PPA Business Round expands investment in Amazon startups and rewards pioneering initiatives

The second Business Round promoted by the Partners for the Amazon Platform (PPA) last December attracted over US$ 1 million in investments and startups were selected by the program for the quality of their business plans, their ability to attract investors, and their potential to contribute to the development of a new sustainable model for the Amazon. The investments are more than four times as much as the R$ 1.1 million invested last year. 

Another R$ 7 million were pledged for future investment by the ABF – Althelia Biodiversity Fund, the first Brazilian fund specifically focused on impact investing in the Amazon. Both USAID/Brazil and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT – a PCAB implementing partner) contributed to the design of the ABF.

“This round went beyond my expectations, which were very high to start with and are proud to be part of PPA and being able to attract investments for these companies, which previously had no access to financing, and seeing how emotional they got, was rewarding,” celebrated Anna Tonnes, head of the USAID/Brazil Environment Team. She admitted having wept along with some of the entrepreneurs when they learnt how much investment they were rewarded. During the presentations of the business plans, as well as during the awards there was a tense room filled with nervousness and happiness. . 

The event, which took place in a hotel in Manaus, brought together representatives of Amazon companies, philanthropic institutions and civil society organizations. The US$ 2,500 PPA Entrepreneur Award was presented to three businesses that overcame several logistical barriers and shortage of funding  showing how driven their founders were: Ouro Verde Institute (which provides support to family farming); Serras Guerreiras de Tapuruquara (ecotourism in indigenous territories); and Cacauway ( sustainable chocolate) were the winners of 2019.

All companies selected and awarded during the negotiations round have taken part in the PPA Acceleration Program or have been selected to attend the Program in 2020. Also entering its second year, the PPA’s Acceleration Program is the only one that works exclusively with companies operating in the Amazon and has been helping to create a network of startups in the region. This  year alone, over 200 startups applied and 15 were chosen. 

With 34 members and led by companies of different sizes that operate in the Brazilian Legal Amazon, the PPA is a forum to discuss solutions to existing challenges, and to assist the private sector in their involvement in a new sustainable development model for the region. This year’s investors were the Vale Fund, the Humanize Institute, the Amazon Network, SITAWI, Conexsus, and Impact Foundations and Institutes (FIIMP). USAID/Brazil has doubled the offer of some investors with the objective of diluting risks and stimulating impact investing in the Amazon. 

“We invested today in  three businesses. But several others stand a great chance of connecting with actions promoted by the Vale Fund, as they mature and increase their services and products in the areas of forest restoration and preservation. This is just the beginning. We have incredible potential ahead of us if we help these businesses develop,” says Márcia Soares, Partnership Manager at the Vale Fund.

The companies and cooperatives that competed for funding in the PPA’s Second Round of investments operate in a variety of sectors. From food and forest products (Manioca, Na Floresta, OKA Sucos, Nossa!Fruits) to solar panels (Prátika Engenharia). From the commerce of indigenous crafts (Tucum) to sustainable extraction and seed processing (Coex Carajás), to environmental education (Academia Amazonia Ensina). One of the startups aims to sort the  river transportation logistics through technology (NavegAm) and Onisafra is a trading platform bringing producers and consumers together. 

Artur Coimbra, owner of Na Floresta - which produces chocolate with cocoa supplied by Amazon communities, had a  successful pitch, was ecstatic: “We've been through a lot, and had to overcome many obstacles to survive. This money will help us continue working. It will benefit everyone who supports us, and allow us to do even more. The PPA Acceleration Program will also teach us how to listen to each other and help us improve our business models, financial management, output, etc. In other words, we'll become more professional. The Amazon needs this, and it is our commitment to serve the people here.” 

Ted Gehr, Director of USAID Brazil, was also impressed by the overall quality of presentations and the commitment shown by the participants. "In addition to the real increase in the number of participants and volume of investment from year to year, it was clear that they were well prepared for the business round, and that they are ready to receive investment." 

>> Learn more about the participating and awarded businesses in the 2020 Acceleration Program.

Learn more about the PPA