- Customer Segments: The Acumen Fund has a segmented market for recipients of its venture capital. The look for low income entrepreneurs located in developing countries. However, subscribers to their courses are a diversified segment or maybe even a mass market. Their online courses are mainly free, but the ones available for purchase are available to anyone who may be interested in the business modelling that goes into an organization that is trying to aid development or leave an impact.
- Value Propositions: The Acumen Fund offers financial resources and expertise to low income business builders who are looking for investments to sustain their companies. Acumen was really on the forefront of the impact investing wave. Started in 2001, their value proposition was unique for its time. It was entering an industry that opened up in 1983 with Grameen Bank, but had not yet been built out in the way it is now. The Acumen Fund tailored its offerings to the businesses in need. Beyond offering financial support, the Acumen Fund offers access to networks and expertise with deep sector understanding and critical insights. They offer post investment support to help companies grow and guidance in strategy, governance, customer insights, and fundraising. Their offering is a unique blend of superior in terms of the intelligence and resources available working with them, but also low cost for its customers.
- Channels: Acumen acts as an intermediary between philanthropists and social enterprises. They have headquarters in New York as well as in India, Kenya, and Pakistan, so they focus their efforts in Africa, India, Pakistan, or the US. There they are able to reach social entrepreneurs. The sectors that they focus in are energy, agriculture, health, and education. Within the United States they also focus on financial inclusion, health, and workforce development. They work through the internet as well as in-field experts.
- Customer Relationships: The Acumen Fund is extremely driven by mission. Their customer relationship falls into the category of dedicated personal assistance. They are all in when it comes to helping their customers become strong businesses. They are dedicated to making sure their customer relationships are driven by generosity and collaboration. They want collaboration to cross boundaries, and they are driven to make ordinary people know they are capable of accomplishing extraordinary goals. They focus exclusively on companies that are working to provide a product or service that addresses a critical need for the poor. They also look for companies that have the potential to scale the numbers of end users or be leading service providers.
- Revenue Streams: Acumen deploys equity, quasi-equity, or debt capital finance for early stage social enterprises. Some of their funders include the Rockefeller foundation, the Hitachi Foundation, Goldman Sachs, The Omidyar Group, the Knight Foundation, Philanthropy University, Newman’s Own Foundation, and One Foundation. They also have revenue from some of their online courses in effective social entrepreneurship and investing. Most of these courses are 45$ if not free. They are sold in the form of a usage fee and once they are available to students, they are available for an unlimited amount of time.
- Key Resources: Acumen Fund’s key instructors include Dan Ariely, Adam Grant, Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Anderson, Seth Godin, Krista Tippett, Al Pittampalli, Angela Duckworth, Emily Esfahani Smith, Kim Scott, Scott Sonenshein, Daniel Pink, Sheila Heen, Jonathan Greenblatt, Prasad Setty, and Mihir Desair. These people are their intellectual assets, and are key to their value proposition and success. They also work with ideo.org to leverage their customized online learning experience.
- Key activities: Acumen Fund’s primary activity when it started out was offering financial services to low income social entrepreneurs in developing countries. Since then, they have expanded to offer courses and create an online community of social investors and entrepreneurs to share their insights through blog posts and web forums.
- Key partnerships: The Acumen Fund’s listed key partners are the US Department of Labor, ideo.org, the Omidyar Group, Teach for India, and International Planned Parenthood. These partners help to provide resources in the countries they are active in.
- Cost structure: I was not able to find a lot of information on the details of their cost structure. However, it seems apparent to me that the Acumen Fund has worked to build out their economies of scope more than their economies of scale. The companies that they invest in must demonstrate the potential to finance themselves beyond Acumen’s investment. This would take place either through follow-on capital or internal cash flows.