The sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations in 2015 are usually the province of the social impact world. Impact-driven organizations, such as social enterprises, non-profits, B corporations, and even for-profit corporations with robust corporate social responsibility programs proudly share which SDGs they target and strive to address.
It’s increasingly common for startups to align themselves with the SDGs, but Accelerating Asia has been deeply aligned with them since our founding, well before the trend. From this experience, we have found that the high-growth mantra of tech founders can work particularly well in tackling some of the most pressing social issues of our time, which are captured in the 17 SDGs.
At Accelerating Asia, we’ve embarked on a mission to integrate SDGs into our portfolio of startups. We would like to share our experiences in this endeavor here for two reasons: One, we would like to help other startups, accelerators, and organizations in the tech ecosystem to embrace the SDGs. Two, we would like to invite impact-driven investors, such as foundations, family offices and more to work directly with us, such as by co-investing into one of our startups, or even investing into our latest fund.
We track our SDGs in three significant ways, which other accelerators, venture capital firms, and investment organizations can likewise emulate.
There are many startups that are built to grow fast, but may not necessarily help people in any meaningful way, such as ecommerce sites or social media platforms. We’re proud to say that this is not the case at Accelerating Asia. Over 100% of our portfolio of 50 startups is addressing at least one SDG, while many others are taking on two or more, such as Mayani (SDG 1 and 12) and Swap (SDG 8, 11, 12, and 13). Some target SDGs have deep alignment with their founding team: Founded by female business leader Armin Zaman Khan, Romoni in Bangladesh targets both SDG 5 (gender equality) and 10 (reducing inequality) through its lifestyle services platform.
This fact becomes more interesting when you deep dive into certain markets. In the Philippines, BeamAndGo is working toward SDG 1 (no poverty) and 8 (decent work and economic growth) with its platform that allows overseas foreign workers to take care of their families back home without sending remittances. In Bangladesh, iFarmer is contributing to SDG 1, 5, 8, and 15 (life on land) by providing a finance solution and support to farmers.
To highlight this impact, we list the SDGs that startups target on their respective profile on our site and other touchpoints. We hope SDGs can one day become as common as a sign of traction for startups as user or revenue growth.
Startups do not only do good on their own, but collectively as a group. As a portfolio, they may make a significant impact on SDGs that some do not individually explicitly target. There are many examples of these that we track at Accelerating Asia.
For example, together we have created 800 jobs across all the ventures, and on a yearly basis, we have grown monthly recurring revenue an average of 389.81% as of 2022. (SDGs 1 and 8). Additionally, 35% of our entrepreneurs are female, which is significant as women are usually severely under-represented on founding teams.
Some of our other startups may not be female-founded, but their products or services aim to help them: These gender-lens investments form a full 65% of our portfolio. One such example is Bangladesh’s Shuttle, which was founded by Reyasat Chowdhury, Jawwad Jahangir, and Shah Sufian. While anyone can use their sedans, they are particularly helpful for women, who can now experience a safe, comfortable ride to their office, home, or other location. Both these facts evidence our contribution to gender equality, or SDG 5.
Tracking collective impact is helpful: As these numbers will be larger, they may more easily inspire continued action. Doing so also emphasizes that your portfolio is a community and gives founders an easy point of pride for the impact you make as a group.
Accelerating Asia is not just an investor - we’re also a company of our own. As a small but spirited organization, we are also taking our own steps toward the SDGs. Many of these initiatives are necessarily both internal and external: By executing these well within our own team, we can influence our wider community, such as our portfolio startups, co-investors, and other partners.
As an example, we can share our efforts toward SDG 5, which starts at the very heart of Accelerating Asia. Our two co-founders are Craig Bristol Dixon and Amra Naidoo, who is one of the few women general partners in the region, and they make each and every investment decision together.
Through the leadership of our co-founders, we have adopted a company-wide code of conduct, joining the likes of Blackbird Ventures, Airtree Ventures, Square Peg Capital, and other firms. While this code has many clauses, the general spirit aims to foster an inclusive culture and work environment for everyone. This code is further augmented by our gender advisory committee, which provides sage council in any relevant policies and programs.
We have shared our experiences tracking and impacting SDGs across our individual startups, portfolio, and own company again as an invitation: We hope you have takeaways that can help you measure social impact at your own organizations.
More importantly, we would like to work with you in changing the world. If you’re an investor concerned about social impact, please do consider investing in one of our startups, or investing in our latest fund, which will be deployed to other organizations dedicated to making meaningful change in Asia Pacific.
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.