Acumen is a leader in the fast-emerging hybrid sector that straddles private industry and nonprofits. Technically a nonprofit, it invests in enterprises in developing countries with the strategy and discipline of a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm.
Acumen's founder is Jacqueline Novogratz, a former banker with an infectious magnetism and a melodic voice that delivers a constant call to action. Under her leadership, the fund manages $20 million in investments that fall within three portfolios: health, water, and housing. But Acumen's goal is far larger than successful companies. Says Novogratz: "We're creating an overall design for how you provide goods and services to poor people."