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 Emprese (‘’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.