The Acumen Fund: Changing How the World Addresses Poverty

by December 3, 2010 0 comments

Jacqueline Novogratz Acumen FundJacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, has been selected as the 2010 William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year. The Fund is a pioneering not-for-profit global venture fund that is changing the world. Novogratz is responsible for the vision behind Acumen Fund’s unique approach to using patient capital to invest in business models that deliver critical, affordable goods and services to the world’s poor, improving the lives of millions.

The company’s investments focus on delivering affordable, critical goods and services – like health, water, housing, and energy – through innovative, market-oriented approaches. Novogratz has led the Acumen Fund team since its launch in 2001. Under her leadership, the organization has invested $40 million in more than 35 companies serving 25 million low-income customers in the developing world.

Novogratz, author of the best-selling memoir The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, will deliver a keynote address to Rensselaer students, faculty, staff, past recipients, business leaders, and members of the surrounding community on Dec. 1.

The program will take place from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute campus, in the Heffner Alumni House Great Room. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship and the Lally School of Management & Technology.

“We are delighted to honor Jacqueline Novogratz as Rensselaer’s Entrepreneur of the Year,” said Iftekhar Hasan, acting dean of the Lally School. Hasan, the Cary L. Wellington Professor of Finance, is also director of the International Center for Financial Research, co-director of the Ph.D. program, and area coordinator of accounting and finance for the Lally School. “Her work embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that RPI has cultivated throughout its history, and extends it into the realm of social entrepreneurship, which is desperately needed in today’s global economy.”

Established in 1990, the William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year Award brings the world of entrepreneurship into Rensselaer classrooms by recognizing successful entrepreneurs and role models who share their wisdom and experiences with students. The award also celebrates entrepreneurs whose vision, commitment, and creativity exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit that is Rensselaer’s past, present, and future.

“Jacqueline’s activities fit directly with Rensselaer’s motto of ‘Why not Change the World?’”, said Gina O’Connor, associate professor of management at Rensselaer and director of the Severino Center. “Her emphasis on eradicating poverty from the world is truly inspirational for our students and the rest of the Rensselaer community. Jacqueline’s approach to the problem is truly innovative; she has demonstrated the power of communication, education, financial sophistication, and outreach in a social entrepreneurship model that is, for certain, having great impact. Our campus is buzzing in anticipation of her visit.”

In advance of the Dec. 1 event, the Severino Center will host a series of small book discussions with Rensselaer students focused on Novogratz’s memoir. The selected dates are Nov 16, 19, and 22. The discussions are a joint collaboration between the Severino Center, Rensselaer’s Office of Undergraduate Education, the Office of the First Year Experience, and the faculty dean of the residential commons.

Prior to Acumen Fund, Novogratz founded and directed the Philanthropy Workshop and the Next Generation Leadership program at the Rockefeller Foundation. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank and she founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda. Novogratz currently serves on the board of the Aspen Institute as well as the advisory councils of Stanford Graduate School of Business and MIT’s Legatum Center.

She is an Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellow, a Synergos Institute Senior Fellow, and has received honors including Ernst & Young’s 2008 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the 2009 CASE Leadership in Social Entrepreneurship Award, and AWNY’s 2009 Changing the Game Award.She was recently named to Foreign Policy’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers and Daily Beast’s 25 Smartest People of the Decade. Novogratz is a frequent speaker at international conferences, including the World Economic Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative, and Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED). Novogratz received an MBA from Stanford University, and her bachelor’s in economics and international relations from the University of Virginia.

Novogratz will join 16 other individuals who have been recognized as William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year recipients. Past winners include: Amba Preetham Parigi, managing director, Entertainment Network (India) Limited, and managing director & CEO of Times Infotainment Media Limited; William G. Pomeroy ’66, founder and CEO, CXtec; Brendan L. McKernan ’00, co-founder and VP of operations, Agencourt Biosciences Corp.; Frederick W. Smith, chairman, president and CEO, FedEx Corp.; James Q. Crowe ’72, CEO, Level 3 Communications; John J. McDonnell Jr. ’61, founder, chairman, and CEO, Transaction Network Services Inc.; and Mukesh Chatter ’82, founder, president and CEO, Axiowave.

Additional recipients include: Curtis Priem ’82, co-founder and CTO, NVIDIA Corp.; Nancy S. Mueller, founder and president, Nancy’s Specialty Foods; Arthur L. Goldstein ’57, chairman, president, and CEO, Ionics Inc.; John H. Broadbent Jr. ’59, co-founder, CFO, VP-finance and treasurer, Arrow International Inc.; Paul J. Severino ’69, founder and chairman, Bay Networks; Warren Bruggeman ’46, VP and general manager, General Electric’s Nuclear Business Operations; Salvator Alfiero ’64, founder, chairman, and CEO, Protective Industries LLC; Thomas LeFevre ’71, co-founder, Intuit; and William Mow ’59, founder, Bugle Boy Industries.

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