Evaluation: Agora’s Acceleration of Purpose-driven Ventures

Founded in 2005 as a venture fund, Agora turned its focus to solving challenges for entrepreneurs and investors in 2011. Agora recruits cohorts of c. 25 companies from across Latin America which have to date had median revenues on entry of €118k, are perceived to have a strong impact proposition, and an urgency to grow. A four-day retreat is followed by a four-month period of in-person and remote consulting. They also provide different ways to facilitate access to finance. In 2017, Agora ran two cohorts per year, bringing the cost per enterprise down to $20,000. From 2012, the start of three multi-year grants awarded by Argidius, to the end of 2017, Agora had accelerated 163 enterprises, which had generated €30million in incremental revenue, created 826 full time jobs and mobilized over €17million of investment since the year prior to participation. In 2017, an independent qualitative evaluation was commissioned to understand the impact and efficacy of Agora, with a focus on Agora’s ability to become a self-sustaining organization. 

Key findings:

  • Agora have accelerated some companies to steady and significant growth and have improved access to investment, with some clear stories of contribution to the positive economic outcomes.  Recent cohorts seem to be on a stronger path to growth than prior years.
  • The onsite visit by the Agora consultant, the external perspective that the consultant brings and the deliverables that the consultants developed in conjunction with the entrepreneur, were consistently valued highly.
  • Areas that were not as valued included the modules and pre-work activities at the retreat, talking to mentors, meetings and introductions with investors, and general investment preparedness.
  • More could be done to enhance the pool of mentors and quality of the mentoring offer.
  • Agora share a number of the challenges their accelerator participants are supported to overcome. Agora’s financial sustainability, business model, growth plan and talent are all still a work in progress.
  • A wide geographic spread has diminished Agora’s role in the ecosystem, with the exception of the Agora office in Nicaragua.

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