At the Investor Showcase on September 23rd, marking the conclusion of our first Accelerator Program, Upaya Social Ventures selected two more companies for our investment portfolio of social enterprises creating jobs for the poorest of the poor. The companies are UpSkill Management Services Pvt Ltd and SMV Green. Details of the investments are to be negotiated; Upaya typically provides seed stage equity investments up to $50,000 per investment.
We are really thrilled to support these two companies as they scale and achieve their vision. Upaya believes in the power of entrepreneurs to fight global poverty and we were impressed with all the companies in this cohort but both Mansi [the founder of UpSkill] and Naveen [the founder of SMV Green] stood out in how deeply they share our commitment to providing jobs and opportunity. - Kate Cochran
Upaya selected these two companies from a cohort of eight that completed a six-month program that included three four-day workshops and mentoring from a successful professional. The program culminated in an investor showcase at the Thought Factory in Bangalore where the companies connected with early stage impact investors. Representatives from Unicorn Ventures, Indian Impact Angel Network, Yunus Social Business, Loans4SME, Social Alpha, Bestseller Foundation, and Elevar Equity participated.
UpSkill is a Mumbai-based technology company that aims to connect the fragmented education to employment market in India. Founded in 2013 by Mansi Agrawal, it is both a direct training program and a technology provider to training centers and corporates aiming to address the massive skills-gap in India where 90% of the workforce has no specialized training and industry projects a resulting jobs shortfall in the hundreds of millions by 2022. UpSkill’s technology product, Node, uses a SaaS model to capture data on all steps in the education to employment journey, from recruiting trainees to placement to career advancement. The platform will also include content for digital training.
My motivation to join the Upaya cohort was foremost our vision congruence. All through the last six months the Upaya team has worked relentlessly to connect us with the best minds in the social impact sector to help us understand it better and scale our businesses. Being part of the cohort was an honor enough and now having been selected to be an investee is great motivation for the entire team of UpSkill. - Mansi Agrawal
SMV Green, founded by Naveen Krishna, is a Varanasi-based company that finances battery-powered rickshaws so that drivers are able to upgrade from either gas-powered or manual rickshaws that are better for their own health and the environment. SMV Green provides financing for 24 months, after which the driver owns the vehicle and is better equipped to earn their way out of poverty. Of the 281 vehicles financed since April 2016, there have been zero defaults and 98% on time repayment. The company builds on the work of an earlier company founded by Krishna, SMV Wheels, which first addressed the physical drudgery of manual rickshaws with a lease-to-own model for auto-rickshaws. That company financed over 5,000 rickshaws.
Upaya Social Ventures assisted us to identify the key drivers in our work through their six-month program where we can double our impact with the same effort. Now with their investment, SMV Green is able to dignify the lives of 10,000 cycle rickshaw pullers in the next three years by upgrading them to electric rickshaws. - Naveen Krishna
In addition to pitching to the impact investors, the entrepreneurs met with LinkedIn Co-Founder and VP of Product Management, Allen Blue, who sponsored the Accelerator Program. Blue has shown a serious interest in the future of workforce development and the ways that LinkedIn can fulfill its vision of providing economic opportunity for the global workforce. He kicks off a new series of conversations about the topic with an interview with Kate Cochran, speaking about how the future of work will affect the extreme poor here.