Rob Katz

How to Write About Failed Bottom of the Pyramid Ventures

Like any business, base/bottom of the pyramid ventures fail – often. I have neither the space nor the inclination to list those I know of – besides, writers from Erik Simanis to Aneel Karnani to Anand K. Jaiswal have done some of the heavy lifting for me.

We don’t talk enough about failed bottom of the pyramid ventures. After all, what CEO wants to risk his company by talking about all the things they did wrong?Answer: Matt Flannery. The Kiva CEO is incredibly forthright when discussing what they’ve done well and what they haven’t. His latest blog post is practically a how-to guide for talking about failure inside a BoP venture.

Ultimately, Flannery’s self-effacing and honest tone makes me trust him and Kiva more, even as he discusses huge loan defaults in their portfolio. Why does this work?

  1. Know what you did wrong, and say it. Don’t equivocate. Matt comes out and admits – in plain English – that Kiva rushed into partnerships without sufficient due diligence.
  2. Don’t blame others. Sure, the political situation in Kenya is tough, and corruption in many African countries is high – but Matt isn’t trying to pass the buck.
  3. Be personal. Matt isn’t using corporate communications lingo – instead, he offers a “(sh**)list of partnerships that closed in bad faith.” Unprofessional? Only if you’re a corporate communications consultant. To the rest of us, this is honesty, plain and simple.

For maximum effect – and to learn from the master – read Matt’s post. While you’re there, subscribe to his Kiva Chronicles blog. You won’t be disappointed.