Accion Venture Lab made its first investment just about three years ago. We’re not necessarily a new name any more: we’ve built a team, looked at over 1,000 companies, invested in 22 pretty awesome financial inclusion startups, collaborated with great partners, and more.
At the same time, we still have so much to learn and so far to go before we reach our potential.
All in all, it’s a great time to pause, reflect on where we’ve been, and think about the best path forward. With this in mind, our team was excited when an invitation came from the MIT Innovations Journal to author a case narrative on the launch and work of Venture Lab.
This case narrative is an attempt to share the vision, the struggles, the little victories, and, perhaps most importantly, the lessons learned from our first three years.
Accion has decades of experience building more than 60 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in more than 30 countries that today serve millions. It was and continues to be a good – and sustainable – business model in its own right.
What caused Accion to evolve its thinking and expand its business beyond MFIs? What has Accion been hoping to achieve by investing in early-stage startups that are working on cool, but largely unproven, fintech solutions? What’s been going on in the broader financial services and financial inclusion landscape to shape the current opportunity for Venture Lab? And how could Accion use Venture Lab to explore cutting-edge innovation and eventually harvest insights to feed strategy for the rest of the organization? You’ll find out all that and more in the case narrative.
In our piece, we also try to situate Venture Lab within the broader impacting investing space, which is itself evolving – and increasingly evolving away from small, seed investments to bigger vehicles mobilizing ever more capital, now reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars. With this in mind, how can our $10 million Venture Lab hope to make a difference; how can we hope to change the world with small investments in pure startups?
We talk a lot about the unique challenges of navigating these various dynamics to articulate an investment thesis, build a team, source great opportunities, and invest in and support game-changing entrepreneurs, technologies and business models.