May 28

Press Release: The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs Announces Winners of the Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), along with partners the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Visa Foundation, announce that eight organizations have been selected to receive funds under the Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund (AWEF).

AWEF is the first activity to take place under the ANDE Gender Equality Initiative, first announced at the ANDE Annual Conference in September 2019 as a partnership under the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative. The fund seeks to address the significant gap in access to finance for women-led small and growing businesses (SGBs), currently estimated by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at nearly $320 billion in developing countries. Research from ANDE’s Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) finds that women-led businesses are less likely to apply to acceleration programs, and those that do receive this growth-oriented support are still less likely than their male counterparts to secure equity financing.

To help address this gap, AWEF will distribute up to $1.2 million in grant capital to test models for increasing investment into women-led SGBs over two years in South and Southeast Asia, with critical financial support from USAID and the Visa Foundation. “ANDE has run catalyst and challenge funds over the past decade to address a variety of sector challenges,” said Jenny Everett, Managing Director of ANDE. “We are excited to bring this experience to bear in tackling the specific issue of the gender financing gap for entrepreneurs in the region, and look forward to sharing important lessons learned from these innovative approaches with the SGB sector.”

Each winner will receive up to $150,000 over one year to test models that catalyze investment into women-led SGBs through innovative approaches. The proposed projects span the region, covering Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, and Vietnam.

“We’re excited by the quality of the proposals and diversity of approaches represented in the Fund,” said Graham Macmillan, President of the Visa Foundation. “Over the next year, we’ll be able to test and learn how best to get investment capital into the hands of women entrepreneurs in emerging markets, a critical need now more than ever.”

An expert panel selected the eight winning proposals out of a pool of more than 180 total applications, based on their clear understanding of the problem AWEF seeks to address, their feasibility and intended impact, and the extent to which lessons learned from the project will inform the work of SGB service providers and investors going forward. The selected winners are:

  • BoP Innovation Center and One to Watch, to develop a new acceleration booster to increase the number of investment-ready female-led SGBs in Myanmar;
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) D-Lab, to identify a new pipeline of female SGB founders to participate in a co-created accelerator program to tackle the investment gap from the bottom up in India;
  • Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and CaterpillHERS, to provide an online business curriculum, training, and mentorship to build the investment readiness of women-led enterprises across five cities in Pakistan;
  • SHE Investments, to create a pipeline of investment-ready women-led enterprises in Cambodia and provide access to the resources and support they need to scale;
  • Value for Women, to strengthen access to finance and business development services for women-led businesses and gender-inclusive social enterprises in Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam;
  • Village Capital, to test the impact of revenue-based financing on fundraising outcomes for women-led SGBs in India;
  • Villgro Philippines, to create an accelerator program to provide high-potential women-led or -owned SGBs in the Philippines access to working capital, capacity building, mentorship, and investor matching; and
  • Women’s Initiative for Startups and Entrepreneurship (WISE), to address the gap in seed and early-stage funding for women-led businesses in Vietnam by increasing market opportunities in the angel investing ecosystem.

Projects will begin in the coming months and last up to one year.

Photo courtesy of Afif Kusuma.

Source: The Aspen Institute (link opens in a new window)

accelerators, global development