Pollution, freshwater scarcity, soil degradation, aging population, and disenfranchised communities are some of Asia’s most urgent social and environmental challenges. It’s no wonder Asia is home to a number of impact investment funds – organizations who find, invest in, and support social entrepreneurs.
Founded in 2009, ARUN describes itself as a social investment fund. It has offices in Tokyo and Phnom Penh, and for good reason. ARUN invests in social entrepreneurs in developing countries using capital from Japanese individuals and corporate partners. Currently, they only invest in Cambodia but are planning to expand into other countries. So far, they’ve made investments supporting small farmers, employment for women and students, and marginalized communities.
With offices in Hong Kong and Beijing, Avantage Ventures invests in Asia’s healthcare, rural development, education, clean energy, and disenfranchised community sectors. Their approach is to find high-potential entrepreneurs and businesses that address issues in these areas using innovative business models. Their Avantage Ventures Impact Fund is an investment fund vehicle that supports Asian companies tackling key issues in China and Southeast Asia, where there is tremendous demand for critical products and services. Avantage Ventures was founded in 2008.
As the name suggests, EcoAsia’s US$100 million fund supports Southeast Asian businesses across the agricultural value chain, addressing food security and climate change issues in a region where expanding populations are pushing demand for more food. The fund was established in 2012 to help financially viable businesses improve crop yields, operational efficiencies, build internal capacity, and upgrade infrastructure. EcoAsia is based in Hong Kong and Thailand.
Insitor Management is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, but also has offices in New Delhi, India and Yangon, Myanmar. They work specifically with startups and early-stage businesses, with hopes of priming the social enterprise pump. Their focus is on the Mekong Region and Indian subcontinent because they believe a two-region approach will help manage regional risks. Insitor Management has two main funds – one for poverty alleviation and the other for access to energy – through which they make equity and loan investments.
Not exactly a typical impact investment fund, Transist nonetheless provides US$10,000 to US$1 million to young, growing social enterprises that focus particularly on disruptive technology. They are based in Shanghai and have most to offer for those in the Greater China Region, but investees can be based anywhere. Since 2009, they have invested in over 100 high-potential entrepreneurs, nurturing them from the very early stages of research and development to building outstanding companies.
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