Success Stories | Jun 29, 2016 | Gabelli School of Business
Success Story: MBA student working with impact investor
Chris Bullard, MBA ’17, will help to scale up businesses in developing countries that are directed at serving people in extreme need.
Headquartered in New York City with offices around the globe, Acumen is a nonprofit impact-investment fund that has more than $100 million in assets under management. Rather than using donations as grants, Acumen invests capital as debt or equity into for-profit businesses in sectors such as health, education, energy, and agriculture that serve people making less than $2.50 per day.
Bullard is working on Acumen’s post-investment team to help companies that receive investments to expand, increase their financial viability, and ultimately maximize their effect. Through advising on common business challenges such as sales, distribution, operations, and technology, the team improves the companies’ ability to effect change while increasing the return on Acumen’s investment.
In Uganda, for example, Bullard is helping SolarNow, a venture that provides off-grid energy access, to improve its sales strategy. Using data collected by Acumen, Bullard and his colleagues found that SolarNow’s value proposition was not strong for the rural poor.
Even though SolarNow offered a financing term of 12 months on its solar products to reduce upfront costs, the monthly bill was still too expensive for customers. Based on recommendations made by Bullard and his coworkers, SolarNow extended the financing term to 18 months — giving customers more time to pay — and immediately saw an upswing in adoption and sales.
“Solving the difficult challenges that the world faces will ultimately happen through the private sector,” Bullard said. “This means we need smart people with backgrounds in finance and business to see that there is true economic value to be created through doing good in the world.”
Bullard said he is seeing a shift in how people are using their education and job experience.
“Most of the people I work with come from large investment banks and consulting companies, and now want to use those skill sets to solve the really big important global problems,” Bullard said. “My hope is that more students will open their eyes to this world of possibility.”