How to Apply for an Investment

At Acumen, we are always looking to learn about new, innovative models for tackling poverty in the regions where we work. If you have a business that meets our investment criteria, we want to hear from you!

The Application Process

To submit your proposal, please follow the steps below. Please read our investment criteria and investment principles carefully, as these will answer many of the questions you may have to determine whether Acumen is a good match for your company. If you have any questions, please refer to our FAQ section. Due to the high volume of applications, unfortunately, we are only able to respond to submissions of interest.

Acumen apply for funding infographic 2

Step 1: Review our Investment Criteria

Is your enterprise a right fit for Acumen? You enterprise must meet all of the criteria below in order to be considered.

1. Geography

Be located in or have significant operation or impact in East Africa, West Africa, India, Pakistan or Latin America.

2. Sectors

Operate in one of our investment sectors of Agriculture, Energy, Education, Health, Housing, or Water

3. Investment Size

Be seeking investment capital in the range of $0.25M-$3M, structured as either debt or equity.

4. Stage

Be an early-mid stage company that is in the process of scaling.  We rarely invest in pure start-up companies.

5. Potential for Significant Social Impact

Make a product or deliver a service that addresses a critical need for the poor in our sectors and geographic focus.  These products or services need to be economically better or create greater social impact than what is currently available on the market or through charitable distribution channels.

6. Potential for Financial Sustainability

Have a clear business model that demonstrates the potential for financial sustainability within a five to seven year period; including the ability to cover operating expenses with operating revenues.

7. Potential to Achieve Scale

Be able to demonstrate a clear path to scale the number of end users over the period of our investment and be positioned as one of the leading service providers in the market.

8. Strong Management Team

Have a strong and experienced management team with the skills and will to execute the business plan with a clear and compelling vision.  The management team is dedicated to serving low-income individuals and has unyielding ethics.


Step 2: Create Your Executive Summary

An Executive Summary is a four-to-six page overview of your business. We look for concise and concrete summaries which address the key questions articulated below.

1. Entrepreneur and Team

What is the background of the entrepreneur and leadership team? What roles do they fill? Why are they qualified to lead this venture? What are their skills, do their skills complement one another; are there any skill gaps? Do they work well together?

2. Product

What is the product (define succinctly)? What pain point facing Base-of-pyramid (BoP) customers does this product address? How does this product – in a unique or superior way – address the pain point? What is this product’s unique advantage? (Unique solution? Product innovation? Improved quality? Business model innovation? Customer reach? Unique partnership?)

3. Customers

Who are the target customers? What customers have used product/service, and what impact has it had on their lives? What is the customer’s willingness to pay? How large is the addressable market size, and customer demand? What evidence exists that customers care about the value proposition (customer referrals, voice of the customer interviews, etc)?

Western Seed farmer


4. Competition

What is the competition? What is the advantage (in areas that matter to the end customer) of this product/service over existing ones that are either currently available on the market or through charitable distribution channels? What are those alternatives? What are the three-to-four key market drivers that would affect the market and all players operating within it?

5. Operations / Distribution

How will the entrepreneur be able to produce the product, or deliver the service? What is the distribution strategy to reach the customer? What is the customer acquisition strategy? What aspects of the business model have/have not been tested or piloted?

6. Impact – Social Impact

What is the theory of change? How do you see your organization causing customer “actions” that link to measurable “outcomes” and thus real “impact”? What social or environmental impact can be achieved (positive and negative)? How does your organization intend to measure these outcomes, and how do they tie to social impact? (eg metrics, definitions)

7. Impact – Scalability

What is the existing scale (e.g. number of customers reached)? How will organization achieve significant scale within five years (e.g. reach 1M end users; grow by order of magnitude)

 8. Impact – Financial Sustainability

What is the revenue model? When will the product/service be cash-flow positive? Financially sustainable? What milestones will this financing round enable? (Please include a copy of the company’s financials, and explain any assumptions used).

9. Risks

What keeps you awake at night? What are the main risks your organization faces or would face, and how can each risk be mitigated? (e.g around technology, manufacturing, product, marketing, IP, demand, operations, distribution model, etc.)

Step 3: Submit your Application Form

Once you have reviewed our investment criteria and determined that your enterprise could be a fit, please fill out the application form below and have a PDF of your Executive Summary on hand to upload.

Apply for an Investment

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Still Not Sure? Read the FAQ.

Below you will find our list of most frequently asked questions by applicants. Please read on as they may answer some of the questions you have.

Q. Does Acumen invest in “seed” or “idea” stage companies?

Acumen focuses its investments on early stage companies and rarely makes investments in seed or idea stage companies.  However, we are always interested in learning more about companies using new models to tackle poverty in our sectors.

Q. What are the criteria for an “early stage” company?

Although early-stage companies may be pre- or low-revenue and early on in proving their business model, it is key that the company has a clear goal to reach scale, has basic operating infrastructure in place, and has a strong management team with the vision and passion to execute.

Q. Does Acumen invest in later stage companies?

Acumen focuses on making investments in early stage companies.  As a non-profit, Acumen is able to fill the funding gap for companies seeking smaller amounts of capital to scale (under $2 million per investment).  As later stage companies are often seeking greater amounts of capital, they are typically out of our investment scope.

Q. Does Acumen invest in non-profit companies?

Yes, Acumen can invest in non-profit companies, however, the non-profit must have a revenue generating activity allowing the non-profit to be financially sustainable.  As with all of Acumen’s investments, Acumen expects a financial return over the lifetime of its investment in a company (either for-profit or non-profit).

Q. What if my business is incorporated outside of Acumen’s geographies but works in your regions?

Yes, we invest in businesses incorporated outside of our geographic scope but whose main operating activities are in the regions we focus on.

Q. What if my business meets all of your criteria, but is outside of your sector scope?

The majority of our investments operate in at least one of our investment sectors. But, if your business is addressing critical needs that impact low-income people in the regions we work, we are interested in learning about it.

Q. Can I speak with one of your Portfolio Team to learn more before applying?

Due to the high level of submissions we receive, we, unfortunately, are not able to speak with companies prior to application.

Q. Can I send you my business plan instead of an executive summary?

No. Please only submit your Executive Summary to us for initial review, if we think your enterprise may be a fit, we will request to see the Business Plan as a second step.

Q. I have submitted my Executive Summary.  How long until I can expect to hear back from you?

Unfortunately, due to the high volume of submissions we receive, we can only respond to submissions of interest.

Q. What is your Investment Process?

For more information about our investment process, please see the Process tab of the Investment Model page.

Q. What are your Investment Principles?

For more information about our investment process, please see the Principles tab of the Investment Model page.