The three keys to scale (from someone who’s done it)

Over coffee last week, my colleague Akshat asked Gray Ghost Ventures' CEO Arun Gore what three things he considered most important for startups to scale. Arun would know: as Director of Operations and then CFO at what would become T-Mobile, he helped scale that company (then VoiceStream) from 35 employees to 30,000 employees in seven …

Can investors really “add value beyond money?”

Last month, I spoke with a veteran entrepreneur about some advice he had given a first-timer about whether to take money from an investor. The younger asked, "What value do they add beyond money? What kind of technical assistance, etc.?" The older--who has received at best intermittent support from us at First Light--replied "Just take …

Lessons from Entrepreneurs, for Entrepreneurs

Last week, Good magazine interviewed seven all-star social entrepreneurs. At the very bottom of the interview, they get to the good stuff: “Do you have any ‘lessons learned’ [sic] to share with people who are thinking of creating a social enterprise?” The answers are gems: Lesson 1: Listen to your customers Get on the ground and listen to the …

What Should Entrepreneurs Measure? Ditching What’s “Interesting”

Last week my friend Anu, CEO of NextDrop, asked me: What we want to know is what’s the best way to track our progress, and the best way to communicate that to outside agencies/potential investors/funders. More specifically, what are the things you are interested in tracking? My response: I’d say that the best rule for tracking …

Top Trends in Impact Investing 2011: How Did We Do?

At the end of last year, three of us at First Light–Mark, Ross, and Nikhil–put together a blog series on the “Top Trends in Impact Investing and Social Entrepreneurship for 2011.” Ross (now Executive Director of the nonprofit Village Capital) has gone back to take a look at how we did. With blatant disregard for Ross’s …

Things I like, all in one article

Namely: Investing, Ecuador, stimulants, do-goodery, and controversy. Governments take all kinds of measures to boost business—from creating subsidies and setting standards to loans and fiscal stimulus—so it’s not unusual that the government of Ecuador is investing taxpayer money like a venture capitalist to get a new industry off the ground. It is unusual, however, that socialist …

Hard Questions From (and For) Impact Investors

Akshat and I attended ANDE’s Investment Manager training last week in Chennai, along with an impressive, expressive crowd that included representatives from funds, incubators, foundations, family offices, and even one aid agency. At the end of the week our trainer–Grassroots Business Fund’s own Bob Webster–asked us what questions we felt like hadn’t been answered to …

What Aid Agencies Can do to Boost Social Enterprise

(Reposted from Devex and Nextbillion)Last month, I called the disaster preparedness division of a leading international aid agency. As an investor in early-stage social enterprises, I had hoped to find institutional customers for some of the social enterprises producing cookstoves, water purifiers, rapid affordable housing, and solar-powered lighting and charging devices. I asked if the …