Unitus Labs announces new strategic focus to improve incomes of millions battling poverty

June 13, 2011 Posted by Update

Unitus Labs (formerly Unitus, Inc.) announces a new strategic alliance with Unitus Impact to catalyze new markets for livelihood ventures in Asia and Africa, creating significant income-generating opportunities for millions battling poverty.

Seattle and Bangalore (June 13, 2011) – Unitus Labs announced today that it is supporting a new initiative to build income-generating opportunities for millions of people battling poverty.  To implement this initiative, Unitus Labs is partnering with Unitus Impact Partners LLC (“Unitus Impact”), a new early-stage impact investing firm focused on livelihood acceleration for the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in Asia and Africa.

Unitus Impact’s strategy for generating livelihood opportunities involves:

  • Identifying high-quality, on-the-ground entrepreneurs whose ventures will create large scale, income-generating livelihood opportunities for the poor
  • Providing catalytic equity and debt capital as well as strategic support to livelihood entrepreneurs seeking to demonstrate the viability of their business models and expand their operations and impact
  • Raising investment capital from investors interested in accelerating the growth of financially successful livelihood ventures and generating disproportionate positive impact on poverty reduction

Unitus Impact is initially focused on supporting livelihoods ventures with the following criteria:

  • Early stage ventures that require equity or debt capital
  • Possess high potential to create improved, sustainable livelihoods at significant scale
  • Involve innovative approaches that enable systemic change
  • Employ market-based approaches in areas such as agribusiness, microfranchising, supply chain optimization, micro enterprise financing, and job/skills training
  • Operate in rural or urban markets in Asia (especially India) or Africa

Unitus Impact is led by Geoff Woolley, an experienced impact investor and philanthropist in developing markets. Woolley joined Unitus Labs (formerly Unitus, Inc.) as one of its earliest board members and served as its Capital Markets Chair until 2009. He was instrumental in setting up Unitus Equity Fund, the first commercial equity investment fund for microfinance, and Unitus Capital, the first investment bank set up to serve social enterprises and microfinance institutions in Asia. Woolley is currently the Co-Chair of Unitus Capital, which has become an industry leader, raising more than $575,000,000 in debt and equity financing for microfinance institutions and other businesses serving the BoP. Prior to impact investing, Geoff worked for more than 20 years in venture capital and lending where he founded Dominion Ventures in the US and Kreos in Europe.

“We are excited to partner with Unitus Impact and work together to improve livelihood opportunities for millions to move out of poverty,” said Dave Richards, CEO of Unitus Labs. “We believe in the strong connection between access to finance, which we spent the last decade focusing on, and our new focus, enabling access to markets. We are excited about the livelihoods sector and the opportunity to address poverty in a new way, and hope to draw on and build on our previous efforts in accelerating the microfinance sector.”

“We are excited to partner with Unitus Labs to raise and invest capital in promising early-stage social businesses that will positively impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of hard working people throughout the world,” said Geoff Woolley, Executive Chairman of Unitus Impact.

The strategic partnership for livelihood acceleration includes specific goals for fundraising, market research, investment due diligence and investment management to catalyze a new market for livelihood ventures.  As livelihood investments are made, Unitus Labs and Unitus Impact will share investment management fees paid by investors and any future profits generated by these investments.  To ensure that there are no perceived or potential conflicts of interest, Unitus Labs board members have agreed to invest in Unitus Impact projects through charitable vehicles.

Unitus Impact will announce initial project investments in the next 90 days.

About Unitus Labs

Unitus Labs is a USA 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on reducing global poverty through economic self-empowerment.  Unitus Labs’ unique focus is harnessing market forces to drive substantial increase in economic opportunity for those at the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in developing markets. Unitus Labs attempts to leverage its influence by not just demonstrating the commercial viability of BoP strategies but by drawing other players into the space in a way that dramatically accelerates the scaling of proven ideas. Unitus Labs’ current focus is to create improved income-generating livelihood opportunities for millions battling global poverty.  Unitus Labs was founded in 2001 and is based in Seattle and Bangalore. For more info, see unituslabs.org.

About Unitus Impact Partners LLC

Unitus Impact Partners LLC (“Unitus Impact”) works on livelihood acceleration for low-income people at the base of the economic pyramid (“BoP”) in Asia (especially India) and Africa by building scalable and sustainable enterprises. It finds, funds and collaborates with entrepreneurs who are creating innovative, market-based solutions that “un-game” systems on behalf of the poor. Unitus Impact’s livelihood acceleration model supports enterprises that increase incomes, create jobs and deliver significant value to the poor, at the very beginning of supply chains in agribusiness, SME finance and microfranchising. Unitus Impact deploys capital in innovative ways to grow and scale businesses that expand economic opportunities for those battling poverty and revolutionize livelihood development throughout the world. Unitus Impact was founded in 2011 and is based in San Francisco. For more information, see unitusimpact.com.

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