S.E.VEN FUND Announces VINE Project

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$50,000 in prizes to be awarded for top ideas for developing investment indicators for emerging market SMEs.

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A key issue in this field is that there is an ‘ivory tower’ phenomenon where only a selected few have the opportunity to suggest new ideas. With VINE, SEVEN is inviting the general public; the people who are actually closest to the issue to propose their ideas.

The Social Equity Venture Fund - S.E.VEN - (http://www.sevenfund.org) today announced the VINE (Virtual Integrated Networking Experience) Project. The unique competition, open to all, merges the world of commercial financial investment with open innovation to promote investment in emerging markets. The $50,000 prize will be shared among all those who contribute to the winning idea, starting with the originator and continuing to contributors or nodes along the two-phased “vine.” The winning idea will be announced in January 2009.

Entrepreneurs in emerging markets frequently cite a lack of access to investment capital as a barrier to starting and growing their businesses. The VINE Project is an ideal opportunity to think differently and creatively about new ways to approach investment in emerging market SMEs to ultimately promote further investment. For example, one Chinese manufacturer of solar photovoltaic panels needed to raise $40 million to reach its ambitious growth plan, and was able to access global venture funds and management talent. On the other side of the spectrum, an African horticulture company that processes and exports vegetables to Europe needed $800,000 to expand its operations, but had little access to funders outside of its home country. The challenge that we pose to you is to find a model that can address the needs of both types of firms.

The five-month long online competition invites anyone with ideas to submit, collaborate, and refine them. Once complete, S.E.VEN hopes to evaluate, develop, and publicly release a set of metrics that can be used to help improve investor confidence and stimulate investment in promising emerging market SMEs. To participate, contributors may submit their ideas at http://www.sevenfund.org/vine/ The first phase of the competition will remain open until November 15, with the second phase of wiki-based collaboration taking place between November 16 and December 15 at the VINE Project’s Web-based wiki which will be made publicly available in November. The online VINE community will select finalists and a jury of experts will award the grand prize. The winner will be announced in January 2009.

“The competition represents an opportunity for new voices to be heard,” said Andreas Widmer, co-founder of the S.E.VEN Fund. “A key issue in this field is that there is an ‘ivory tower’ phenomenon where only a selected few have the opportunity to suggest new ideas. With VINE, SEVEN is inviting the general public; the people who are actually closest to the issue to propose their ideas. ”

The $50,000 prize will be awarded to participants at critical nodes along the “vine” of the evolution of the winning idea; for example, the originator of the winning proposal might receive $20,000, with $10,000 each for two key editors or contributors, and $2,500 for each of the four other finalists. The expert panel of judges convened by SEVEN Fund will judge the second round competitors and has sole and absolute discretion to determine which submissions, if any, merit an award, and which individual participants are entitled to a share of any award. Questions about the competition can be directed to info@sevenfund.org.

This competition was funded through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. For additional information about the S.E.VEN Fund and to view other competitions, projects, and previous winners, please visit http://www.sevenfund.org.

About the S.E.VEN Fund
S.E.VEN (Social Equity Venture Fund – http://www.sevenfund.org) is a virtual non-profit entity run by entrepreneurs Michael Fairbanks and Andreas Widmer whose strategy is to markedly increase the rate of diffusion of enterprise-based solutions to poverty. We do this by targeted investment that fosters thought leadership through books, films and websites; supporting role models - whether they are entrepreneurs or innovative firms - in developing nations; and shaping a new discourse in business, finance, government, the press and the academy around private-sector innovation, prosperity and progressive human values.

About the John Templeton Foundation
The John Templeton Foundation (http://www.templeton.org) serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in the areas engaging life's biggest questions. These questions range from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity.

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