Case | HBS Case Collection | September 2009 (Revised May 2011)

Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A)

by Alnoor Ebrahim and V. Kasturi Rangan


Acumen Fund is a global venture capital firm with a dual purpose: it looks for a return on its investments, and it also seeks entrepreneurial solutions to global poverty. This case examines Acumen's new projects in Kenya. The organization's investment committee and its chief investment officer, Brian Trelstad, must decide whether or not to fund two for-profit ventures. The first provides clean and accessible shower and toilet facilities in urban areas, serving a critical need for low-income populations—its financial sustainability, however, is less clear. The second investment is a network of successful private health clinics that primarily serve middle-income populations but which have the potential to reach low-income markets. On what basis should Acumen decide whether or not to invest? What performance metrics should it use? As the investment committee nears a decision, political and social unrest breaks out in Kenya following a highly contested presidential election. Acumen Fund must now also consider the political risks of investing.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Venture Capital; Investment Return; Giving and Philanthropy; Risk Management; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Business and Government Relations; Social Enterprise; Financial Services Industry; Kenya;


Ebrahim, Alnoor, and V. Kasturi Rangan. "Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A)." Harvard Business School Case 310-011, September 2009. (Revised May 2011.)