Zebras Unite
Published in

Zebras Unite

Zebras in the Wild: Vanesa Nahir Acosta & Agustín D’Elio | Chapter Co-Leads Buenos Aires, Argentina

With our series “Zebras in the Wild”, we are excited to take you on a journey around the world to meet founding members, chapter leads, co-op members and allies! We talk to Zebras in the wild and report back how they’re challenging the status quo, how they envision the future and how we can support them in their mission!

I sat down to talk with Vanesa Nahir Acosta & Agustín D’Elio about

  • The Zebras Unite movement in Argentina
  • Our broken philanthropic system, and
  • what they’re both doing to support the growing movement in their country.

Read the highlights from my interview with Vanesa and Agustín:

A Zebra is…

Vanesa: “For me, a Zebra is a company that exists to tackle an injustice that its founders are intimately familiar with. It’s also a company that addresses the most pressing social and environmental issues while earning revenue and being profitable.”

Agustín: “Being a Zebra means being a company that creates a product to solve a problem in the market but without ignoring the social and environmental consequences of their actions. Being a Zebra also means adding value to society as a whole.”

11 unicorns and 1 growing dazzle of Zebras

Vanesa: “Right now in Argentina we have eleven unicorns which are the main focus of the traditional media. In fact, 6 of them have become unicorns this year only! Nevertheless, I am convinced there’s a different way of doing business. That’s the main reason why we started the Buenos Aires chapter of Zebras Unite. We want to raise awareness about this new model of Zebras in Argentina by giving them a voice, bringing them together and helping them grow in community.”

Sustainable and balanced communities: an ideal future

Agustín: “Our vision for the future is one of greater collaboration where we build sustainable and balanced economies. We want to build a society in which every decision is analyzed from a social and environmental standpoint. Businesses play a big role in any economy. We strive for a future in which companies are profitable but also take their social and environmental impact into consideration.”

Putting an end to philanthropy as we know it

Vanesa: “There’s a new generation of impact investors arising who are not looking for unicorns. While this is not the norm yet, there are a few who are truly interested in generating positive impact through their investments.

At the same time, philanthropy has demonstrated over the last decade that it’s not healthy for the organizations that receive the funds which, sometimes, can’t survive without them. In this sense, I am convinced that philanthropic giving is not a sustainable way of creating lasting systemic change. Instead, we should focus on growing and educating the nascent impact investing ecosystem here in Argentina.”

Citizens as activists and changemakers

Agustín: “Communities are starting to hold governments and companies accountable for their actions and I see that as an important first step in the right direction. But it doesn’t stop there. I believe there’s a lot more work to be done when it comes to educating citizens about their power as consumers and decision-makers. Communities should be even more curious and demanding. We have more information available to us than ever before; then it’s imperative we use it to our advantage. Communities have the power to influence governments to change and transform the framework in order to build the economies of the future.”

Startup culture of the future: solidarity, honesty, proactivity & collaboration

Vanesa: “In my ideal future, I imagine companies joining efforts to tackle social, cultural and environmental issues together based on values such as solidarity, honesty, proactivity and collaboration. I imagine a world of collaboration where governments, NGOs, businesses and investors work together in order to co-create more sustainable and conscious communities.”

We need to be funding different types of solutions to different types of problems. By including more diverse perspectives from more diverse groups into the startup community we will be solving more relevant problems better.

Agustín’s Contribution

Agustín: “My personal role is building local communities in order to foster and spread these types of ideas and grow the Zebras Unite movement in Argentina. The Argentinian unicorns are in the news on a monthly basis; Zebras don’t get even a fraction of that coverage because they’re still not on the media’s radar. I’m working to change that.

We need leaders that make business decisions based on profitability AND impact.

Agustín D’Elio

Vanesa’s Contribution

Vanesa: “My personal commitment is with the Latin American region. This is why I am currently working for IMPAQTO, the first Ecuadorian B Corp, where we co-design meaningful impact projects for multilaterals, corporations and NGOs.

In parallel, I’m also building a regional network, called ANTIRED, to connect ethical investors with socially and environmentally focused incubators and accelerators in order to attract impact funds to Latin American entrepreneurs.”

What lies ahead for Zebras in Argentina

Agustín: “We’re hoping to put Zebras on the radar of the media to ensure more people learn about Argentinian companies that have a new and more sustainable way of doing business. We’re working to build a network of business leaders who share our mission and values. The long-term goal is to build a community of Zebras who help each other grow and who we can support in accessing values-aligned capital and different types of financial resources.”

How Can We Support You?

Vanesa: “If you know impact investors or impact-focused incubators and accelerators in Argentina, we’d love to invite them to join our Zebras Unite chapter!”

Agustín asks the community…

How are you building your local community?

We’re starting our chapter so we’re curious to explore how other chapters are growing and nurturing their community.


  • Daravi is an Argentinian social enterprise. They employ women from underprivileged communities to manufacture ethical home accessories by upcycling trash from textile factories.
  • Arbusta is another Argentinian social enterprise that revolutionizes the technology sector by breaking the talent shortage paradigm: they employ high-potential youth, often ignored by the market, while providing fast, continuous and flexible tech solutions to big corporations.
  • B3Hogar is a brand new local social business which builds high quality and eco-friendly houses at an affordable price.

Connect with Vanesa & Agustín:

Originally published at https://socialventurers.com.




Zebras Unite: creating the capital, culture and community for the next economy

Recommended from Medium

Is Confluent, Inc. the next rocket ship following the footsteps of MongoDB and Elastic?

The only problem with most startups is that ironically, they don’t really start.

Kaiiax Content Writing Case Studies

Thoughts from a college Entrepreneurship Course

Traction can speak volumes

Text: Real Talk: Talking About Traction. Pictures include the headshots of Asha Banks and Rachel Reid

Words of Wisdom from The Greatest Entrepreneur I Know: My Mom

What MBA student startups must know about seed funding

How mentorship changed the course of my startup

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Anika Horn

Anika Horn

Ecosystem builder for social change. Founder at www.socialventurers.com Meet me over at www.anikahorn.com for all things social enterprise!

More from Medium

Part of the solution to r/antiwork and r/workreform: re-thinking ownership

Building Local Networks: Lessons from a Syrian Information Centre

Why ‘user-centric design’ needs to include older users

An older couple stand on a wooden balcony surrounded by trees. He is smiling and she has her head thrown back in laughter.