What we're learning from studies across the world.

How Ecosystem Builders Can Best Help Entrepreneurs Succeed

How Ecosystem Builders Can Help Entrepreneurs


In 2016 we launched VilCap Communities, a 26-city pilot to license our curriculum and investment model to accelerators, incubators and investors around the globe.

This report compiles lessons learned, based on survey data and interviews with >100 ecosystem leaders and entrepreneurs.

We found that many entrepreneur support organizations promise everything to everyone, and end up failing for that reason. We offer specific lessons on how to find, train and invest in entrepreneurs, including:

  • Many entrepreneur support programs rely on philanthropic support - and that’s OK.

    55% of every dollar taken in by the 26 entrepreneur communities was philanthropic

  • Entrepreneurs find more value in sector-specific programs.

    Entrepreneurs that participated in a sector-specific program reported 24% higher overall satisfaction

  • The most common cohort size was six to ten entrepreneurs.

    The majority of programs had this cohort size, with an average of 40-60 applicants

Breaking the Pattern: Getting Digital Financial Services Entrepreneurs to Scale in East Africa and India

Breaking the Pattern




Millions of families in East Africa and India lack access to basic financial services. Despite popular perceptions of a mobile money revolution, very few FinTech startups in emerging markets are reaching meaningful scale. Breaking the Pattern examines why the vast majority of these startups in East Africa and India are not receiving the investment they need. The report's key insights include:

The report’s key insights include:

  • Investment is highly concentrated in just a few companies: Despite a few well-known DFS companies operating at scale, like Safaricom’s M-Pesa in Kenya and India’s PayTM, most are not receiving the investment they need to scale. For instance, in East Africa, startup investment is at an all-time high, but 72% of venture capital went to only three startups in 2015 and 2016.
  • Human Capital Trap and Business Model Challenges: Investors in East Africa and India consider DFS companies to be risky because of human capital challenges and structural barriers in the marketplace; but these challenges are hard to overcome without investment.
  • The “pattern recognition problem”: Because of the high cost of early stage due diligence in India and East Africa, investors often fall back on patterns to find companies and make investment decisions – relying on networks and indicators like prestigious universities or accelerator programs.

Show Me What You Can Do


Entrepreneurs everywhere have an especially difficult time attracting and retaining top talent, but this challenge is particularly acute for social entrepreneurs working in emerging markets.

Show Me What You Can Do, by Village Capital and the Shell Foundation, shares new research on the acute human capital challenges faced by early stage enterprises, and explores emerging solutions, drawing on surveys and in-depth interviews from over 200 organizations across 25 countries.

The findings include:

  • Diagnosis of the specific problems related to talent acquisition, with particular regard to social enterprises operating in emerging markets
  • Practical and actionable conclusions for these enterprises and their investors
  • Potential system solutions needed to reform the human capital market

Bridging the Pioneer Gap: The Role of Accelerators in Launching High-Impact Enterprises

Bridging the GapGET THE REPORT

The promise of market-based solutions to social problems has generated a lot of excitement around “impact investing”—an investment strategy seeking positive social/environmental returns beyond financial. But the reality is that many small and growing businesses in emerging markets have trouble getting the funding they need to get off the ground.

Bridging the Pioneer Gap, by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs and Village Capital, is the first data-driven analysis of the funding landscape for these startups. Through a comprehensive survey of accelerators’ pipeline, services, networks, and outcomes, we offer findings that are relevant to accelerators, impact investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the broader field.

What's Working in Startup Acceleration: Insights from Fifteen Village Capital Programs

What's Working in Startup AccelerationGET THE REPORT

Despite the emergence of hundreds of accelerator programs around the world, we know little about their effectiveness or how differences across programs influence venture performance.

To address this gap, Social Enterprise @ Goizueta at Emory University and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) launched the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) to collect and analyze data about best practices in entrepreneur support.

Village Capital was the first to work with the Entrepreneurship Database Program, providing application and follow-up data from fifteen different Village Capital programs. These data provide a unique opportunity to examine the performance of ventures accelerated by these different Village Capital programs compared to those that applied but were not selected.

This report is divided into two parts:

  • The first section reveals differences in venture performance among accelerated versus non-accelerated ventures based on one-year changes in revenue, employees, and investment. This information is then used to identify the highest and lowest performing Village Capital programs and presented to a panel of experts who suggest potential reasons for these differences.
  • The second section tests these predictions using qualitative and quantitative research methods, revealing several key insights for Village Capital and other early-stage venture accelerator programs.

Breaking Barriers: Enabling Scale for Digital Finance Innovations for Smallholder Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa

Breaking BarriersGET THE REPORT

Sub-Saharan Africa has made significant strides around financial inclusion, specifically for smallholder farmers, but there is a long way to go. Breaking Barriers examines the barriers facing FinTech entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan African, drawing insights from Village Capital alumni companies, and we identify three persistent barriers that prevent these entrepreneurs from realizing maximum impact for smallholder farmers:

  1. Talent acquisition and management
  2. Consumer interface and stakeholder value proposition
  3. Access to appropriate capital

We also see recommend the following courses of action to address these barriers:

  1. Prioritize human capital as a strategic priority
  2. Design solutions that are both consumer-centric and partner-centric
  3. Develop appropriate financial instruments for emerging business models