Lars Willi on social entrepreneurship and barriers to investment

Together with the Good Festival, we recently organized a Groundwork Day to brainstorm about how to better leverage entrepreneurs’ and investors’ ambitions. The afternoon offered an excellent opportunity to get a better understanding of each other’s perspective and needs. What do investors expect from entrepreneurs? And what do entrepreneurs expect from investors? Is there a role for enablers? As inspiration for the new year, we asked each of the groups present – entrepreneurs, investors and enablers – the same three short questions. Today, we start with the entrepreneur’s perspective. Here’s what Lars Willi, CEO of WECONNEX, had to say:

 

Lars Willi at the inauguration of our NEXUS Center in Basanthapur, Nepal

 

Entrepreneurs need funds, investors are interested in what they call “bankable” enterprises in the water sector, but the money is not necessarily flowing, why?

In my perspective the most difficult aspect of finding financing partners is to find the right partner. There are so many investors, but each of them has a specific strategy and focus. As entrepreneurs, we sometimes struggle to understand what investors are really looking for. On the other hand, investors might also struggle to understand what we, the entrepreneurs, have to offer. So, we need better matchmaking processes. The absence of effective matchmaking is currently limiting the flow of money into projects.

How can we overcome this barrier? What innovative approaches could we use?

There are a few ways to increase the knowledge level of all parties involved. One solution we discussed during the Groundwork Day was an online matchmaking platform, so to say a «Tinder for Businesses and Investors». To design such a platform is, however, quite a challenge. Many have tried and failed before us. Our idea was to have a neutral, non-partisan matchmaking solution, managed by a trustworthy partner (e.g. UN or Convergence) and open to both small and big projects, as well as investors.

What would you put on your New Year’s wish list for 2019? 

I would wish for more truthfulness and long-term thinking in business in general. If we bother to take a closer look, scores of things called sustainable are not really sustainable on many levels. We need to come back to the idea of the entrepreneur as a creator of prosperity and welfare for society as a whole. Thinking along those lines would force managers to have a longer-term vision, which would automatically make them consider not only financial goals but also social and ecological ones.

Stay tuned for the investor’s perspective… in our next blog post!