COLOMBIA - Finance
Director, Fundación EAN Impacta – Fondo Impacta
Paola Andrea Franco is recognized for being a developer of entrepreneurship ecosystems, strengthening and acceleration of businesses, and promoter of social and environmental impact initiatives, through innovation and technology. She has over 13 years of experience in different sectors, linked to the strategic areas of projects and innovation.
Around 10 years ago, Universidad EAN established the first incubator and started to work on the process of supporting entrepreneurs. Initially, the focus was not limited to sustainable entrepreneurs. When the sustainable entrepreneurship focus began, around three years ago, they started to analyze ways to close the gap regarding access to capital. This has been a challenging theme in the ecosystem, even though we currently have several funds. The university’s board wanted to help the ecosystem and not limit their action to giving support through the incubators, but extend it by providing funding. This money was non-refundable, being in the nature of seed capital. It did this for around two years but soon realized that something more sophisticated was required for close scrutiny of where the capital it provided was going. Therefore, it established a private equity fund, the starting point for Fondo Impacta. It solicited other investors, and the university itself provided 10% of the total capital, or USD10 million. We have supported around 100 projects over the past two years. Recently, we have been analyzing a further 50 companies that are currently going through fundraising initiatives in pursuit of capital. This would result in 150 companies in total.
We have two focuses regarding sustainability. The first concerns climate change impact and the second social impact. First, we have six vertical divisions of the circular economy, sustainable cities, mobility, mitigation and adaptation, and bio businesses and renewable energy. These six verticals are directly related to the environmental dimension. The social dimension encompasses everything to do with food security, all aspects of inclusion (financial, education for the future, and more), and aspects regarding diversity (gender equality, for instance). This is a summary of Impacta. It shows the essence of the uniqueness of EAN University. We are more than just a fund. We are supporting and giving access to finance in different ways, and not solely through equity. We are also set to offer different instruments to grant financial access to entrepreneurs. Our uniqueness lies in the fact that our knowledge comes from our sustainability, engineering, technology, social, and management programs, which provides support for the fund and entrepreneurs.