager, attended this years Aspen IDEAS festival as a Scholar. The Scholarship program was established to invite guests from around the world to bring a diverse set of experiences, voices and perspectives to the rich conversations that take place at the IDEAS festival each year. [Read More]