Ascend Venture Fund
Investment: Ascend Venture Fund
Type: Impact Investment Fund
Refugee investment category: R4
SDGs addressed: 8, 10
Headquarters regions: Fund is based in Cyprus, focused on Greece
Summary: The Ascend Venture Fund (AVF), Greece’s first social impact fund, will invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Greece to create quality jobs for refugees, migrants, and vulnerable locals.To build a replicable model for a country-specific impact investing fund deliberately designed to forge stronger intercommunal relations between local populations and recent arrivals. The AVF aims to reach 2000+ refugees and other vulnerable populations and support 25+ SMEs in Greece.
Potential refugee impact: The Ascend Venture Fund (AVF) will invest in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Greece to create quality jobs for refugees, migrants, and vulnerable locals. AVF is Greece’s first social impact fund, and one of the first funds ever to be deliberately designed for the purpose of forging stronger intercommunal relations between local populations and more recent arrivals. The fund aspires to impact over 2,000 refugees and other vulnerable populations, and help over 25 investee companies grow.
Investment thesis: The investment thesis behind AVF, initially developed by Radcliffe Foundation, combines a clear impact goal—social integration of vulnerable populations through employment generation and ongoing support—with a targeted financial return of approximately 5% net IRR. Their investment thesis is motivated by the identification of a market opportunity to invest in high-quality local SMEs with significant growth potential that have also had difficulty accessing financing at competitive rates due to funding constraints in the local market.
Structure: The fund will be based in Cyprus, and managed by CNL, an innovative Greek “alternative investment fund manager” with a successful track record in local SME investing. AVF is complemented by a non-profit technical assistance vehicle, which will identify, train, and support job candidates, as well as monitor key outcomes during their period of employment with AVF portfolio companies. It will also support portfolio companies to improve workplace standards and create on-the-job programs that help employees from vulnerable populations succeed, reduce intergroup tensions, and promote successful social integration through the workplace. Finally, the AVF technical assistance vehicle will be responsible for putting in place rigorous impact metrics to capture the effect of AVF on participating populations along specific dimensions, including self-reliance and social integration.