Village Capital: Democratizing Entrepreneurship
Taking a cue, Village Capital is spreading its wings and has plans to expand its footprint in India. With a radical new concept, Village Capital has held programs the world over, using the power of peer support to build enterprises and make investment decisions. Village Capital selects groups of 12-16 high-impact entrepreneurs and runs them through an education program focused on intensive peer review and “investability” training. The process is simple: the group of entrepreneurs works together and receives training from experts. Through the program, they come to know a great deal about each other’s businesses and about each other’s character. At the end of the program, entrepreneurs assess one another, and vote for the best enterprises (self-voting is obviously not allowed); the top two enterprises that receive the most votes each receive INR 25 lakh in equity investment, split between Village Capital and a local co-investor partner.
Cooper Swift, who leads Village Capital India, says “Entrepreneurs are empowered, because they know that someone in the group will get funded.” Over the course of the 3-4 month program, the entrepreneurs interact frequently, brain storming and giving feedback to one another, and at the end of which two entrepreneurs with the highest votes receive a cool INR 25 lakh funding. “Even though Village Capital only funds two enterprises, exposure to our network of investors means that all of the participants stand to gain through the program”, says Cooper. “For example, out of the 14 participants in a recent program at Brazil, Village Capital invested in the two winners, but another ten enterprises were funded by external funders, on account of the training and visibility that Village Capital provided them.”
The progress that Village Capital has made so far has been promising. In the past two years, they have launched fourteen programs worldwide, supporting over 250 entrepreneurs, who have raised over $15 million in funding. Village Capital recently completed its third program in India, and its expansion plans are both location-focused on certain cities, as well as sector-focused (e.g. energy, mobile/ICT). Speaking about some of the criteria for the program, Cooper says, “We are looking for high-impact enterprises that create measurable social or environmental impact, have strong financials, and we invest where our money can catalyze change and accelerate growth.”
Previous success stories from India and Opportunities
In fall of 2011, Village Capital launched its third program in partnership with Dasra Social Impact, culminating in 2012. The winners of that program include Simpa Networks, which makes home solar energy systems affordable, Waste Ventures, which improves the livelihoods of ragpickers, and Daily Dump, which sells home composting kits and turns organic waste into compost.
Cooper believes that Village Capital is only as good as its entrepreneurs. “We’re a small but fast-growing organization that is looking for the best world-changing entrepreneur we can find worldwide.”