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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

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: Progressive Partnerships, Preserving the Planet, Feeding a Hungry Planet, 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.

Baobab_Tree

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

SSIR_MMcreless

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: Strengthening Businesses, News and Announcements, Our Community

Coffee: The Canary in the Coalmine for Climate Change

Posted by Willy Foote  |  May 28, 2014 10:00:00 AM

Nicolas Pineda, Honduras

Nicolas Pineda, a coffee farmer and member of the 190-member cooperative Montaña Verde in Honduras

 

Note: This piece originally appeared on The Skoll World Forum website as part of a series on entrepreneurial solutions to climate change. 

“It feels like a scourge from God,” said Nicolas Pineda as we surveyed row upon row of diseased coffee trees on his farm in Santa Barbara, Honduras. Nicolas showed me how coffee leaf rust, a fungus known as la roya in Spanish, was destroying his 18-year-old farm, turning verdant, productive coffee plants into spindly heaps of leafless sticks. Amid the surrounding lush green hills, the juxtaposition felt cruelly ironic.

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Topics: Preserving the Planet, Mexico and Central America, Strengthening Businesses