Acumen Angels Program Invests $1M in our Fellowship and Accelerator Alumni
Meet the awardees of our early stage capital program designed to elevate and advance impact-driven entrepreneurs within our community.
February 23, 2023
Acumen Academy believes that to truly change the way the world solves poverty, we must provide capital and support to bold leaders who are committed to a definition of success that puts human dignity and the earth at the center.
About Acumen Angels
Acumen Angels is an early stage capital award designed to advance our community of impact-driven entrepreneurs from around the world who are alumni of Acumen Academy’s Fellowship and Accelerator programs — and whose business models and leadership qualities have high potential to solve problems of poverty and build a world based on dignity.
From 2019 to 2021, Acumen Angels awarded $1.4M USD in capital to 27 early stage organizations across the globe. After receiving capital from Acumen Angels, these entrepreneurs continue to advance and exponentially increase their impact around the world.
For example, social enterprise Kheyti, founded by Kaushik Kappagantulu and Sathya Raghu — two Acumen Fellows and Acumen Angels awardees — has since received Prince William’s 2022 Earthshot Prize, the most prestigious environmental prize in the world.
As we continue to feel inspired by how the Acumen Angels capital helped set early stage enterprises up for success, we’re delighted to continue growing this program. At the end of 2022, we selected 21 entrepreneurs to receive $25,000-$50,000 USD to help them scale their innovative projects, which have collectively impacted over 1,159,000 lives around the world.
While their initiatives span multiple sectors, including education, agriculture, workforce development, and healthcare, and reach diverse regions such as Kenya, Colombia, India, and beyond, these individuals are bound by a commitment to shared values, to common work, and to each other — the essence of the Acumen Academy community.
Distinguished Qualities of an Acumen Angels Awardee
Over time and with determination, Acumen Academy has cultivated a deep rooted community of partners, allies, and entrepreneurs who believe that, with the right support, the next generation of leaders will not just succeed, but thrive.
These 21 entrepreneurs are innovators with audacious plans to solve problems of poverty and build a world based on dignity. As alumni from our fellowship and accelerator programs, they represent the unique convergence of humility, character, and proven competence to execute.
Additionally, they have demonstrated their ability to pilot a market-based initiative with at least one revenue stream, and have proven that their ideas are built to scale — leading to exponential impact around the world.
Meet the Founders
Read below to learn about each of these inspiring entrepreneurs, their impact across the globe, and the unique ways they plan to use Acumen Angels capital to build a better world.
Justine Abuga | Kenya
Founder of Ecobora
Justine Abuga is an Acumen Academy IKEA Social Entrepreneurship East Africa Accelerator alumnus and the founder of Ecobora, a social enterprise providing clean and affordable solar powered cooking boilers to rural and marginalized schools in Kenya. Ecobora has developed the first clean and affordable cook stove currently being used across Kenyan schools to replace existing firewood boilers, which are expensive, smokey, and unhealthy. To date, they have provided over 72,000 rural students with access to free and safe school meals. Justine plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to introduce a pay-as-you-go technology — an energy-as-a-service model that is more scalable, investable, and will help Ecobora reduce gas emission and provide future carbon financing options to the rural schools they serve.
Abisade Adenubi | Nigeria
Founder of Heritage Apparels
Abisade Adenubi is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Heritage Apparels, a garment production company on a mission to revive Nigeria’s apparel industry. Heritage Apparels offers affordable clothing for the mass-market in order to reduce the importation of clothes in Nigeria, and provides skills training and job placement for Nigerian youth in the industry. Abisade plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to create and scale the company’s own affordable clothing brand, purchase equipment to improve production quality and efficiency, and expand their team.
Juan Jorge Cuesta Arévalo | Colombia
Founder of Fundación Timbalé
Juan Jorge Cuesta Arévalo is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Fundación Timbalé, focused on empowering and transforming vulnerable youth in Colombia — a country where 3.2 million young people are neither studying nor working. The organization provides a safe space and social programs where dance, music, and culture are tools for promoting the physical, emotional, and social well-being of youth facing poverty, exclusion, and lack of opportunities. Juan plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to train trainers who will conduct social programs within their own communities, and to fund the production of artistic events.
Qasim Aslam | Pakistan
Founder of The History Project
Qasim Aslam is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of The History Project which is an online academy offering courses on dialogue, facilitation, and mediation for Pakistani youth. Their array of courses help youth reduce power disparity by equipping them with the skills and spaces to engage in dialogue across lines of difference. Qasim plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to complete the building of their core online offerings and to achieve their next level of scale, which includes reaching 2,000 graduate students.
Arshiya Bose | India
Founder of Black Baza Coffee Co
Arshiya Bose is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Black Baza Coffee Co., a coffee brand built in partnership with smallholder coffee farmers across India. The enterprise provides smallholder coffee producers with secure and stable livelihoods, strengthens farming practices that conserve biodiversity, and invites coffee drinkers to contribute with each cup of coffee or product they purchase. Arshiya plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build a marketing and sales team focused on both increasing sales within India and expansion abroad.
Soumya Dabriwal | India
Founder of Project Baala
Soumya Dabriwal is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Project Baala which is an innovative menstrual health provider working to end period poverty and period illiteracy while generating employment for women in India. Project Baala provides affordable and reusable pads, hosts awareness workshops, and employs and trains women entrepreneurs. To date, they have provided 400,000 women and girls with their products and services. Soumya plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to pilot and iterate their new product: an innovative hydrophobic reusable pad, and position it as a product of choice for consumers in India.
Mario Ferro | Thailand
Founder of Waiser
Mario Ferro is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Waiser which offers underserved students in Southeast Asia flexible and affordable financing for their education. Waiser is able to provide Future Income Sharing Agreements (FISA) to students who cannot afford to finance courses in post secondary and vocational education by building and managing pools of capital from partners, and charging a management fee for their services. FISA are more affordable than student loans and have flexible repayment plans. Mario plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build the team and IT infrastructure that will help them scale their activities and build operational efficiencies.
Michelle Ijomah | Nigeria
Co-Founder of Agnes Health
Michelle Ijomah is an Acumen Academy Gender Equity and Advancement Accelerator alum and the co-founder of Agnes Health, a maternal health app in Nigeria connecting pregnant users with board-certified midwives, providing 24/7 tele-health services, and sharing educational content. To date, they have provided almost 3,000 pregnant women with health education and expert guidance in local languages. And by 2026, they will have supported 16 million users. Michelle plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to cover the cost of improving their technology and software, strengthen their product offerings to pregnant users, and improve their capacity.
Sahar Jamal | Kenya
Founder of Maziwa Breastfeeding
Sahar Jamal is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Maziwa Breastfeeding which provides African mothers with affordable products and services to balance their baby’s health alongside their family’s economic needs. The company’s Wema breast pump — co-created with 800+ mothers — is the first of its kind and allows working moms to discreetly, wirelessly, and efficiently pump breast milk. The company’s 80 Community Breastfeeding Ambassador programs have provided over 13,000 mothers with much needed peer-to-peer lactation support. Sahar plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to increase access to the Wema pump for over 2000 working mothers through a subsidized rental option, and to scale their Community Breastfeeding Ambassador program.
Shravan Jha | India
Founder of I-Saksham Education And Learning Foundation
Shravan Jha is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of I-Saksham Education And Learning Foundation, which runs a 2-year fellowship program to upskill young women in Bihar, India, where 88 percent of rural women drop out after secondary school and 43 percent are forced into early marriage. The fellowship equips women with the 5Cs: confidence, competence, community-of-practice, connections, and choices to become grassroots “leaders of change.” To date, they have directly and indirectly impacted the lives of 10,000 young women in Bihar. Shravan plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to lay the groundwork for scale and upskill thousands of more young rural women as grassroots leaders.
Sumeet Kaur | India
Founder of Spudnik Farms
Sumeet Kaur is an Acumen Academy Climate Resilient Agriculture Accelerator alum and the founder of Spudnik Farms which is a delivery service in India that sells fresh and local produce and indigenous products. Sourcing their goods directly from smallholder farmers across the country, Spudnik Farms partners with farmer collectives to help them build production capacity, develop processing capabilities, and provide direct access to consumer markets. Sumeet plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build their marketing and e-shop, upgrade their infrastructure, and conduct product development research.
Kwabena Assan Mends | Ghana
Founder of Emfed Farms and Trading Company
Kwabena Assan Mends is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Emfed Farms and Trading Company, an agribusiness company offering farm-management services to smallholder cocoa farmers in Ghana. Emfed helps make cacao farming profitable by providing smallholder farmers with financially, socially, and environmentally sustainable farming practices. One of their offerings includes collecting and upcycling cacao husks from farmers to produce compost which they then sell back to the farmers for use. Kwabena plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to aggregate more cocoa husks in order to increase the company’s production of compost — which is currently in short supply — from 20 tonnes to100 tonnes per day.
Razin Mustafiz | Bangladesh
Founder of Shujog
Razin Mustafiz is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Shujog which enables low and middle-income workers to live a life free from financial hardship. Almost 90 percent of employed Bangladeshis live paycheck to paycheck and lack formal credit. Without access to credit, these workers resort to loan sharks, charging high interest rates and tossing workers into a vicious cycle of poverty. Charging a flat fee to employers, Shujog is free for workers and gives them instant access to their earned wages before payday. Razin plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build out the first Android, WhatsApp, IVR, and web apps for employees, conduct pilot programs, and kick off sales and marketing efforts.
Azwa Nayeem | Bangladesh
Founder of Alokito Teachers
Azwa Nayeem is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Alokito Teachers, a nonprofit on a mission to create and implement a one-stop teacher development platform for low-cost schools in Bangladesh. Following a needs-and evidence-based service model, the organization works with a community of teachers to improve their teaching so they can provide quality education to underserved children across the country. Azwa plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to launch their school membership model — a combined approach of digital and in-person coaching methods to grow their community of school clients.
Teresa Njoroge | Kenya
Founder of Clean Start Kenya
Teresa Njoroge is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Clean Start Kenya. After being wrongfully imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, Teresa founded Clean Start Kenya, which helps women and children impacted by the criminal justice system reintegrate into society through dignified employment training, referrals, and holistic services. Earlier this year, she was announced as an Elevate Prize winner. Teresa plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to expand their programs to Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Botswana, and South Africa.
John Nyagwencha | Kenya
Founder of Aqua Clara Kenya
John Nyagwencha is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Aqua Clara Kenya, a nonprofit providing affordable water filters across Africa. By building local capacity and providing effective and sustainable solutions for clean water, they’re addressing the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation throughout rural communities. To date, Aqua Clara Kenya has impacted the lives of 500,000 adults and children through their sanitation training program and water treatment solutions. John plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to pilot a new business model where large rural schools pay a monthly service fee for access to and the maintenance of a community water filter.
Nivedita Rai | India
Founder of Karghewale by Loomers India
Nivedita Rai is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Karghewale by Loomers India, which is an incubator platform helping artisan-entrepreneurs who operate their own micro-enterprises find the right domestic and international markets to sustainably grow their businesses. In an industry where the middle-man controls production, artisans tend to suffer poor compensation and loss of creative agency. Karghewale by Loomers India creates an alternative ecosystem for these aspiring artisan-entrepreneurs, providing them with the services they need to achieve their full potential. Nivedita plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to embark on a five-year growth plan to scale the number of artisan-entrepreneurs served.
Mainak Roy | India
Founder of Simple Education Foundation
Mainak Roy is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Simple Education Foundation which offers a holistic teacher development program for government schools in India. With the mission to reinvent 50,000 schools and provide high quality learning to more than 10 million children through teacher training, the Foundation has already served 110,000 public school educators with workshops, teaching and learning tools, and instructional coaching. Mainak plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build a Learning Management System (LMS) and Tools Library that will increase access to their offerings, assess user learning experiences, and help the government design better teacher training programs to improve education.
Shehu Shamsudeen | Nigeria
Founder of Alliance for Sustainable Livestock
Shehu Shamsudeen is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Alliance for Sustainable Livestock, a last-mile veterinary service for marginalized livestock farmers in Nigeria. Alliance for Sustainable Livestock supports a farmer community of mostly women farmers and helps them access animal health services, prevent livestock diseases, and keep their livestock healthy for adequate production. By providing capacity building to animal health experts and by connecting them to rural farmers, the organization promotes an economically sustainable, socially inclusive, and environmentally friendly livestock system in Africa. Shehu plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to increase training, equipment, and awareness for community-based animal health workers.
Archana Stalin | India
Founder of myHarvest Farm
Archana Stalin is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of myHarvest Farms, a farm-to-home platform which enables Indian farmers to grow and sell organic produce, helping to improve their livelihoods. myHarvest teaches farmers climate resilient practices and provides access to a community built on fair pricing and environmental sustainability. They also offer home delivery services so families can access safe, chemical-free produce. Archana plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to scale their farmer community, automate their operations, and grow their team’s capacity.
Mathangi Swaminathan | India
Founder of Parity Lab
Mathangi Swaminathan is an Acumen Fellow and the founder of Parity Lab, an organization working to solve gender-based violence in India, where systemic inequalities prevent women from accessing resources to end violence in their communities. Through their 18-month accelerator program, Parity Labs helps support, strengthen, and scale grassroots organizations led by under-represented rural communities that are addressing gender-based violence. Mathangi plans to use the Acumen Angels capital to build the first-of-its-kind legal helpline to support rural organizations with 24/7 trustworthy legal support in their native language.