Impact: embedded into what we do - Accelerating Asia

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With 65% of our portfolio now directly addressing one of more of the Sustainable Development Goals, I wanted to share more about how we’re approaching social impact and our plans as we continue to develop our work in this space.

For those who don’t know, our guiding belief at Accelerating Asia is that entrepreneurs are one of humanity’s greatest catalysts for positive change. And so for us, impact is something that we consider embedded in to the core reason why we exist.

This meant taking a lot of time to see how we could answer the biggest question in the impact investing ecosystem how can a business model align impact with commercial goals? Because we don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.

And, although the Sustainable Development Goals provide a good framework of global priorities set by the United Nations, addressing them alone is not enough. How can we as a young company ourselves, in our position as venture capitalists support a model that drives for more than just the world’s current global priorities?

Our impact framework is something that has been a work in progress and source of continual improvement for us at Accelerating Asia and we wanted to give you some insight into our current thinking. So, let’s take a deeper dive into our approach to impact at Accelerating Asia.

Accelerating Asia’s Impact Framework

At Accelerating Asia we see impact as using investment capital and supporting startups that have a positive impact on society. Our approach includes environmental, social and corporate governance and creating inclusive tech ecosystems.

We also ensure our core business and investments are conducted and measured according to global standards including the SDGs.

The SDGs are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The SDGs are adopted by all United Nations member states and the 17 goals address the challenges the world faces.

SDGs and Accelerating Asia

Accelerating Asia is committed to furthering the sustainable development goals and uses the SDGs to frame our approach to impact. A number of our investments cover multiple SDGs and as a company, we focus on the following:

More specifically:

  • Goal 5: Accelerating Asia proudly advocates for a diverse and inclusive tech ecosystem that is safe for everyone. We have adopted the Model Code of Conduct and have appointed a Gender Advisory Committee to better support our efforts. Accelerating Asia’s approach to gender lens investing focusses not only on investment opportunities for more female led businesses but also supporting startups that serve a primarily female audience or that operate in industries where supply chain actors are often underserved women.

  • Goal 8: By investing in game-changing entrepreneurs and supporting a vibrant investor ecosystem, we are committed to enabling sustainable businesses that contribute to the economic growth in the region.

  • Goal 9: Accelerating Asia works with startups, investors, corporates and governments to foster business innovation in the region.

  • Goal 10: Accelerating Asia champions programs and policies that reduce inequalities in the region.

  • Goal 17: Accelerating Asia works across all sectors and industries. We invite partners to join us in accelerating sustainable development in Asia.

Internally, we have set indicators, targets and tracking metrics for each of these Goals.

Impact themes

We don’t only look and align our results and activities with the SDGs, we also focus on a number of impact themes that guide our work with startups and partners.

These include:

  • Stronger communities by supporting solutions that enable more resilient, connected and sustainable communities.

  • Promoting equal access to opportunities supporting startups that reduce income, access and opportunity inequalities.

  • Adaptive industries - Solutions that improve capabilities of industries to adapt to a fast-changing world through business model and technological innovations.

Our impact themes and the SDGs are tied closely to our current portfolio companies and the investments we make through in startups in our flagship accelerator. Our current Minimum Qualifying Criteria is that 50 percent of our portfolio companies meet at least 1 of Accelerating Asia’s Impact Themes and 1 SDG. So far, we’re doing pretty well for a young organisation,  we’re currently hitting that goal but we are always looking at how we can improve and do more. Take a look at the startups in our portfolio.

Do No Harm

In addition to our impact themes and SDGs, all of Accelerating Asia’s investments must all abide by the ‘do no harm’ principle. We recognise that this can be difficult to measure the impact of, especially in countries where there are weak policies and infrastructure even more so given the nature of our investments to disrupt and innovate on traditional business models and use of technology. But, despite these challenges, It is expected that Accelerating Asia’s portfolio companies do their best to mitigate and correct any damage that results from unintended harmful business practices.

During our screening, sourcing and final selection for companies, Accelerating Asia classifies startups according to where they fall on an impact spectrum in three key areas:

Avoid: the startup does its best to avoid creating a negative impact on society and the environment.

Benefit: The portfolio company benefits its local community through initiatives that it runs that are not core to the business.

Contribute: Impact is baked into the business model

Here’s a snapshot of where our portfolio companies sit - as you can see around 75% are classed as contribute while the other 25% avoid. As we invest in early-stage, pre-Series A startups, it is expected that we will have less portfolio companies classed as benefit because of their early stage, the focus is on the core business rather than additional activities. However, as our startups grow we continue to encourage them to benefit their local community through various initiatives.

Impact of our Partnerships

Some of you might not know that in addition to our flagship accelerator program and venture fund, Accelerating Asia also works closely with partners from the government, corporate and not for profit sectors. When we choose to work with a partner, we often choose that partner based on impact. We work closely with partners to design programs that deliver outcomes for their specific objectives. And, we use our expertise and extensive program design experience to engage with internal and external stakeholders to customise programs that attract the right startups to meet business and impact goals.

The team

We often get told by our stakeholders we do a lot, and to be honest, we couldn’t do it without our team which we have uniquely designed and recruited to help startups and programs thrive. Our Entrepreneurs in Residence and Program Managers provide tailored support for partners and have a track record of success and combined 20+ years’ experience working at the intersection of impact, government and corporate organisations across Asia, Australia, Europe and the US.

As we are vertical agnostic, the team is able to apply its knowledge and impact criteria to a broad range of different industries. Having said that, we do have specialised knowledge across the following areas:

  • Fintech & financial inclusion
  • Agritech, food sustainability and food production value chains.
  • Logistics, supply chains and access to last-mile services.
  • Smart. connected and liveable cities

Investing in the future

Ultimately, the role of a venture capitalist is to look into the future and predict the kind of world we’re going to be living in. By investing in solutions that not only make good commercial sense, but also drive outcomes for a world that is fundamentally better and good, we have the opportunity to shape what this future is going to look like.

Accelerating Asia actively works with angel investors, Family Offices, VCs and other institutional investors who are looking to invest in startups that are creating sustainable social impact.

We love talking about impact and how startups can make a positive contribution because after all our guiding belief is that we believe entrepreneurs are one of humanity’s greatest catalysts for positive change. Reach out to us to talk more about working together.

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Accelerating Asia invests in startups with scalable technology solutions and revenue generating business models that combine purpose with profit.


In making an investment decision, investors must rely on their own examination of startups and the terms of the investment including the merits and risks involved. Prospective investors should not construe this content as legal, tax, investment, financial or accounting advice.