Upaya Social Ventures Selects Next Two Companies for Investment: UpSkill and SMV Green

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Announcement Made at Investor Showcase in Bangalore Featuring Social Investors and Cohort Sponsor LinkedIn Co-Founder and VP Product Management, Allen Blue

“We are thrilled to support these two companies as they scale.” Upaya’s CEO Kate Cochran said. “Upaya believes in the power of entrepreneurs to fight global poverty. Mansi and Naveen are exceptional in how deeply they share our commitment to providing jobs and opportunity."

Upaya Social Ventures has selected two more companies for its investment portfolio of social enterprises creating jobs for the poorest of the poor. The companies are UpSkill Management Services Pvt Ltd and SMV Green Solutions. Details of the investments are to be negotiated; Upaya typically provides seed stage equity investments up to $50,000 per investment. The announcement was made on September 23rd at the Investor Showcase marking the conclusion of Upaya’s first Accelerator Program, “Formalizing the Informal Sector.”

UpSkill is a Mumbai-based technology company that aims to connect the fragmented education to employment market in India. Founded in 2013 by Mansi Agrawal, it is both a direct training program and a technology provider to training centers and corporates aiming to address the massive skills-gap in India where 90% of the workforce has no specialized training and industry projects a resulting jobs shortfall in the hundreds of millions by 2022. UpSkill’s technology product, Node, uses a SaaS model to capture data on all steps in the education to employment journey, from recruiting trainees to placement to career advancement. The platform will also include content for digital training.

“My motivation to join the Upaya cohort was foremost our vision congruence.” Mansi Agrawal said. “All through the last six months the Upaya team has worked relentlessly to connect us with the best minds in the social impact sector to help us understand it better and scale our businesses. Being part of the cohort was an honor enough and now having been selected to be an investee is great motivation for the entire team of UpSkill.”

SMV Green Soluitions, founded by Naveen Krishna, is a Varanasi-based company that finances battery-powered rickshaws so that drivers are able to upgrade from either gas-powered or manual rickshaws that are better for their own health and the environment. SMV Green provides financing for 24 months, after which the driver owns the vehicle and is better equipped to earn their way out of poverty. Of the 281 vehicles financed since April 2016, there have been zero defaults and 98% on time repayment. The company builds on the work of an earlier company founded by Krishna, SMV Wheels, which first addressed the physical drudgery of manual rickshaws with a lease-to-own model for auto-rickshaws. That company financed over 5,000 rickshaws.

SMV Green Founder Naveen Krishna: "Upaya Social Ventures assisted us to identify the key drivers in our work through their six-month program where we can double our impact with the same effort. Now with their investment, SMV Green is able to dignify the lives of 10,000 cycle rickshaw pullers in the next three years by upgrading them to electric rickshaws."

Upaya selected these two companies from a cohort of eight that completed a six-month program that included three four-day workshops and mentoring from a successful professional. The program culminated in an investor showcase at the Thought Factory in Bangalore on September 23rd where the companies connected with early stage impact investors. Representatives from Unicorn Ventures, Indian Impact Angel Network, Yunus Social Business, Loans4SME, Social Alpha, Bestseller Foundation, and Elevar Equity participated.

In addition to pitching to the impact investors, the entrepreneurs met with LinkedIn Co-Founder and VP of Product Management, Allen Blue, who sponsored the Accelerator Program. Blue has shown a serious interest in the future of workforce development and the ways that LinkedIn can fulfill its vision of providing economic opportunity for the global workforce. He kicks off a new series of conversations about the topic with an interview with Upaya CEO Kate Cochran speaking about how the future of work will affect the extreme poor here.https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/india-excited-future-work-us-should-too-allen-blue/

A complete list of the eight participating companies in the cohort includes:

Helper4U Services LLP, Meenakshi Gupta Jain, Mumbai
JobNukkad Services Pvt Ltd, Ankur Mehta, Mumbai
Kabadiwalla Connect Pvt Ltd., Siddarth Hande, Chennai
KhanaGaDi, Amit Deep Kumar, Jaipur
SMV Green Solutions Pvt. Ltd, Naveen Krishna, Varanasi
The Shoe Men, Saral Budhijara, Delhi
UpSkill Management Services Pvt. Ltd, Mansi Agarwal , Mumbai
Zero Waste Incorporation, Amit Lingwal, Rishikesh

For more information about Upaya Social Ventures, please contact:
Kate Cochran
kcochran(at)upayasv(dot)org

For more information about UpSkill, please contact:
Mansi Agarwal
mansi(at)upskillindia(dot)co(dot)in

For more information about SMV Green Solutions, please contact:
Naveen Krishna
smvgreensolutions(at)gmail(dot)com

About Upaya Social Ventures: Upaya creates dignified jobs for the poorest of the poor by building scalable businesses with investment and consulting support. Since 2011, Upaya has supported 12 small and growing businesses in India with investments and expertise. Upaya partners have created nearly 5,000 jobs. With offices in Seattle, Washington and New Delhi, India, Upaya has committed to a goal of helping partners create 15,000 jobs by the end of 2019. For more information on Upaya, please visit http://www.upayasv.org

About UpSkill: Upskill is on a mission to lift young adults out of poverty by providing them skill training using technology as a key to improving student engagement, teaching methodologies and employment outcomes. This technology platform NODE is a one stop solution for all stakeholders of the skill training ecosystem to optimize their operations, improve reporting procedures ultimately leading to bridging the gap between skilled manpower and their gainful career progression. Since 2013, Upskill has also trained and placed 4,500 youth across 3 Indian states through their skill development centers. Upskill is affiliated with the NSDC, World Skills India and multiple sector skills councils.

About SMV Green Solutions: SMV stands for Slow Moving Vehicle, which offers a unique solution to cycle rickshaw drivers to become owners of their own vehicle by making weekly repayments.

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