October 6

Shara Senior

Singing from SOCAP 10: Root Capital’s Foote Strikes a Chord

Willie Foote, Founder and CEO of Root Capital, rocked the crowd during his keynote address during Day 2 at SoCap. He opened by singing “Satisfied Mind”, by Bob Dylan, which very much captured the theme of the conference:

How many times have you heard someone say

If I had his money I’d do things my way

But little they know

It’s so hard to find

One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind…

The link to the video of his speech should be posted here soon. Willie’s talk was about scale, and he described how songs are one way of maintaining culture through periods of growth.

Root Capital is a non-profit organization that provides direct lending and training (including capacity building and managerial training) to farmers and artisan groups in the “missing middle” – those with a financial need that falls between microfinance and bank loans. Over the last 10 years, Root has lent US$75 million to over 200 businesses, affecting rural households in two-dozen countries. Willie described Root Capital’s ultimate goal of motivating others to serve millions of people, thus encouraging competition from local financial institutions.

The critical topic he raised was how organizations achieve impact and scale. Willie described the four critical areas he feels are critical to scaling:

1. People: Innovative ideas only get you 10% of the way – building an organization requires a team, not only with hardcore technical and financial skills, but also passion, intuition, and values.

2. Process: Organizations need information on best practices to build the back-end systems required for scale.

3. Products/services: Clients, investors, and donors require products with a clearly defined value proposition.

4. Collaboration: Networks of practitioners and conferences such as ANDE, GIIN, and SoCap are examples of critical platforms for collaboration.

NextBillion readers and SOCAP attendees: would you add anything to the areas he identified? What would you add to this list? Personally, I’d add marketing and distribution. I see these areas as key challenges that many BoP organizations face, and I’m hoping to hear discussions about these topics during Day 3 at SoCap.