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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

Something Bigger Than Myself

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Dec 18, 2016 2:27:00 PM

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Coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo: these high-quality and award-winning beans have been colorfully described as having “a very easy-to-like personality and unthreatening complexity.” But aside from the country’s coffee, so much in the DRC is, in fact, threatening — and at the same time complex.

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Topics: East Africa, Peace & Recovery, Leadership, Impact Assessment, Risk Management

A Step Towards Peace

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Sep 20, 2016 5:37:08 PM

Two years ago almost to the day, 60 Colombian musicians came together and released a song called “Un Paso Hacia la Paz” (“A Step Toward Peace”). Amid joggling maracas, an impassioned choir of pop stars, indigenous singers, and Vallenato musicians sing, “Así es como canta Colombia por la paz” (“This is how Colombia sings for peace”), urging for an end to the country’s 50-year armed conflict.

Fast-forward to today, and the peace Colombia sings for is finally within reach.

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Topics: Peace & Recovery, South America, Willy Foote

What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel Have In Common?

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Jul 28, 2016 6:00:00 AM

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Overlooking a village in southeastern Senegal. 

 

What do Silicon Valley and Africa’s Sahel have in common?

At first blush, not too much. One is apps, algorithms, and acquisitions, and the other? Well, you might be thinking more of a woman in a field, tilling soil with a hand hoe, a vast horizon behind her.

Over the last month, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to both places – first to eastern Senegal to meet with Root Capital clients (agricultural businesses organizing hundreds of cashew growers and millet farmers across the remote region), and later to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, convened by President Obama. And I can tell you one thing: the very same entrepreneurial and innovative spirit that fuels Silicon Valley is alive and well on the last mile of dirt roads in the Sahel.

The problem is, the world hasn’t supported agricultural entrepreneurs in the same way that Silicon Valley supports tech entrepreneurs. But what if it did?

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Topics: West Africa, Pathological Collaboration, Willy Foote

The World of Farmer Finance is Changing

Posted by Willy Foote  |  May 31, 2016 10:55:33 AM

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With Jose Dominguez, a coffee farmer and producer member of RAOS, a Root Capital client in Honduras

The world of farmer finance, as we know it, is changing.

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Topics: Pathological Collaboration, Willy Foote

"We Cannot Succeed When Half of Us Are Held Back"

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Mar 22, 2016 8:00:00 AM

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With ANS Milling General Manager Kate Achaa, fourth from right, during a recent trip to Ghana with Root Capital colleagues and friends from PFS

“I raise up my voice,” she said, speaking matter-of-factly into the microphone during her first speech at the United Nations back in 2013, “not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard... We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

She, of course, is Malala. A 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, to be exact.

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Topics: Food Security & Nutrition, Women in Agriculture, West Africa, Willy Foote

Maximizing Impact — at a Cost

Posted by Willy Foote  |  Jan 27, 2016 9:39:00 AM

We met Pamela Anyoti Peronaci six years ago, shortly after she founded Sunshine Agro Products, a chili and spice export business in Uganda. She had a true passion for business, and she envisioned building a company that would engage hundreds, maybe thousands, of smallholder farmers in sustainable agriculture to promote social and economic development in Soroti, one of Uganda’s poorest districts. 

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Pamela Anyoti Peronaci, founder of Sunshine Agro Products

Bootstrapping her savings, Pamela established a network of farmers, the logistics required to deliver a high-quality product to market, and relationships with European buyers committed to purchasing all of the company’s production.

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Topics: East Africa, Root Capital, Impact Assessment, Willy Foote