“Voices of the Entrepreneurs” is both a celebration of what New Ventures has achieved so far and a springboard to its future. This report highlights the experience of 32 New Ventures entrepreneurs and provides valuable insights into the challenges that hinder the growth of environmental enterprises in emerging markets. It also illustrates how business accelerators like New Ventures can help them scale their small businesses, with a recognition and call for more support to help move the environmental entrepreneurship industry forward.

Executive Summary

Voices of the Entrepreneurs

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can account for as many as four out of five jobs and more than 29 percent of GDP in developing countries. Environmental SMEs—enterprises that capitalize on commercial opportunities while generating clear, measurable environmental benefits—have an important role in shaping growth that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

Yet the entrepreneurs behind these environmental SMEs face many challenges that limit their ability to grow their businesses. The main roadblocks highlighted by the environmental entrepreneurs whom we interviewed were: accessing finance, attracting and maintaining quality human capital, tackling limited markets and mind-sets, overcoming unsupportive policies, coping with risk and uncertainty, and distributing their products and services. New Ventures addresses these roadblocks by empowering entrepreneurs to develop solid business plans and skills, linking entrepreneurs to networks of mentors and supporters, and showcasing entrepreneurs to investors.

There is much more to be done. The barriers that prevent environmental entrepreneurs from scaling up their businesses are far from gone, but as Earth’s resources become increasingly constrained, our future well-being will depend more than ever on the success of these entrepreneurs. In addition to accelerators like New Ventures, donors, investors, policymakers, corporations, and international development institutions will need to step up to enable greater success for environmental entrepreneurs.

A Note on New Ventures’ Transition

With strong, distinct New Ventures programs in Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico, WRI has decided to conclude its role as global coordinator. WRI is immensely proud of New Ventures’ accomplishments and is confident that the program will reach new heights with greater local and regional independence.