BCGDV Social Ventures Program Part II: DV Talks x IMPACC

In the second installment of this series, learn how BCG Digital Ventures helped IMPACC find and scale entrepreneurial ideas across the African continent

In the most recent segment of our ongoing “DV Talks” series, Jasmina Grase, Lead Product Manager at BCG Digital Ventures caught up with Till Wahnbaeck, the founder of IMPACC and co-recipient of the 2021 BCGDV Social Ventures Program, to reflect on IMPACC’s journey and their partnership with Digital Ventures.

About to enter its fourth year, the Social Ventures Program comprises a dedicated sprint — offered pro bono — to the most promising companies with a strong social mission. Read more about IMPACC and DV’s partnership here, as well as other alumni of this program, including Plan A and RECUP.

IMPACC supports startups across Africa by equipping entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed and scale their small startups into micro franchises. In collaboration with BCGDV, IMPACC has launched an innovative B2B platform to attract corporate donations.

Here are six soundbites you don’t want to miss from the DV Talks session, or you can watch the full conversation below.

1.“The BCGDV sprint was one of the most intense six weeks of my life… it was like drinking from the fire hose.”

Till explains the learning curve and meeting of minds between IMPACC and BCGDV, laughing about the fact that members of the BCGDV team had job titles he had never even heard of before. He credits BCGDV with revamping IMPACC’s business model in just a six-week sprint, and has truly embraced the “DV way” of working.

2. “Digital Venture doesn’t tell the client what they want to hear — they tell you what you need to hear.”

Till admits that he entered the Social Venture Program with a strong and clear idea of what he wanted to achieve for IMPACC, but couldn’t be happier that BCGDV put this to the test and challenged the organization.

Elaborating, Till explains that he envisaged a playful casino donation system in order to attract consumer donations. The BCGDV team however identified that IMPACC lacked an “unfair advantage” — i.e. what it needed to actually win in that market. Instead, BCGDV helped IMPACC to adapt its fundraising approach to target corporate donations and built a B2B tool to execute on this goal.

3. “We find great entrepreneurs and companies in areas of extreme poverty — they make markets work for the poorest, because they have products that meet an essential need.”

Till highlights some of the fantastic work underway by organizations that IMPACC invests in across Sub-Saharan Africa. These include a company in Ghana creating toilets for slum dwellers, and an organization in Uganda creating sanitary pads from compostable papyrus that ensures girls attend school, while circumventing difficulties with used product disposal and basic sanitation facilities.

He explains that these entrepreneurs know what they want but lack money, and perhaps the ability to scale their business and create a micro franchise model. IMPACC invests in these businesses, creating a joint venture through an eye-level relationship with the entrepreneurs.

4. “There is no easy solution to development. In leveraging B2B donations, we have a ‘Robin Hood’ approach to investment.”

Till identified that the smart way to convince people to donate is when they get something back in return. IMPACC and BCGDV thus developed a tailor-made bespoke business service, offering corporate donors an employee engagement tool and also a matchmaking tool — they have the opportunity to invest in a company that matches their industry, or for example helps them achieve their sustainability goals.

5. “We see entrepreneurs with great ideas, but they operate in bottom-up pyramid markets and it’s hard for them to get funding. Now we almost act as a magnet for these entrepreneurial ideas at the bottom of the pyramid.”

The markets in which IMPACC operates are not profitable. Till notes that some of these businesses are so fledgling, and the context is so difficult, that sometimes they need a foundational investment, which is basically a sunk cost. IMPACC is not a classic investor seeking a return, it is a nonprofit — so it fundraises for donations and then converts these into investments.

6. “In six months, we will have funded a new cohort of businesses — growing from three active businesses to nine. We know what we want, but we need a product manager and a growth architect to find leads and convert them.”

Till outlines IMPACC’s ambitious plans to scale some of its existing partners through microfranchising, while adding another six businesses to the portfolio. His biggest wish however is to find people like the BCGDV team that IMPACC worked with to help them achieve this goal — including the kinds of jobs he hadn’t heard of before entering the Social Ventures Program!

Interested in joining BCGDV? See our current vacancies.

Want to find out more? Start the conversation with BCGDV.

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