The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), a recently launched membership organization housed within the Aspen Institute, has announced an initiative designed to reduce poverty by increasing investment in small and growing businesses in the developing world.
The initiative will provide capital, business training, and support services to entrepreneurs who comprise the "missing middle" — businesses that are too large to qualify for microfinance loans but aren't large enough to appeal to banks or venture capitalists. Over the next five years, the initiative will work to collectively manage more than $750 million in funds in support of small and growing businesses, which are essential to economic progress and prosperity in the developing world. Supporters of the effort point out that in prosperous countries small and medium-size businesses generate more than three times as much employment as their counterparts in less-prosperous countries.
ANDE comprises thirty-five organizations, including for-profit and nonprofit social venture funds, business assistance providers, and foundations active in the developing world. Funders include the Omidyar Network and the Gates, Shell, Citi, Lemelson, Rockefeller, and Skoll foundations.
"Amid the turmoil of the global economic crisis, the launch of this network offers reason to be optimistic about the impact of entrepreneurism in the developing world," said ANDE executive director Randall T. Kempner. "In the long-term, our goal is to create the real possibility that the next Bill Gates or Richard Branson could come from a developing country."