Case Study Sector
Jane Chen (GSB '08) and Brian Trelstad (GSB '99) had known one another for years. Trelstad, the chief investment officer of the nonprofit global venture fund Acumen Fund, had been a mentor to Chen and her colleagues as they worked to develop a low-cost infant warmer to meet the needs of low-birth-weight babies, their mothers, and healthcare providers in developing countries. Chen, who became the chief executive officer of Embrace Global, the nonprofit founded to achieve this objective, had come to value Trelstad's guidance and trust his advice. In late 2010, as she and her team were on the cusp getting their innovative new product to market, Chen and Trelstad's relationship took on a new dimension. Embrace was seeking an infusion of funds to support its product launch and help the company rapidly achieve scale. In parallel, Acumen Fund was continuing to look for organizations with game-changing products and services in need of patient capital on their way to becoming self-sustaining businesses that effectively serve the poor. Suddenly, Trelstad was a potential investor and Chen was a prospective investee. As they explored the possibilities of a financial partnership, one of the key questions facing Embrace was whether or not it should consider adopting a for-profit or hybrid organizational structure so it could raise more substantial funding by taking on equity investors. Acumen Fund had to think about whether or not it was interested in investing in Embrace, how to value the company, and how large a stake it might be willing to take if a deal moved forward. This case explores the situation from the perspective of both organizations and can be used to support a high-level negotiation between the two parties.
Learning objective: The purpose of the case is to: Inform students about the increasingly complex environment, structure, and economics of the social sector. Expose students to interactions between social entrepreneurs and prospective funders.
- Field Building
- Northern America