Acumen Fund: Measurement in Venture Philanthropy (A)

Posted: 13 Oct 2009

See all articles by Alnoor S. Ebrahim

Alnoor S. Ebrahim

Tufts University

V. Kasturi Rangan

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: September 16, 2009


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.

Suggested Citation

Ebrahim, Alnoor S. and Rangan, V. Kasturi, Acumen Fund: Measurement in Venture Philanthropy (A) (September 16, 2009). HBS Case No. 310-011, Harvard Business School General Management Unit, Harvard Business School Marketing Unit, Available at SSRN:

Alnoor S. Ebrahim (Contact Author)

Tufts University ( email )

160 Packard Avenue
Medford, MA 02155
United States

V. Kasturi Rangan

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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