[RECAP] AVPN Social Investment Summit Myanmar 2019

On 26th of February 2019, ANGIN’s team Atika and Nadia, had the opportunity to attend AVPN Myanmar Social Investment Summit 2019 with this year’s theme of ‘maximizing impact’. It was the third event held by AVPN to bring together social investment ecosystem players ranging from social purposes organizations (SPOs), corporates, government agencies, venture capitals, startup accelerators and entrepreneurs in Yangon, Myanmar.

The team attended several sessions during this one-day seminar, including Collaboration within Continuum Capital, Contributions to Development and Opportunities for Collaboration within Diverse institutions, and Fostering Digital Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Economic Stability and Development. Those sessions were hosted by the likes of FHI 360, DEALSTREETASIA, and Dalberg Global Development Advisors. Prominent ecosystem players were also invited to speak, for example, Social Ventures, Agensi Inovasi Malaysia, Insitor Impact Asia fund, and Ascent Capital.

Here’s our key insights from the event:

There is always everything for everyone.
Each ecosystem player along the social investment spectrum has unique characteristics and different needs. It is important for investors to be specialized on different levels of social investment. For example, InfraVentures helps startups to scale through its incubator program, while Ascent Capital Partners provides SMEs funding with a range of USD 5-10 million.

On the other hand, social purpose organizations (SPOs) should also be aware where the most suitable capital for them are available and pursue the capital that will help them to maximize their impact. Thus, they do not have to monetize every social project they are doing for the sake of attracting impact investors who are seeking financial returns.

The need for educating companies to be more inclusive.
In most cases, social investment players mostly exclude fully-commercial businesses in the conversation. However, it is important to involve them in our effort, so that we can achieve the greater aim of maximizing impact. Instead of avoiding commercial businesses, we should educate them to move along the spectrum and encourage them to be more inclusive.

The importance of being financially sustainable.
When investors are looking for a social investment opportunity, they should not focus on the impact or inclusiveness of the business only. It is more important for them to consider financial sustainability even if the organizations are less inclusive. Social investment will enable those organizations to create more impact on the right tools and funds. It is better for them to answer “how to maximize impact” instead of “how to be sustainable”.

Understanding the need to scale-up.
It is important to understand the definition of scaling up in social purpose organizations. Sometimes, some organizations do not need to be big in size. Instead of pushing everyone to scale up, we should provide them access to available tools and capital to maximize impact.

Investors should be patient and set a long-term mindset in social investment, especially in the early stage startups. Not only that they need more time to scale, it also takes time to achieve the social impact.

Intermediaries have an important role in social investment. In the emerging market like Myanmar, there is a gap between investors and social purpose organizations, due to the limited information available. Intermediaries can help navigate the environment and help the ecosystem scale the impact.

Problem-centered tech innovation
Technology is indeed vital in social innovation. However, it is important to understand the technology’s role as a tool. Entrepreneurs should focus on the problem first and see how technology can enable the solution delivery. Also, connection with the right resources is the most important thing to succeed the tech-enabled social innovation.

ANGIN is grateful to once again have the opportunity to learn Myanmar’s social investment landscape and to build relationship with the players. We look forward to more AVPN activities in the future and exploring collaboration in Asia’s social investment ecosystem.

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