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Investor Gathering 2008: Tip of the Iceberg

Yesterday, Acumen Fund hosted its annual Investor Gathering at the Rubin Museum of Art. More than 125 partners and advisors gathered to get the inside scoop on Acumen’s operations over the past year and our goals for 2009. Personally, the Investor Gathering prompted more than a little deja vu.

While I joined Acumen Fund’s staff only 8 months back, this was not my first Investor Gathering. Last year, while a staff member at the World Resources Institute, I had the opportunity to attend both the IG and Acumen’s Celebration. So much has changed since – personally, professionally, and in the world at large – that it’s hard to believe the 2007 Investor Gathering was only a year ago.

So – back to my deja vu. I spent a few minutes today looking at my notes from last year’s gathering – which I wrote about on NextBillion.net. Katherine Fulton spoke of “Acumen’s Moment”; Jacqueline, Brian, Yasmina and others told us how the vision of capital, knowledge and talent were being put into practice; the 2008 Fellows blew away the crowd with their inspiring spoken-word performance.

A year later, I sat in on similar presentations, but this time, from an insider’s perspective. While it was different, much was the same. We heard how Acumen Fund’s strategy of investing in entrepreneurs to solve the problems of poverty is working (and not). We heard how the portfolios are expanding and changing, and we heard how geopolitical realities – post-election riots in Kenya, economic crisis in Pakistan, financial meltdowns in the United States – impact Acumen Fund’s current and future plans.

I have 7+ pages of notes from the Investor Gathering, which I will turn into a series of blog posts as soon as I’m able. Yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I have an excuse: tomorrow, the entire Acumen Fund team – colleagues from Pakistan, India, Kenya and New York – will begin a 2-day, off-site staff retreat to continue building strategies that will bring critical goods and services to the poor while enhancing the dignity and human spirit of every human being. No blogging allowed.

Stay tuned – this is only the tip of the iceberg.

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Acumen, Dow and Unilever Support Social Enterprises Across East and West Africa Through Technical Assistance Initiative

Acumen, together with The Dow Chemical Company and Unilever, launched its third annual Collaboration Summit in Nairobi today. Bringing together Acumen’s social enterprises from East and West Africa with leading international companies, the summit is part of Acumen’s Technical Assistance Initiative, which aims to accelerate the growth and impact of enterprises working in agriculture, energy, health care, and water and sanitation to better serve the region’s poor. By creating an occasion for emerging companies and multinational corporations to collaborate, the summit cultivates partnerships to bring social enterprises to scale and establish sustainable businesses committed to alleviating global poverty while also improving standards of living and expanding opportunities for the poor to lead lives of dignity. [Read More]

Acumen Launches to Tackle Poverty in Latin America

Acumen today announced its expansion to support social entrepreneurship in Latin America. The pioneer in impact investing will be headquartered in Bogotá and will invest in innovative entrepreneurs and enterprises in Colombia and Peru to drive faster, sustainable solutions to poverty and create new paths forward to tackle economic inequality. While extreme poverty in Latin America has declined by half, more than 80 million people still live on $4 a day and more than 200 million are at risk of being pulled back into poverty by economic instability and climate change. [Read More]

Acumen Increases Its Efforts to Improve India’s Private Education With New Investments

Acumen announces its new investment in Ignis Careers and Standard of Excellence in Education and Development (SEED) to improve the current state of low-cost, private education in India. India has the largest kindergarten to 10th grade system in the world with more than 1.6 million schools. More than 96 percent of children, ranging from ages 6 to 14, are enrolled in school. However, the quality of education is poor, and half of the children in Grade 5 can only read at a Grade 2 level. [Read More]

How You Can Help: The Nepal Earthquake

On Saturday, April 25th, an earthquake with magnitude 7.8 shook the country of Nepal, as well as parts of northern India. Hitting south of Kathmandu, the earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and injured more than 7,100 as of Monday morning. It is the worst to hit the region in 80 years, and aftershocks and tremors continued to rock the country over the past 48 hours. [Read More]

Welcoming Naeem Zamindar as Acumen’s new Pakistan Director

We are pleased to announce Naeem Zamindar as Acumen’s new Pakistan Country Director. Naeem’s 25-year career combines experience in venture capital with multiple high-level operational and leadership roles. Naeem worked at Intel Capital in Silicon Valley, helping build companies in the digital, new media and wireless broadband space. In Pakistan, he was CEO of Wateen Telecom, where he restructured the publicly listed company, turned around the business and repositioned it for growth, to take the company from losing $2 million per month to generating $1 million in positive cash flow over a matter of three years. He was also a founding member of Pakistan’s leading telecom company Mobilink and, as a part of its senior leadership team, built a nationwide fiber-optic network through the acquisition of four companies that now form Mobilink’s broadband division. [Read More]

Catalyzing the Growth of Social Enterprises with SAP

To accelerate the growth of our social enterprises in East Africa and India, we have joined forces with global business software leader SAP. Leveraging SAP’s technology and global business expertise, this unique collaboration will bring together Acumen entrepreneurs working in different sectors and countries to deepen their business capabilities and expand access to solutions to help them address global poverty. [Read More]

Dispatch from Pakistan: Hope in Place of Fear

There is fear in the streets of Pakistan. I sit in traffic, just a few hundred feet from my hotel where my next meeting is scheduled. I could arrive at my destination in five minutes if I walked, but it is not advised to walk. On the right side of my car, four men pointing automatic weapons stand in the back of a police van. Just in front is a black SUV with four commandos in the back, each with AK-47s, I think, though I’m no expert in guns. Let’s just say they are very big and look very menacing. A few cars to the left is another gun-filled vehicle pushing other cars out of its way, presumably to join the caravan of the armed. Sirens are wailing. [Read More]