elea sees more and more recognition and support for fighting absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means

31 December 2019

Stagnating economic growth and increasing populations in the world’s poorest countries are the main reasons why it is so difficult to achieve the first of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals – eradicating global poverty. Many players are working to find a solution for this enormous challenge. In fact, this year a group of renowned economists received the Nobel Prize in Economics for their pioneering research in development economics. For elea a clear confirmation that the mission the Foundation is pursuing is the right one.

“For elea, it is highly motivating to see that our daily work of fighting absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means is embedded in a steadily growing ecosystem that receives more and more recognition and support” concludes Peter Wuffli, Founder of elea and Chairman of its Board of Trustees, and adds: “It also strengthens our ambition to become a partner of choice for entrepreneurs, philanthropic investors, and ambitious talent in our endeavor to further promote impact through entrepreneurship.”

Asked about the development of elea’s existing partnerships, Andreas Kirchschläger, CEO of elea, replies: “In the past year, most of our investees continued to scale their businesses and improve the economic well-being of their beneficiaries”. Coffee Circle successfully completed their Series B fundraising round while paying more than 15’000 smallholder farmers fair prices for their coffee. In 2015, when elea first invested in Dharma Life, a social enterprise that provides life-changing goods and services to people in India, the company’s costs were more than twice the earnings. Yet, elea saw its potential to become a profitable organization, and now, after years of intensive work, Dharma Life is well-positioned to break even by the end of the financial year while reaching more than 10m people across rural India.”

Furthermore, elea added five new companies to its portfolio. In its employable skill-building focus area, elea invested in Leap Skills and Virohan, two companies in India that assist people in poverty in obtaining formal jobs after intensive skills trainings, linking the huge number of unemployed youths with the enormous demand for skilled people on the labor market. In its global agricultural value chains topic, elea invested in Inka Moss and Vega Coffee. Inka Moss trains poor Andean communities in Peru how to harvest Sphagnum Moss and sells the valuable moss to orchid growers across the globe. Vega Coffee roasts high-quality coffee alongside smallholder farmers in Nicaragua and Colombia and ships the coffee directly to university clients in the US. Lynk, the fifth addition to elea’s portfolio, is a digital platform for informal blue-collar workers in Kenya that approves their skills and connects them to job opportunities. Stefan Kappeler, COO of elea, points out: “elea is proud to support our new portfolio companies with both financial and in-kind resources, and we are looking forward to an inspiring journey together over the coming years.”

Although elea had a very rewarding year overall, there were also significant challenges. The Foundation’s second investment in Mad’Eole in Madagascar has not been successful and people in Joffre-Ville are still waiting to access electricity from renewable energy sources. Additionally, elea had to conclude an apprenticeship program implemented by SSACI in South Africa that trained youth to become bookkeepers. In this case, the government did not fulfil their contractual obligation to unlock the funds needed to further roll out the training program. Adrian Ackeret, CFO of elea, remarks: “These challenging cases remind us of how difficult it is to succeed in building up businesses in the developing world and they underline the remarkable achievements of our social entrepreneurs who are effectively expanding their ventures and social impact.”

Throughout the year, elea worked closely with numerous players in the impact investing ecosystem to share pipeline ideas, co-invest, and create awareness. Several members of the team presented elea and its work at a variety of events at universities, conferences, and private companies in Germany, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Switzerland. For example, at the 49th St. Gallen Symposium, Peter Wuffli gave a keynote address on “The elea Way of Philanthropic Impact Investing” and members of the team moderated an interactive session with Gaurav Mehta, Co-founder and Managing Director of Dharma Life, on last-mile challenges at the base of the pyramid. Additionally, Prof. Vanina Farber, the holder of the elea Chair for Social Innovation at IMD, published a digital case study for MBA students on Angaza, one of elea’s portfolio companies. elea team members also supported the Chair in teaching two MBA classes and leading an EMBA discovery expedition to Peru.

Andreas Kirchschläger is convinced: “We could not have achieved all this without our dedicated colleagues in the elea team.” He is happy to announce that Camilla Weder, Martin Buess, Paul Kukuk, and Marcin Stryczek joined as Associates as part of the Foundation’s newly created Talent Program. Furthermore, Adrian Sameli joined as Head of IT after he completed several IT consulting projects with elea portfolio companies over the past few years. “We are very pleased to welcome them to the elea family and wish them success and joy in their new roles.” Unfortunately, elea had to say goodbye to Nicole Adler and Aleksandar Buneta who have been with the Foundation for more than six and seven years respectively. Lianne Bingen also left elea as planned to pursue a master’s degree at University College of London. “We sincerely thank all of them for their dedication to elea, their hard work throughout the years, and their friendship, and we wish them all the very best for their future endeavors.”

Earlier this year, elea moved offices to better suit the needs and growing size of our young and dynamic organization. The additional space allowed the Foundation to host its annual philanthropic investors’ circle event in its new office and the team was happy to welcome many of their friends and supporters to discuss their work. Peter Wuffli underlines: “We are very thankful to our new and existing philanthropic investors who share our vision and who make our work possible” and adds: “We would especially like to thank Felix and Maria Haldner for joining the Comité de Patronage alongside Former Federal Councillor Pascal Couchepin, Paul Geissbühler, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, and Martin Haefner. Their generous and long-term investment in elea enables us to grow the momentum of our work and to realize our potential in creating sustainable positive impact.”

elea fights absolute poverty with entrepreneurial means. As a professional and active philanthropic investor, it supports social enterprises and entrepreneurial organizations in creating sustainable and measurable impact. Guiding its partners towards achieving self-reliance and autonomy, the foundation not only invests financial capital but also provides them with business know-how, coaching and access to its network. As such, elea is a growing community of committed entrepreneurs and philanthropic investors.

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