By Kate McElligott, Director of Strategic Development for the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE)
I just returned from Amsterdam after spending a week with dozens of entrepreneurs and investors for the launch of VilCap Communities. The goal of VilCap Communities is to narrow the gap between entrepreneurs and investors by enabling ecosystem leaders—like business accelerators—to build effective training programs for entrepreneurs solving real world problems, while giving investors the tools to make investments in their own sectors or geographies.
What I found most profound while participating in the launch, was, of course, the entrepreneurs! They had such passion and conviction. For years I’ve spoken with philanthropists and impact investors about great ideas in the impact sector, but I’ve never had the pleasure of spending one week with so many global entrepreneurs running businesses in Pakistan, Ecuador, South Africa, Cambodia, Myanmar, and beyond.
What Idea Would Be Worth Risking It All?
It takes guts to be a changemaker. Each entrepreneur faces sourcing, logistical, talent and capital challenges. On top of that, they often face cultural and political challenges. By the end of my week in Amsterdam, it seemed that investing—could it be possible?—was the easier part of the equation. And, I had always thought that attracting finance was the most difficult hurdle.
Developing talent is messy and often takes time. Inspiring and coaching the next generation of creative and disruptive innovators is hard work. Talent development is at the core of most business accelerator programs, but without evidence to show what’s working and not working, we’ll never be able to systematically help entrepreneurs in emerging-market contexts overcome these barriers.
ANDE and Partners Launch Accelerator Research
I’m proud that the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), in partnership with Emory University’s Social Enterprise @ Goizueta, had a key part to play in the launch of VilCap Communities. Together, with Village Capital, we have embarked on an industry leading investigation to uncover what is working and what is not working in business acceleration. This program, the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), was launched last year, and we are exploring ways to expand the program.
Since then, we’ve begun to learn more about the effectiveness of accelerators—as well as identify areas needed for growth. This month, we plan to release a full report on our findings, with a special focus on 15 accelerator programs from Village Capital. Please check the ANDE website for this soon-to-be released report later this month.
Currently, we have 56 accelerator partners and we plan to reach over 100 accelerator programs in the coming years. By recruiting new partners, we’ll be well positioned to dive deeper into the nuances of particular kinds of acceleration in particular contexts. Please, join us. Entrepreneurs are risking it all to address the world’s most vexing challenges and investors are coming forward to fund those solutions, which makes the growth and efficiency of accelerators critical in narrowing the gap between these two communities of changemakers.
Kate McElligott currently serves as the Director of Strategic Development at the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) where she is responsible for developing partnerships to fuel the growth of the small and growing business (SGB) sector in emerging markets. Kate joined ANDE with ten years of experience in relationship management, business development, and marketing for global development and social enterprise. She previously served as Senior Manager, Thought Leadership and Strategic Partnerships at Grameen Foundation where she worked for five years garnering resources for economic development, mobile technology, and livelihood programs. Early in her career Kate spent a year volunteering in China as part of the Harvard Kennedy School’s WorldTeach program, and ran several capital campaigns as a consultant for CCS Fundraising. Kate graduated from the American University with an M.A. in Social Enterprise. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Providence College.