Acumen is a non-profit venture fund focused on the companies that provide quality education, clean energy, healthcare services, formal housing, safe drinking water, and sanitation services to the underprivileged classes of customers in countries such as Pakistan, India, Africa, Latin America.
Acumen has invested over $87 million in 81 companies and has created over 60,000 jobs in India, Africa, and Pakistan as a result. The organisations’ partners include, inter alia: Rockefeller Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org, Skoll Foundation, Nike Foundation, and Cisco.
Acumen was started by Jacqueline Novogratz in 2001 and is based in New York, United States. Other offices are in Mumbai, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Karachi, Pakistan; and Accra, Ghana.
Acumen believes that “neither the markets nor aid alone can solve the problems of poverty”. It is an unfortunate product of our current system that more than two billion people around the world lack access to basic goods and services, like clean water, electricity, education, equality. Acumen is there to change that. Their vision is a world based on dignity, where every human being has the same opportunity. Rather than giving philanthropy away, Acumen invests it in companies and change-makers.
Acumen takes a minority stake companies they invest in; in the case of renewable energy projects, the equity investments are geared towards the development of the company – not the project. The examples of the companies they invested in are the following: Asian Health Alliance, Cacao de Colombia, Brighthive. Recently, Acumen closed a $70 million impact fund for clean energy in Africa. The company’s founder, Jacqueline Novogratz, said in an interview that: “What’s important to us is to show that it’s absolutely possible within more mature sectors like off-grid energy to build a vehicle that brings financial returns and social impact”.
For Acumen, success is correlated with the social change that occurs in people’s lives. For example, when looking to invest in a company that makes and distributes medicine to impoverished people, Acumen uses numbers to measure the social impact of this company.