We focus on improving the effectiveness and reach of small enterprise capacity development, and do this in three ways:
- We help build effective ecosystems in our core geographies
- We develop strategic partnerships with globally significant SME capacity builders that are innovative and have the potential to execute scalable, high-impact work
- We rigorously evaluate what works, and what does not, in the programmes we support, and share our learnings with others
In a world of significant social and environmental challenges, SMEs need to consider how to incorporate sustainability into their core business models. We are exploring ways in which they can do this more effectively, and continue to support SMEs that are mindful of their wider social and environmental obligations through appropriate interventions.
We have a comprehensive process of structuring our grant proposals and reviewing our projects’ outcomes. We aim to increase our impact by making the best possible decisions, based on continuous learning from our own experience and external sources.
We use the Return of Total Investment (ROTI) measurement tool as a proxy indicator. It allows us to compare across partners, countries, regions and themes, and thus informs investment decisions and on-going grant management.
We continually review our measurement tools and support our grantees to build their own robust and effective systems of monitoring, evaluation and learning.
The Argidius Foundation funds projects and organisations that:
- support business and revenue growth;
- are cost effective;
- involve innovation and reasonable risk;
- are scalable or replicable;
- reflect capable management and a sound approach;
- have social and/or environmental benefits;
- have a potential for poverty reduction;
- include robust partnerships beneficial for project implementation;
- have a sound exit strategy;
- have a potential to leverage Argidius’ funding;
- have the potential to become sustainable over time;
- are located in East Africa or Central America.
Our due diligence process includes a safeguarding assessment to protect the safety of children and vulnerable adults. We request all our partners to have relevant safeguarding measures – including safe recruitment, staff training and reporting procedures – in place.
Given the high amount of requests we receive, we will only contact you if an internal review shows that your project meets our funding criteria.
All major grants are subject to an external evaluation, and we also fund external research. The reports are published here on an on-going basis.
Research: Lessons from the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI)
The Argidius supported GALI has built a database of more than 15,900 enterprises and more than 222 acceleration programs across the world. This longitudinal dataset has followed up over 4,210 accelerated and rejected ventures, which creates a comparison group to assess the effectiveness of startup acceleration. Three major publications have been released, in addition to twenty-two shorter reports, data summaries, and country reports.
Evaluation: Lessons Learned from TechnoServe’s Work with Small and Growing Businesses in Central America
The Argidius supported Impulsa Tu Empresa (‘’Boost Your Business”) is an accelerator program run by TechnoServe which supported more than 1,000 businesses in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. These businesses increased their sales by > $35 million, created >1,100 new jobs and mobilized > $5 million in capital since 2012. The following findings are based on Emory University’s analysis of the performance after 1 year of 432 businesses across Central America. Please see the document Accelerating Impact for Entrepreneurs.
Report: Networking Works: Peer-to-peer business networks help Small and Growing Businesses grow revenues and create jobs
Two peer-to-peer business networks which Argidius have supported have consistently delivered impact: member businesses have experienced high annual revenue growth for 3+ years, and jobs have been created cost-effectively. Both networks embody six key success factors, common among the Foundation’s highest performers.
Research: What Works and What Doesn’t in Enterprise Development
The International Growth Centre (IGC) at the London School of Economics, and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), reviewed the enterprise development literature with a focus on how to best support Small and Growing Businesses (SGBs) to grow, and the impact of jobs at SGBs. Key findings are summarized below, a research fund is being established to address key gaps, and emergent findings will be shared here.
Evaluation: Access to Capital for Rural Enterprises (ACRE)
Access to Capital for Rural Enterprises (ACRE) was a consortium of INGOs including Christian Aid, Challenges Worldwide, Practical Action, Traidcraft and Twin, which aimed to overcome time and cost barriers to impact-first investing in inclusive enterprises in developing markets by a) supporting enterprises from the INGOs’ network and footprint b) strengthening the business capacity of rural enterprises c) supporting them in accessing investment, and d) facilitating investments by providing a consortium of investors with pre-screened and well-presented opportunities. Target enterprises were those seeking $100k – $1M in financing. The revenue of participants in the year prior to participating ranged from €10k to €6M. By 2018, 32 enterprises had been supported at a cost of €46k per enterprise. One raised investment through the syndicate, and two raised investment elsewhere, to bring the total investment to $10.1million. In 2018 an evaluation was commissioned to capture lessons from the programme.
Evaluation: Yunus Social Business Uganda’s Acceleration and Financing of Social Business Ventures in East Africa
YSB Uganda (YSBU), a subsidiary of YSB Global, has been operating in Uganda since 2015. In January 2016, the Argidius Foundation entered into a four-year partnership with YSB, aimed at supporting its social entrepreneurship acceleration and financing services in Uganda and scale them in the East Africa region. The investment fund aimed to provide primary debt financing to social businesses in amounts that ranged between USD $50,000 to $350,000, supplemented with post-financing technical support. The accelerator program aimed to bring early-stage ventures to investment readiness. Participating ventures ranged from being pre-revenue to having revenues of up to $1.7million in the year prior to participating. The cost per participating enterprise as at the end of 2017 was €26k. In 2017, an evaluation was commissioned focused on assessing YSBU’s acceleration and financing of social businesses (SBs) to inform ongoing implementation and future plans for expansion of support to the East Africa region. Additionally a case study of one of YSBU’s top performing social business investees, Impact Water was undertaken to verify its contribution to impact.
Evaluation: Intellecap’s Investment Readiness Support to Ventures in East Africa
Intellecap, Shell Foundation, the USAID PACE Initiative and Argidius entered into a three-year partnership in 2015. The aim of the partnership was to support Intellecap to replicate its proven ecosystem-based approach in India for accelerating small and growing businesses (SGBs) in East Africa, by bringing together capital, advice, and networks to provide technical assistance and direct investment facilitation to high-growth social ventures. 40% of the ventures receiving investment support services were pre-revenue prior to particiapting, and the rest had revenues between $3,000 to $1,430,000. The average cost of support per enterprise was $15k. In 2017 an evaluation was commissioned to assess the results so far of Intellecap’s direct support to enterprises, and based on the findings provide a set of recommendations and lessons.
Evaluation: GrowthAfrica’s Acceleration of Ventures
GrowthAfrica and Argidius entered into a three-year partnership in 2015. GrowthAfrica’s support was primarily delivered through their accelerator program, which consisted of an intensive six-month phase of workshops delivered to cohorts of ventures, followed by lighter, largely individualized, ongoing support for another 30 months, with all participants committing to share a portion of increased revenue / investment raised / or shares in the business as a result of improved performance. The average revenue of participants prior to entering the program was US$287,651 and the median US$43,500. The cost of support per enterprise was €19k. An evaluation was commissioned in 2017 to assess the results so far of GrowthAfrica’s support to early stage enterprises, and based on the findings provide a set of recommendations and lessons.
Evaluation: Variable Payment Obligation Programme’s Cash Flow-based Financing Alongside Acceleration
The Variable Payment Obligation Programme, was launched in April 2016 in Nicaragua with: Palladium (since acquired by Palladium) as the main contractor, and responsible for technical assistance for the loan product; Agora as the Enterprise Growth Services (EGS) delivery partner; the Miller Centre of the University of Santa Clara as an advisor for the loan product and the third party funding mechanism; and Banco de América Central (BAC) as the Local Bank Partner (LBP). The VPOP provides cash flow-based financing, alongside Enterprise Growth Services (EGS) to dynamic small and growing businesses with ambition to grow. The annual revenues of participants prior to participating range between $70k and $220k. The VPOP seeks to demonstrate that bundling an appropriate credit product with adequate EGS, can lower the borrower’s risk of default and increase the loan’s impact on the business’ growth in a financially sustainable manner, and aims to showcase that banks can offer financing based on cash flow rather than collateral. A learning focussed evaluation was undertaken to assess progress and performance of the Phase 1 Pilot as of November 2017.
Evaluation: Lessons Learned from TechnoServe’s Work with Small and Growing Businesses in Central America
The Argidius supported Impulsa Tu Empresa (ITE1) (‘’Boost Your Business”) was the first iteration of an accelerator program run by TechnoServe which supported more than 1,000 dynamic and formalizing businesses in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Burkina Faso. The median size of enterprises in the year prior to participation was $87k and the cost per enterprise was $5k-$8k depending on whether the participant received aftercare. These businesses increased their sales by > $35 million, created >1,100 new jobs and mobilized > $5 million in capital since 2012. The following findings are based on Emory University’s analysis of the performance after 1 year of 432 businesses across Central America.
Report: Segmenting Enterprises
Entrepreneurs, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and small and growing businesses (SGBs) come in many types and sizes. They cannot be treated as one homogenous group. The Collaborative for Frontier Finance (CFF) developed a segmentation framework which aims to help investors, intermediaries, their funders, and entrepreneurs better navigate the landscape of SGB investment.
Evaluation: ANDE-Argidius Talent Competition
Finding talented managers is a critical challenge for entrepreneurs everywhere, but it is especially difficult in emerging markets. To help overcome this hurdle, the Argidius Foundation and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) launched a talent challenge to help identify, attract and retain middle- and senior-level managers prepared to guide these dynamic firms. Five organizations were selected to test their prototype solutions to help in either the recruitment, development or retention of management talent (or a combination of all three). These organizations are Amani Institute, Creative Metier, Open Capital Advisors, Shortlist, and Village Capital. Each organization received 200K euro against an agreed set of KPIs that were monitored over 30 month period; and, a final evaluation was completed by Enabling Outcomes.
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.
Evaluation: Enablis Senegal’s Provision of Sustained Support to Members of their Business Network
Enablis is an international non-profit organization founded in 2003, and officially started activities in Senegal in 2014. Argidius supported Enablis’ scoping, entry and expansion within Senegal. Enablis’ intervention model is based on setting up a network of promising entrepreneurs and providing personalized and group support services necessary for the survival, growth and competitiveness of their SMEs. This model targets promising formalizing and dynamic entrepreneurs (the median size on entry is $65k) and focuses on building trust; the personal development of the entrepreneur; co-development and peer support; networking; managerial and technical skills; and linkages within the ecosystem over a sustained period of time. The cost/enterprise is approximately €8k. Enablis, in partnership with the Senegalese Evaluation Association, commission participatory third party evaluations on an annual basis. The 2016 and 2017 evaluations found:
Evaluation: Business Professionals Network (BPN)’s Business Development Services to Formalizing and Dynamic Enterprises
Business Professionals Network (BPN), celebrating its 20th year, has an established presence in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Rwanda. The organization provides business development services to livelihood-sustaining and dynamic enterprises, consisting of a four-year program, grounded in the values of running a professional business, and delivering the “Four Pillars” (business education, coaching, loans, and a business owners’ association) to help the entrepreneur and his or her business grow. Argidius has supported BPN in Nicaragua since 2012. In 2018 an evaluation was commissioned on Kyrgyzstan and Rwanda, where the program was perceived to be working most effectively, to understand what works well and what could be improved as BPN considers changes under its new leadership. The 22 interviewed entrepreneurs predominantly had revenues of $20k-$50k in the year prior to participation.
Synthesis: Learning to SCALE effective enterprise development. A summary of what works
In 2013 Argidius set out on a journey to best identify how enterprises grow and create employment. The aim is to enable business development support (BDS) organizations, and their funders, to improve the effectiveness of support to enterprises by implementing what works. This animation series captures all the things we’ve found to date, together with researchers, our partners, and those working in the field of enterprise development, that hopefully is memorable, and leads practitioners, and those working in this space to find out more. Behind each lies rigorous research, findings from independent evaluations, and the performance data of thousands of enterprises which have accessed support from the 50 organizations we fund.
Tell us what you think, and help us continue the journey.
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Find out more in the Evaluations and Reports section of How We Work at www.argidius.com
Evaluation: Video Case Studies from Bpeace’s Support to Dynamic Businesses
Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) work with entrepreneurs by mobilizing their network of “Skillanthropists,” who volunteer their skills and knowledge, both on-site and remotely, to help businesses in conflict-affected countries grow, create jobs, become more profitable and secure a future for their workers and communities. Argidius partnered with Bpeace in 2015, advising 38 Guatemalan business owners (Fast Runners). Cohort 1 “graduated” in 2017, and Cohort 2 graduated October 2018. After an evaluation of Cohort 1’s performance, changes were made that included condensing the duration of the Bpeace program, and introducing a fee for entrepreneurs to take part. The changes significantly enhanced positive outcomes. Cohort 2 generated $3.4M incremental revenue, 62 full time jobs in the first year of support, vs Cohort 1 (the original model) which generated $180k incremental revenue and 32 jobs over the two years since support. To look beyond the quantitative data of revenue and job creation, a series of evaluation-by-video case studies was commissioned, to take a qualitative look at the extended impact of the intervention on businesses and their workers. A qualified news journalist was employed to interview business owners and employees to provide an overview of how, why and if Bpeace played a role in the acceleration of their businesses.