Speaker: Brian Milder, Director of Strategy & Innovation for Root Capital
Discussion Topic: As microfinance has entered mainstream capital markets and attracted commercial investment in recent years, the financial frontier has moved to the "missing middle" - businesses that are too large for microfinance but considered too small and too risky by traditional banks. Rural businesses in the missing middle, particularly those in the agriculture sector, are doubly isolated from urban financial institutions. These small and growing businesses offer enormous opportunities to create jobs and generate taxable revenues for developing countries, but their growth is often stunted by a lack of access to finance.
Root Capital is a nonprofit social investment fund that provides credit and financial training to rural businesses in the missing middle in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Its loans range in size from $25,000 to $1,000,000 with a focus on enterprises - both cooperatives of small-scale producers and private businesses - exporting sustainable natural products in the following sectors: agriculture, forestry, fisheries, handcrafts, and ecotourism. Since its inception in 1999, Root Capital has lent more than $115 million to 200 small and growing businesses representing over 400,000 small-scale producers while maintaining a repayment rate in excess of 99 percent. Its long-term objective is to demonstrate the viability of lending to the rural missing middle and attract commercial capital to this underserved market.
About Brian: Brian Milder is the Director of Strategy and Innovation at Root Capital. He is a 2007 graduate of the Harvard Business School and has worked at Root Capital since 2006 as a volunteer, summer intern, consultant, and full-time staff member.
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