Since development organisation ICCO secured a substantial interest in One to Watch, the latter has been able to scale up its professional activities and help more Nepalese businesses expand and make a positive impact in the country.
One to Watch has been closely working with ICCO for the past eighteen months. “WhenI first met co-founder Dirk Aleven, I had a feeling things would work out”, said ICCO’s Jaap-Jan Verboom. “At the time, we were looking at ways to set up an accelerator programme to get agricultural companies in Nepal ready for “early stage investment”. We found that One to Watch was well ahead in this respect. It has a large network, an excellent reputation and a good organisation. It seemed more logical to become partners rather than try to compete.”
The first concrete step as partners was to finance Rockstart Impact in 2014. Verboom: “we wanted to test Rockstart’s accelerator programme – a reputable concept in the Netherlands – to see if it would also work to start up Nepalese companies.” It was a success. Eight of the ten participating companies were able to attract investors. After that the partnership rapidly took off. ICCO promised funding for the coming years so that Rockstart Impact Nepal could continue. One to Watch, ICCO and Rockstart also agreed to roll out Rockstart Impact in other Asian countries.
And now ICCO has invested in One to Watch itself. Verboom: “we envisage a long-term partnership so it’s logical to become proper business partners. Our office in Nepal continues to support farmers, offering them farming courses and capacity training but we are positioning our Agribusiness Booster, which is a co-entrepreneurship programme investing and co-working with local companies, with One to Watch. Verboom expects that ICCO Nepal’s NGO activities will strengthen One to Watch. “For example, when a farmers’ cooperative becomes more professional, companies buying and processing the products also profit.”
ICCO’s ambitions are in tune with those of One to Watch, said the latter’s co-founder, Willem Grimminck. “ICCO will continue helping Nepalese companies, working with them and investing in them. This is exactly what we’ve been doing for the past four years.” One to Watch now has 10 companies in its portfolio and represents 20 Dutch investors in Nepal. “ICCO’s investment means we can professionalise our organisation and create added value for our customers."
In recent years ICCO has gradually begun to cooperate more closely with the private sector but this is the first time it has bought itself into a local impact investor. Apart from the Agribusiness Booster, the NGO has set up a micro-finance programme and an impact investment fund.
ICCO was set up in 1964 and is active in Africa, Asia and Latin America.