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New women's ventures will benefit. Photo: Pixabay.

Miller Center launches fund to support startups

The creation of a channeling capital fund that will support the creation of new businesses by its alumni.

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The Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship recently announced the creation of the Miller Center Invest, a five-year program that seeks to channel $500 million in funds to support the new entrepreneurial projects of its alumni.

Through its business acceleration channels, nascent companies, especially those with a social mission and run by women, will be able to access different tools and economic resources that will make it easier for them to overcome the challenges that arise when launching a new business.

“We can go to impact investors and say, we have an amazing pipeline to offer you—and we’re going to go first,” Brigit Helms, executive director of the Miller Center, told Forbes, highlighting the Center's role as "farseeing investor willing to provide catalytic capital, thereby reducing the risk for others and encouraging them to join in on the financing.”

Goals

Through these investments, the Miller Center contributes its entire trajectory so that its graduates can move forward and succeed in what they have called the "Valley of Death,” which is nothing more than the difficult initial period through which they must go through any new venture to raise institutional and later-stage capital.

“Alumni spend 50% of their time fundraising and just 50% raise the amount they needed,” said Alex Pan, Miller Center’s director of impact investing, noting that at least 1,300 companies, which promote climate resilience and the economic empowerment of women, have participated in their programs.

“About 50 to 100 new enterprises go through Miller Center programs each year. Some participate in multiple programs over time,” it is underlined from the Miller Center.

Woman on a call center.

The Miller Center Funds

Noting that the businesses in his alumni network are seen as potential high-growth companies, something that should attract a number of potential investors, Helms also demonstrates a deep understanding of these ventures and claims to know these companies inside and out.

“These companies don’t usually have the exponential growth or exits of VC-based enterprises,” Pan pointed out, emphasizing the support that the Miller Center gives to businesses with a social vision and that do not fit the traditional investment model.

With this important mission, these are the two funds that entrepreneurs can access:

  • Innovation Fund: Intended for new, post-earning companies, where variable payment debt, loan guarantees and subordinated loans will be used to invest between $50,000 and $200,000.
  • Growth Fund: Aimed at companies on initial growth stages, in which funds will be allocated for new companies that need working capital or do not have access to unsecured loans for between $200,000 and $2 million in short-term debt.

What is the process?

After the Miller Center identifies the proposals with the greatest potential and evaluates possible initial investments, student-led teams will be formed and overseen by the Center's mentors. In addition, the fund managers will work to attract other investors with whom they can manage the redemption.

The program, which consists of a five-year projected plan, focuses on alumni with the greatest growth potential who graduated in the last three fiscal periods, for which the Center hopes to obtain the funds before the summer to begin making investments.

One of the companies that hopes to benefit from the resources of this fund is Grassland Cameroon, owned by Manko Angwafo, who has attended several of the Miller Center programs since 2018, and whose grain handling firm, formed in 2015, which works with small farmers to increase their yield and reduce post-harvest waste, hopes to empower itself with these resources.

Major investors in the fund include Sobrato Philanthropies and the Miller Family Foundation, joining Jeff and Karen Miller, who gave $25 million to the Center seven years ago.“Sobrato Philanthropies funded initial research and exploratory work and also committed $5 million pending a matched amount of funding for the Growth Fund,” it was pointed out.

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