PACE Initiative

Infographic demonstrating the various ways USAID works to bridge the pioneer gap

Entrepreneurs play a vital role in driving economic growth, creating jobs and innovating to improve people's’ lives through market-based solutions. Impact investors are looking for a pipeline of businesses to invest in that generate both financial and social returns. 

Yet impact investors are often unable to connect with the early-stage entrepreneurs due to the "pioneer gap" that exists between high-risk, promising early-stage enterprises and impact investors looking for enterprises to invest in.

Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative

The Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative aims to catalyze private-sector investment into early-stage enterprises and identify innovative models or approaches that help entrepreneurs bridge the pioneer gap – thus unlocking the potential of thousands of promising enterprises around the world.

Working in partnership with more than 40 incubators, accelerators, and seed-stage impact investors, USAID’s U.S. Global Development Lab creates public-private partnerships dedicated to testing ways to bridge this gap and foster entrepreneurship. These partnerships are expected to leverage $100 million in combined public and private investments over their lifetime. 

PACE Initiative Partnerships

Since September 2014, the Lab has announced the following partnerships formed under the PACE initiative:

Village Capital finds, trains, and funds entrepreneurs through a unique peer-selected investment approach.  With financial support from USAID, Village Capital was able to raise a $15 million fund that leverages the peer selection process to make small, early-stage investments in a cost-effective way. Click here for more information on the Village Capital partnership. 

Unitus Seed Fund is a micro venture capital firm that applies the best practices of for-profit investing to early-stage social enterprises in India. With USAID support, Unitus Seed Fund is helping Indian accelerators improve their services to entrepreneurs and expanding their investments into ten new cities. Click here for more information on the Unitus partnership. 

Kindergarten students attending a Hippocampus Learning Centres program.
Through PACE, Unitus Seed Fund will expand its work with start-ups like Hippocampus Learning Centres, a leader in rural kindergarten programs for low-income students in India.
Hippocampus Learning Centres

Shell Foundation supports entrepreneurs seeking to provide access to modern clean energy services for low-income communities in developing countries. USAID and Shell are jointly supporting early-stage clean energy technology start-ups through Factor(E), an incubator based in Colorado, and Sangam Ventures, an investment firm based in India. 

Catalyst for Growth aims to increase transparency in the business development services marketplace in South Africa by standardizing quality tracking systems of accelerators, incubators, and other service providers for early-stage entrepreneurs. 

Open Capital Advisors works with impact investors to provide tailored technical assistance to accelerate growth and investment for early-stage small and growing businesses in East Africa. USAID is partnering with five investors to extend Open Capital's services to earlier-stage enterprises through a tiered, pay-for-success support model. Click here for more information on the OCA partnership. 


Shujog is a technical assistance program implementing blended methods of providing business development services to entrepreneurs across Asia. USAID is supporting Shujog to create and deploy network of organizations to provide a full suite of investment support services for social enterprises in Southeast Asia. 

Jibu is a social enterprise focused on delivering affordable water to underserved urban populations. By partnering with USAID, Jibu has been able to rapidly expand their franchises to new markets and close on two rounds of private growth capital. Click here for more information on the Jibu partnership. 

Intellecap is accelerating social enterprises through corporate partnerships and angel networks in East Africa. With USAID support, Intellecap is expanding their proven model from India to East Africa, providing a broad set of acceleration and corporate partnership support services to entrepreneurs in the region. 

Enclude & Agora Partnerships, with Santa Clara University's Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Banco de America Central (BAC) Nicaragua, aims to expand access to finance for small and growing businesses, targeting those women-owned or -led, with a loan product that assesses risk and repayment of loans through variable payments and cash flow, rather than traditional assets. 

A man checks installation of a Simpa Networks household energy system.
Simpa Networks, a business supported by PACE partner Village Capital, provides affordable solar energy that customers can pay for in small increments by mobile phone. To date, Simpa Networks has sold its product to over 3,000 customers.
Simpa Networks

Edge Growth, along with Association of Savings and Investment in South Africa (ASISA), aims to close a critical gap in the South African market by combining hands-on business development support with access to ASISA’s investment fund and integration of small and medium enterprises into corporate supply chains. Click here for more information on the ASISA/Edge Growth partnership. 

I&P is partnering with USAID to support the creation of three new locally funded and locally managed seed-stage impact investing funds in Sénégal, Burkina Faso and Niger. 

    MCE Social Capital is partnering with USAID to use an innovative loan guarantee model to expand their existing work in funding micro-finance institutions and to launch a fund dedicated to supporting small and growing businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.

    Root Capital is partnering with USAID to invest in the growth of early-stage agricultural small and growing businesses (SGBs) and improve their access to more formal and/or commercial markets. Through the partnership, USAID and Root Capital will examine the costs, impacts, and returns associated with lending to early-stage businesses, and build the case for increased investment in blended capital approaches to accelerating business growth and graduation to commercial markets.

    Villgro Innovation Foundation is partnering with USAID to replicate their early-stage highly customized incubation model in Kenya and Vietnam.

    • In Kenya, Villgro and USAID are working with the Lemelson Foundation to support Villgro-Kenya’s health-focused incubator.
    • In Vietnam, Villgro and USAID are working with Lotus Impact to set up an incubation and investment program alongside new local angel investor networks, such as the Mekong Angel Investor Network.

      Global Accelerator Learning Initiative: In order to ensure that PACE not only tests innovative acceleration models but also contributes significantly to the sector’s knowledge base, the Lab is partnering with the Omidyar Network, The Lemelson Foundation, the Argidius Foundation, the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), and Emory University to launch the most comprehensive research project to-date on the efficacy of accelerator programs. As a result of this Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI), accelerator programs will have statistical data and market insight to better inform their own decision-making as they train the entrepreneurs who create the goods and services that benefit all sectors of society. This data will also be made available to researchers and practitioners for their own analyses, providing greater understanding to all involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, from managers to policy makers.



      Spark Logo

      The President’s Spark Global Entrepreneurship Initiative challenges our government’s premier entrepreneurship programs the goal of generating over a billion dollars from private investment for emerging entrepreneurs by 2017–with over half raised by women and youth. They commit to generate at least $10 million dollars over three years for emerging entrepreneurs. Spark is about connections. Connections between disparate government programs. Connections with the private sector and outside organizations. Connections between entrepreneurs and the resources, opportunities, and networks the need to succeed.

      Last updated: March 02, 2017

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