2016 ANDE Annual Conference Session Panel Recap

Providing Comprehensive Technical Assistance to SGBs: Exploring Competing Approaches

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is a global network of organizations that supports entrepreneurship in emerging markets. ANDE focuses on small and growing businesses (SGBs) based on the idea that SGBs have the potential to create jobs, stimulate long-term economic growth, and produce environmental and social benefits. SGB’s, as defined by ANDE, are commercially viable businesses with 5 to 250 employees and seeking growth capital from $20,000 to $2,000,000.

SSG Advisors has been an ANDE member since 2014 and is constantly engaging with SGB’s across its diverse portfolio. Whether we are supporting capital raising for agribusinesses through the West Africa Trade Hub, or mentoring clean energy businesses in the Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia, we consistently work with brilliant entrepreneurs and dynamic businesses in a variety of capacities. Generally, our engagement comes about as part of a larger, donor-funded engagement, rather than as a direct contract with the SGB itself. In the development context, such support funded by a third party is typically referred to as “technical assistance” (TA).

At ANDE’s annual conference in 2016, SSG’s Director of Sustainable Investment, Darius Li, moderated a spirited discussion on technical assistance alongside two other panelists, Tahira Dosani, Managing Director of Accion Ventures, an impact investor, and Pedro Eikenbloom, Business Development Manager at PUM, a volunteer-based technical assistance provider. The discussion explored three main issues in the provision of TA: 1) Making the case for TA – where is it still most needed in the process, and how best can it be most effectively utilized?; 2) Discussing the different approaches and best practices in TA delivery; and 3) Identifying ways TA can be improved in its application and value to clients and beneficiaries.

Major takeaways from the discussion include:

  • Both pre and post investment TA are vital to the success of SGB’s. All participants agreed upon the necessity of TA and how it is a critical enabler to the placement of capital, and success after the fact, as the company absorbs the investment and continues to grow. The question remains, however, who is best positioned and willing to pay for that support.
  • Although the majority of TA for SGBs today is subsidized by donors, there may be a business case for investors to invest in pre-investment TA as a way of increasing overall returns. Anecdotally, doing so creates long-term financial value: supporting early stage companies increases their probability of ultimately being successful, and thereby improving exit opportunities and returns. Providing TA also helps attract better deals because it allows the investor to offer more value to potential portfolio companies, attracting a higher quality pipeline, transactions, as well as co-investors, particularly in a competitive deal situation with multiple bidders. Investors also learn from providing TA- it makes them better investors because they become more adept at understanding and solving the issues their portfolio companies face, enabling them to spot red flags early on. The combination of these benefits strongly suggest that providing TA can be a differentiator that yields greater returns for investors.
  • There are many different models of providing and paying for TA, and there may exist more effective models that better align long-term interests between TA providers and recipients. TA providers have explored a number of different models in this regard. Open Capital, for example, charges a deferred fee, payable on success. Others, like Growth Africa, take a combination of equity and success fees based on revenues, capital raised, etc. Other models for paying for TA include profit sharing models, self-liquidating exits, VPO, etc – all can be great for aligning incentives between TA providers and SGB’s, but the downside is they are also more complicated to structure. The bottom line is that there are a number of creative approaches emerging that TA funders, recipients, and providers can explore in finding better ways to work together.
  • Standardizing TA service delivery is key to reducing cost and increasing efficiency. For example, Accion always evaluates whether the TA needed is truly bespoke, or, alternatively, is an opportunity where best practices can be extracted and template-ized so that it can be shared with the broader portfolio on a more cost effective basis. Over time, Accion has recognized distinct patterns within their portfolio, with many companies sharing similar challenges. This is made possible by their narrow focus on seed stage investments for financial inclusion startups operating in emerging markets. As a result, they have met common needs for TA by developing distinct learning tools that are shared online and dramatically reduce costs over the long run. 20 such examples are available to the public in Accion’s Venturelab resource library.


The Concordia Summit and The Power of Partnerships

The world’s most prominent business, government, and nonprofit leaders convened during September’s UN General Assembly in New York at The Concordia Summit to examine how to catalyze effective partnerships for impact, discussing issues from global food supply to the refugee crisis to waste disposal.

The power of partnerships is no secret to SSG, as multi-lateral engagements have been the cornerstone of our work since the beginning. We have developed more than 200 partnerships in 50+ countries across every sector of development: poverty alleviation, natural resource management, economic development, education, health, climate resilience, gender, and conflict. Our work across the development space positioned us to engage around several issues at the Summit:

  • SSG’s Tim Moore is the Senior Partnerships Advisor for the USAID Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (Oceans), and has been leading the development of multi-stakeholder partnerships to combat illegal fishing and promote sustainable fisheries management in Asia Pacific through the development and adoption of electronic seafood traceability systems. At the Summit, he facilitated a discussion on the role of seafood traceability through partnership in addressing labor trafficking.
  • SSG’s Managing Director, Steve Schmida, presented updates on the TV White Space Partnership (TVWS) in the Philippines, which won the P3 Impact Award at Concordia in 2015. This partnership is a unique collaboration betweenMicrosoft, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ECOFISH project, and the Government of the Philippines to improve the lives of fisherfolk and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines by extending Internet access to remote and underserved coastal communities. In the last year, the Government of the Philippines built on the TVWS partnership success to scale its investments in the technology throughout the country as a critical component in its strategy to provide countrywide coverage for all of its citizens.
  • James Bernard , Director of ICT4D at SSG, and Tom Buck, Director of Natural Capital at SSG, participated in a round-table discussion focused on digitally-enabled partnerships. SSG’s work on a number of ICT4D projects – from business models for connecting the “bottom billion”, to using data to track sustainable fishing, to developing online badging programs to create jobs for underemployed youth – proved to be a valuable part of the discussion, which was attended by Qualcomm, Google, University of Notre Dame, Project Concern International, USAID, and other organizations.

This Summit is testament to the increasing importance of partnerships, in both the development and the diplomacy space. SSG has been at the forefront of harnessing public-private partnerships and private sector engagement to address the most challenging global development issues, and we must continue to innovate. The Concordia Summit inspired us with the work that others are doing and reminded us of the continued importance of collaboration to ignite opportunity and advance global good.

Seattle: The Ideal West Coast Home for SSG

retrieved from: http://www.theaie.us/Campuses/Seattle

In July, SSG opened its third US office in Seattle to enable us to better engage with clients and partners on the West Coast. Seattle is a natural choice for a West Coast Office for a firm such as SSG. Home to world class technology firms, such as Amazon and Microsoft, and a growing bio-technology industry, it also boasts a dynamic international development scene with organizations such as World Vision, the Gates Foundation and PATH. According to SSG President Nazgul Abdrazakova, “For SSG, Seattle is the perfect home on the West Coast. Not only does it boast an amazing ecosystem of innovative international companies and organizations, the Seattle community emphasizes local sustainability and global engagement – qualities very similar to what drew us to base SSG in Burlington, Vermont, a decade ago.”

Leading up the charge to build our Seattle office is James Bernard, Director of Strategic Partnerships. James joined SSG from Microsoft where he spent nearly 12 years building and managing international technology public private partnerships, primarily in the education sector. With more than 25 years of experience with technology and consumer companies, and a decade working at the nexus between technology and development, James brings a deep understanding of how companies, donors and communities can leverage ICT to solve social, economic and environmental problems. Although he has only been with the firm since April, James is already making an impact with clients from Kenya to Haiti.

“I have been blown away by the amazing team and incredible passion that SSG has in building partnerships and engaging in frontier markets.” says James. “The best news is that this is exactly what companies in the technology space are looking for – real-world expertise in working on the ground to help public, social and private sector organizations solve some of the world’s most intractable problems.”

We opened our office at the Impact Hub, an incubator for social enterprises located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. The central location, open work space and collaborative atmosphere enables SSG to connect with Seattle’s social innovation community and build relationships with firms and organizations committed to building a better world. We are excited to grow our team in this dynamic and diverse community.

SSG’s Partnership to Advance Internet Connectivity Promotes Sustainable Fishing, Saves Lives, and Wins Prestigious Award

SSG Advisors P3 Award

New York, NY – Current and former heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs, and other global leaders gathered in New York on Friday at the Concordia Summit to celebrate this year’s winner of the Public-Private Partnership (P3) Impact Award. This year, the award was given to the TV White Space Partnership, an innovative partnership between Microsoft, the Government of the Philippines and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), facilitated by SSG Advisors. Vice President Joseph Biden attended the Summit, and Secretary of State John Kerry offered his congratulations to Microsoft, USAID, and the Philippine Government for their tremendous impact in improving livelihoods and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines.

“That’s the very definition of paying it forward, and it is giving new life to the old saying ‘teach a person to fish,’” said Kerry, as he announced the winning partnership.

The TVWS Partnership improved the lives of fisherfolk and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines by extending Internet access to remote and underserved coastal communities, reaching over 20,000 people. The Partnership deployed Microsoft’s TVWS technology, which generates a long-range wireless Internet connection by riding empty television UHF and VHF broadcast channels. Together, the partners connected schools and community centers in six remote municipalities to the Internet via TVWS.

TVWS helped support a new mobile online system to register fisherfolk in hundreds of rural communities, improving fisheries management. This system enables the government to better understand who is fishing where and, as a result, to better manage precious and threatened fish stocks. Thanks to this project, the Government of the Philippines has now incorporated TVWS as a key element of its universal broadband access strategy.

The TVWS hubs also saved lives: when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the pilot region in October 2013, TV White Space was the only means of Internet connection and communication for relief workers and communities. It helped coordinate the relief effort, and it allowed victims to contact loved ones.

SSG Advisors, through its Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology, developed the TVWS partnership concept, brought the partners together, and facilitated the partnership during implementation.

“This partnership demonstrates the power of collaboration for solving some of the world’s most complex problems,” said Nazgul Abdrazakova, founder and President of SSG. “By forging connections between companies, governments, and communities, and by promoting innovative applications of existing technologies, we can deliver tremendous benefit to communities across the world.”

The award was announced at the Concordia Summit in New York City on October 2.

About SSG Advisors:

Founded in 2005, SSG Advisors LLC is an international development consulting firm based in Vermont with a global presence. This firm of innovative professionals is focused on harnessing the power of collaboration among companies, communities, and governments to address development challenges. SSG Advisors offers solutions that leverage the combined power of private investments and public initiatives to change lives. Since its founding, SSG has helped clients build and manage effective collaborations in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, where it has worked to tackle development challenges related to citizen security, economic growth in conflict-affected regions, enterprise development, workforce development, ICT, and climate-smart development.

About the P3 Impact Award:

Concordia, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Institute for Business in Society, and the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships created the P3 Impact Award to recognize public-private partnerships (P3s) that are changing our world in innovative and impactful ways.

Innovative TV White Space Public-Private Partnership Nominated for the P3 Impact Award

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that the TV White Space (TVWS) Partnership in the Philippines has been nominated for the P3 Impact Award. This prestigious award – a joint effort of Concordia, the State Department, and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business – is announced each year in the beginning of October at the Concordia Summit in New York City.

The TVWS partnership is a unique collaboration between Microsoft, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) ECOFISH project, and the Government of the Philippines to improve the lives of fisherfolk and the management of coastal fisheries in the Philippines by extending Internet access to remote and underserved coastal communities. The partnership deployed Microsoft’s TVWS technology, which generates an amplified wireless Internet connection by riding empty television UHF and VHF broadcast channels. Together, the partners connected schools and community centers in six remote municipalities to the Internet via TVWS, extending free Internet to over 20,000 people. The TVWS Untitledpartnership was also designed specifically to improve fisheries management: TVWS helped support a new mobile, online system to register fisherfolk in hundreds of rural communities. This system enables the government to better understand who is fishing where and, as a result, to better manage precious and threatened fish stocks. Importantly, the Government of the Philippines has now incorporated TVWS as a key element of its universal broadband access strategy.

SSG Advisors, through its Sustainable Transparent Effective Partnerships (STEP) methodology, developed the TVWS partnership concept, brought the partners together, and facilitated the partnership during implementation.

Today, the TVWS partnership has been recognized as one of five finalists for the P3 Impact Award. The award honors outstanding examples of public-private partnerships that have improved lives and communities around the world, and it recognizes best practices in the public-private partnership arena.

The winner will be announced at the Concordia Summit on October 1-2. Keep your fingers crossed for SSG Advisors, the TVWS partnership, and our partners!


SSG Advisors Media Contact:
Tess Zakaras, 802-735-1169
[email protected]

SSG Advisors and Tetra Tech Launch Mentor-Protégé Agreement


SSG President Nazgul Abdrazaokova and President of Tetra Tech International, Jan Auman, launch a USAID Mentor-Protégé Agreement.

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that we have launched a USAID Mentor-Protégé Agreement with Tetra Tech, a NASDAQ-traded consulting and engineering firm with 13,000 employees worldwide. Under the Mentor-Protégé Agreement, Tetra Tech will provide class-leading insight on operations, financial management, and strategy.

According to SSG President Nazgul Abdrazaokova, “Tetra Tech is one of the most experienced and capable organizations in international development today. Based on our shared Vermont roots, SSG and Tetra Tech have a long history of collaboration. We are currently implementing projects together in the Philippines, East Africa, and Afghanistan. Through the Mentor-Protégé Agreement, we will benefit from Tetra Tech’s deep expertise and systems in managing complex development projects and activities.   We are grateful to the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business (OSDBU) for championing the mentor-protégé program and look forward to making this agreement a success for SSG, Tetra Tech, and USAID.”

SSG Awarded USAID Public-Private Partnerships Program

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that we have been awarded the Partnership Services Program (PSP), a global IQC out of the USAID/Center for Transformational Partnerships Global Partnership Team (CTP/GP). The Center is part of USAID’s new Global Development Lab –a new entity that seeks to increase the application of science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to achieve, sustain, and extend the Agency’s development impact to help hundreds of millions of people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

SSG began working with the Global Partnerships team in 2005. Since 2007, SSG has provided training, analytical services, and partnership building support under the GDA Support IQC. Under the new PSP, SSG will provide partnership support services to USAID Missions and offices, facilitate corporate engagement, foster thought leadership, and deliver partnership training and capacity building.

Says SSG’s President Nazgul Abdrazakova, “It’s an exciting time to be engaging with USAID as it launches the new Global Development Lab, which will be at the forefront of innovative public-private collaboration. We look forward to supporting USAID’s leadership in public-private partnerships and private sector engagement.”

SSG’s Innovative Approach to Youth Engagement Enables Social and Economic Empowerment

One of the most vexing challenges facing the developing world remains what has commonly been termed the ‘youth bulge.’ While half of the world’s population is currently under the age of 30, 90% of these youth live in developing economies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. This burgeoning population presents enormous challenges as countries struggle to provide their young citizens with ample employment, education opportunities, social inclusion, and effective healthcare. Frustration at the lack of opportunity and political voice has already boiled over among youth throughout the Middle East, leading to sweeping and revolutionary change from Tunisia to Egypt as part of the Arab Spring.

Together with USAID and several key implementing partners, SSG has worked for a number of years at the leading edge of youth development in Africa and Asia. We’ve worked directly with youth organizations to empower them through solutions that provide youth with the skills, assets, and opportunities to shape their own future as healthy, educated, and productive citizens. In numerous challenging contexts, SSG has empowered youth to take control of their own destinies through a range of skills and partnership-development activities.

Yes Youth Can! capacity building


SSG Advisors served as a key implementing partner in Kenya for the Yes Youth Can Western youth empowerment project, training numerous youth organizations in private sector partnership development, which in turn led to over 100 youth-managed partnerships focusing on issues from agricultural commercialization and business training to conservation, ecotourism, and waste management. Under the USAID/Pakistan Conflict Victims Support Program (CVSP), SSG mobilized numerous partnerships across a broad range of industries, including pharmaceutical, telemedicine, manufacturing, microfinance, media, agribusiness, and finance, directly benefiting more than 1,600 at-risk youth in the northern war-torn regions. Partnerships focused on vocational training, building trust between young citizens and their government, and encouraging youth to take an active role in their own lives. SSG has also worked with the USAID/Africa Bureau to mainstream youth and community development strategies to reduce the potential for violent extremism and recruitment of youth to extremist organizations. In the Philippines, SSG developed a partnership with Microsoft to use TV White Space—unused TV broadcast channels—to establish wireless Internet connectivity in remote fishing areas. Through the partnership, local schools and municipal centers are serving as e-knowledge hubs and registration centers for local youth and their communities.

As the rapidly evolving Arab Spring has shown, countries and markets cannot develop successfully without providing youth with clear avenues for economic and social empowerment. Without focused efforts to provide youth with pathways for economic and social improvement, emerging markets and democracies will remain squarely in the shadow of the youth bulge. SSG understands the central importance of this paradigm and continually strives towards youth empowerment across its program portfolio.

SSG Welcomes New Public-Private Partnerships Specialist in Bosnia

SSG Advisors is pleased to welcome Semsa Alic as Partnership Specialist on the USAID/Bosnia Growth Oriented Local Development (GOLD) project.  Based in Sarajevo, Semsa is responsible for engaging Bosnian and international firms in the development of public-private partnerships focused on job creation in several municipalities in the Balkans country.  Semsa joins SSG from the Dutch firm, SNV, where she worked on investment and private sector development projects for the United Nations and other clients.  Semsa is a certified PPP specialist and holds a Masters in Public Administration.

Company News: SSG Joins New USAID Economic Development and Clean Energy Projects in the Balkans and Asia

SSG Advisors is pleased to announce that it is working with Deloitte Emerging Markets on two new USAID projects. In Bosnia, SSG Advisors will be working with Deloitte to promote local economic development in several key communities as part of the GOLD project. Co-funded by USAID and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), GOLD will leverage innovative public-private partnerships to drive private sector investment and promote employment in Bosnia.

In Southeast Asia, SSG is working with Deloitte on the Private Financing Advisory Network-Asia project. This new 5-year project will seek to drive private investment into clean energy projects across several countries in the region. SSG Advisors is the major subcontractor to Deloitte and will be responsible for several components of the project related to capacity development and partnerships.

“We are excited about our collaboration with Deloitte on these cutting-edge projects. Although they differ in terms of geography and technical focus, both PFAN and GOLD will use cutting-edge approaches to drive market solutions to development challenges. That is what SSG Advisors is all about,” said Steve Schmida, SSG Advisors Managing Director.