Exposing the Missing Middle: A New Impact Investment Fund for SMEs

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Exposing the Missing Middle: A New Impact Investment Fund for SMEs

In the developing world, it's tough for small and medium-sized enterprises to raise capital. An innovative new fund hopes to change that
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 2:35pm



I recently asked Tony Muljadi, co-chair of the 13th annual Social Enterprise Conference, which will be held this weekend at Harvard University, what the message was behind this year's conference theme, "Innovation, Inclusion & Impact." In regard to "inclusion," he said, "The very poor have access to microfinance and the rich have access to traditional banking, but there's this missing middle—small and medium-sized enterprises whose needs aren't being met."[1]

Indeed, the concept of social inclusion in general and the "missing middle" in particular has become an increased area of focus among social entrepreneurs. And now, thanks to the new Small Enterprise Impact Investment Fund (SEIIF), impact investors will have a chance to help this financially neglected yet developmentally critical enterprise group.


A joint initiative between the international development agency Oxfam and the Geneva-based asset management group Symbiotics, the SEIIF is being billed as the "first fund of its kind...offering investors both measurable social impacts and financial returns, with relatively low risk."[2]

Roland Dominicé, the chief executive of Symbiotics, said that the new fund "seeks low risk through high diversification and clear exits, which offers investors both breadth and diversity in terms of models, geographies and activities." According to their website, Symbiotics has funded over 400,00 micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) since it launched in 2004, "particularly those active in areas related to food, homes, jobs and energy working in a sustainable manner."[3]

The fund, which is currently seeking investors, has a target size USD 100 million after three years and will focus on high-impact, low-risk debt and equity instruments, with an eye towards capital preservation and realistic returns.


SMEs typically employ 10-250 workers and are generally considered to make up the principal infrastructure of modern economies, providing society with a continuing parade of innovation.

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Reynard is a Justmeans staff writer for Sustainable Finance and Corporate Social Responsibility. A former media executive with 15 years experience in the private and non-profit sectors, Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, a New York-based experimental production studio that explores transnational progressivism, neo-nomadism, post-humanism and futurism. He is also author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, covering cosmology, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is currently developing the Underground Desert Living Unit (UDLU), a sustainable single-family dwelling envisioned as a potential adaptation response to the future loss of human habitat due to the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Reynard is also a contributing author of "Biomes and Ecosystems," a comprehensive reference encyclopedia of the Earth's key biological and geographic classifications, to be published by Salem Press in 2013.


Keywords: Finance & Socially Responsible Investment | New Partnership For Africa's Development | Organisation For Economic Co-operation And Development | Small Enterprise Impact Investment Fund | Sustainable Finance | impact investing | microenterprise | social enterprise