Unitus Inc, the Seattle-based non-profit organisation, has decided to pull back from its operations in the microfinance space and instead focus on other socio-economic activities. Unitus has backed several for-profit private equity funds focused on the microfinance space and an advisory firm. Both of these have been spun off and are expected to continue their activities without any impact.
Unitus said, it will lay off staff of 40 individuals from its offices in Bangalore, Seattle, and Nairobi. Remaining assets will be directed into new early-stage, poverty-focused philanthropic activities, said Unitus in a statement.
Unitus has backed two private equity funds focusing on microfinance space and other social ventures. These funds, currently being managed by Elevar Equity, are $23.6-million Unitus Equity Fund and $70- million Elevar Equity Fund II. The fund, management team of Unitus funds was made into a separate legal entity called Elevar Equity Advisors.
Unitus has also backed Bangalore-based advisory firm Unitus Capital. The firm was was set up in 2008 and has been actively helping MFIs raise equity and debt funding across more than 16 deals. Unitus Capital has operations in Bangalore, Hong Kong, London and Sydney.
“There will be no impact on Elevar’s existing two funds. Elevar will continue to manage the Unitus Equity Fund (UEF), a fund that is already fully committed. The developments at Unitus do not affect our commitment to our portfolio companies, investors and mission to invest in sustainable businesses to help transform the 4 billion at the base of the pyramid worldwide,” said Elevar spokesperson when contacted by VCCircle.
Geoff Woolley, a former Unitus board member, will take over from the outgoing CEO Dr. Bright Helms.
“We are gratified that this core belief has been validated—capital markets have embraced microfinance to the extent that there are tens of billions of dollars in microfinance capital now available annually, with additional providers entering the marketplace at an aggressive clip,” said Joseph Grenny, chair of the board for Unitus. “We now feel that there is greater need for our capital and energy in other areas—which we are currently exploring—aligned with our overarching mission of alleviating poverty through opportunity.”