Spotlight: Amanda Jacobson

Amanda long

What drives you?

“Curiosity. Beyond wanting to do good, I am thrilled that just by being in this world I meet so many people, I travel, I see different ways of life and innovations. I think what drives me is the constant pursuit of innovation to meet the needs of those underserved by products and services out there so far.”

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

“To me, it is the sweet spot between creating social impact and generating revenue. I meet a lot of people with good intentions, but it comes down to what you can make work in the real world.”

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

“Seems like Latin American governments have really kickstarted the entrepreneurship scene. INADEM in Mexico, Innpulsa in Colombia, Startup Chile, and the government of Buenos Aires in Argentina have all provided funds to encourage entrepreneurs to go for it and start something; and I’m seeing great social entrepreneurs coming out of each of those countries.”

Background

Amanda obtained her undergraduate degree in business administration and psychology from the Goizueta Business School of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “I felt my only options were accounting, consulting or finance on Wall Street. I knew early on that none of these would make me want to wake up in the morning. None of it seemed motivating.” Instead she joined the IDEX Fellowship in India: “I spent six months with the Sankalp Forum of Intellecap, sourcing social ventures from across the country and building relationships with incubators, network organizations and companies in Maharastra, Delhi, Gujarat and Kerala.”

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Guest blog: Amanda Jacobson

Building social enterprise support in Latin America

Talking to Village Capital in D.C. I was thrilled to have a chance to speak with Amanda Jacobson who runs their Latin America operations. While the initial field visit at Village Capital gives a general overview (here), enjoy this gem fresh from the field:

“The Village Capital approach is unique in that we adapt our curriculum locally. Any challenge we decide to work on has a different set of beneficiaries, legal frameworks, stakeholders and socio-economic conditions in any given country. It is difficult parachuting into a country where you don’t have any contacts and trying to immerse yourself into an ecosystem that you don’t know much about. I am grateful for strong partners such as Accion Venture Lab or the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs. In most cases here in Latin America they are already plugged into the impact ecosystem and can make some introductions. At the same time, we are in the lucky position that the impact sector is very interested in foreign investors and supports like Village Capital. But you have to get the word out. I reach out to entrepreneurs and other stakeholders via social media, services such as Quora or Reddit, and go to a lot of events that draw these crowds. It is crucial to find the right entrepreneurs, our programs are only as good as our participants.

Amanda and workshop participants

Amanda and workshop participants

Having worked across Latin America, I have observed some great dynamics in the impact sector. It is not as advanced as the US, but more mature than – say – in Colombia. In Mexico, the government has the opportunity to give grants to entrepreneurs and support programs; you will find impact-focused and ‘conventional’ accelerators, startup competitions, co-working spaces and an active investment community. You can probably count them all on your ten fingers and toes, but they are doing great work. It is a very tight community. I would say that the main difference to the US is that none of them are sector-specific.”