In 2014 BoPInc initiated the Inclusive Business Accelerator initiative. For this, we have partnered with SNV, Nijenrode and VC4Africa. The IB Accelerator platform was recently launched in the Netherlands, Uganda, Vietnam and Mozambique. It connects inclusive businesses, impact investors and mentors through an online platform, via local offices in developing countries and through a global network that provides IB advisory services.
The interest so far has been considerable and in a few weeks many enterprises, investors and mentors registered on the online platform, thus creating a lively market place for inclusive business. Already some entrepreneurs have used it to present their business plans to impact investors with the use of the new fundraising tools. These tools allow the entrepreneur to upload in-depth company information including business plans and financial analyses and requirements such as the amount for which they need funding, the kind of investment they look for as well as the current status of the company. Only investors have access to this information.
In the first few months we have also opened three local support offices in Hanoi (Vietnam), Maputo (Mozambique) and Kampala (Uganda). The IB Accelerator is currently busy assessing expansion towards other countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
We interviewed Myrtille Danse (picture above), managing director of BoP Innovation Center and mastermind behind the Inclusive Business Accelerator.
Why have you established the Inclusive Business Accelerator?
“The ambition is to move from “we can make inclusive business happen” to we can “make it happen at scale”. To increase the number of businesses targeting BoP markets, and to increase the impact of these business strategies, we need to improve the connections between inclusive businesses and impact investors. Moreover, we need to diversify our support, for example to turn grass root innovations into marketable innovations, or to adapt existing products to address requirements of BoP consumers. In some cases there is also a need for radical innovations to foster systemic changes.
We designed the IB accelerator strategy to address these issues. In 2014-2016 we will build the IB Accelerator consisting of local offices providing IB advisory services, an online platform and a global network strategy.”
For whom have you established the Inclusive Business Accelerator?
“First of all, the IB Accelerator is meant for businesses looking for opportunities in BoP markets, as well as for impact investors looking for investment opportunities. The connection with other stakeholders that contribute to the success of inclusive business, such as advisors, NGOs, knowledge institutes and public entities is also extremely important. They help to create the enabling environment. They provide best practice examples. They often have great insights in local markets and can make things happen.
To make it more explicit I would like to explain how these are connected. Members of the online platform can be businesses, impact investors and business coaches. They can pitch their company, explain their financing need or investment criteria, offer their services and get connected.
Once an SME or multinational firm really starts a business, they can receive local support of business advisors working for the IBA local offices. These advisors will all work in accordance with certain IB Accelerator standards. We like to use the term: “powered by IB Accelerator”.
The IB Accelerator is being developed by a global alliance of interested stakeholders such as MNEs, NGOs, knowledge institutes, donor organizations and impact investors. Together they develop services, tools, insights and partnerships all aiming for inclusive business successes.
Can you explain in a few sentences why the online platform, the local offices and the global network are necessary foundations of the IBA?
“We expect that this base helps us to support more businesses simultaneously and decrease the costs per business supported, improve the quality of services to these businesses, and match a large number of companies to impact investors, improve their sales volumes in BoP markets and improve the wellbeing of thousands of BoP customers through the availability of affordable nutritious food, and sustainable drink water, hygiene and energy solutions. Because that is the bottom line: improving the living standards through economic development.”
What are the accomplishments so far? Has any matchmaking taken place already for example between businesses and investors or between entrepreneurs and coaches?
“In the last few months of 2014 we have opened local offices in Vietnam, Mozambique and Uganda and these local hubs, as we like to call them, have already provided business consulting services to more than 10 enterprises. We have also launched the IBA Platform and already registered numerous members, 40 businesses and many impact investors. A number of businesses have made an investment pitch and are about to be matched to investors.
In the meantime we are designing a toolkit for inclusive business entrepreneurship. The toolkit will be tested between March and May and many advisors will be trained to use the toolkit.
We are also revealing new opportunities for entrepreneurs. It is for example my conviction that the inclusion of women as entrepreneurs will help the businesses in our network thrive. For this reason we are putting gender issues on the agenda of inclusive entrepreneurs by providing them with good examples. One of these examples is JITA that provides and supports a rural distribution network for consumer brands in low-income markets. Local women are taking the lead and develop into business women. They provide businesses with an extremely valuable distribution network.”
What makes the Inclusive Business Accelerator network unique?
“It is already in the name: we focus on inclusive business involving people in low-income markets both as producers and as consumers. In addition, we believe in the power of innovation and cooperation. These do not become successful overnight and not by themselves. For that reason we believe that the IB Accelerator offers value added in developing inclusive business services that can be used at a local level. Moreover, we bring partners together to bring the business initiatives to the next stage of innovation, implementation and expansion.
All potential partners can make use of online market information, business planning tools and training. In the next few months we will for example organize an online bootcamp about marketing in Base of the Pyramid markets with approximately 200 participants from all over the world. We will share state-of-the-art knowledge and insights to prepare the participants for successful inclusive business initiatives and investments. We believe that the Inclusive Business Accelerator can play this role of catalyzer and thus make inclusive business work!”