Acumen was incorporated on April 1, 2001, with seed capital from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation and three individual philanthropists. Our desire was to transform the world of philanthropy by looking at all human beings not as distant strangers, but as members of a single, global community where everyone had the opportunity to build a life of dignity.
The organization we envisioned wouldn’t simply make grants, but would invest in entrepreneurs who had the capability to bring sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty. We would create a venture capital fund for the poor, supported by a global community of philanthropists willing to take a bet on a new approach. We would call our donors “Partners” and treat them like investors because our approach would be to invest together in long-term change. We enlisted twenty Founding Partners, whose generosity transformed Acumen from a vision to a reality. At the time, we knew we didn’t have any answers, so we simply started with a commitment to learn from our mistakes and let the work teach us.