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Willy Foote

Willy is the founder and CEO of Root Capital. He began his career on Wall Street as a financial analyst in Latin American corporate finance. Later, he worked as a business journalist in Mexico, where he discovered the challenges faced by cooperatives and small producers who lacked access to credit and markets. He founded Root Capital in 1999. Since then, Root Capital has grown to over 100 employees, with clients across Latin America and Africa, and $100 million in assets. Willy was named a Skoll Fellow in 2005, an Ashoka Global Fellow in 2007, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008, a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) in 2009, one of Forbes’ “Impact 30” in 2011, and currently belongs to the 2012 Henry Crown Fellowship Class of the Aspen Institute. He is on the Executive Committee of the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. William holds an M.S. in development economics from the London School of Economics and a B.A. from Yale University.

RECENT POSTS

Many Reasons to be Grateful

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Nov 24, 2015 1:33:53 PM

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Root Capital staff, clients, and supporters during a recent trip to Colombia

Every day, I feel thankful for the chance my team and I have to grow prosperity for low-income communities around the world.

We serve farming families living in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable — moms, dads, and grandparents raising kids, crops, livestock. We help foster the growth of agricultural businesses that organize and purchase the harvests of hundreds, often thousands, of local producers. We provide services to strengthen enterprises and help them custom fit to local realities. It’s a highly local thing, and I love that. 

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Topics: Our Community

The Mango Farmer Who Changed Everything

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Oct 29, 2015 7:00:00 AM

Mango farmer, Burkina Faso

A few years ago, a mango farmer in Burkina Faso told us something that forever changed the way we interact with our clients and the farmers they serve.

“I don’t want to answer any questions,” the farmer said as one of our impact surveyors approached him. “Here you come to ask us the same silly questions that you go sell to aid sponsors…. You’ll ask me my name, my family size, the kinds of goods I have, and so on, and so on.… Go take the answers from the [other organizations’ surveys] we provided last year.”

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Topics: West Africa, Strengthening Businesses

Happiness & Teenage Blues

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Sep 16, 2015 5:50:40 PM

What does it mean to live a purpose-driven life? What does it mean to be truly happy?

Good questions for the philosophers, so I’ll defer to one of the greats. Socrates theorized (and I’m paraphrasing here) that happiness is realizing one’s full potential in a context of virtue. Happiness isn’t the modern notion of potato chips and Monday Night Football. That’s pure pleasure, and fleeting. Being truly fulfilled, said the ancient Greeks, comes from earning an honest living while creating value in society so that others might benefit from one’s work and talent.

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How Can We Make Agriculture Work for the World?

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Aug 5, 2015 12:55:51 PM

When I envision how to make agriculture work for the world, I think of a system that feeds the global population of nine billion that is expected by 2050 — especially those in cycles of chronic hunger and malnutrition. I think of better farming practices that increase yields and productivity, and that dramatically improve incomes for small-scale producers and the rural poor. I think of an enlightened food industry, as locally based as possible, that creates good jobs across every value chain and protects fragile ecosystems and biodiversity everywhere. And I think of agriculture as a crucial equalizer of opportunity for women and girls, one that provides dignity for the most marginalized populations on earth.  

Sorting cherries

Visiting with coffee farmers on the shores of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda

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Topics: Feeding a Hungry Planet, Preserving the Planet, Progressive Partnerships, News and Announcements

In the West African Sahel, Women Stand Like Giants

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Jul 9, 2015 9:00:00 AM

The baobab trees of West Africa, gigantic in size and majestic in stature, are providers: They store water and food for animals in times of drought; they provide homes for birds (owls, parakeets and hawks) throughout the year; and, for many local families, the mighty baobab produces fruit, seeds and leaves that provide a critical source of income.

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Just starting a Root Capital due diligence trip in northern Senegal, beside the mighty baobab tree.

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Topics: Feeding a Hungry Planet, Unlocking Opportunities for Women, West Africa

New SSIR Blog Post Highlights Our Vision for Shared Metrics

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Jun 6, 2014 1:38:35 PM

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Earlier in the week, the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (known as ANDE) hosted its annual metrics conference in Washington, DC. At the event, Root Capital was proud to join ANDE and Dalberg Global Development Advisors in introducing a vision for the next phase of impact measurement in the small and growing business (SGB) sector. 

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Topics: News and Announcements, Strengthening Businesses, Our Community