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[E4C9] How To Attract VC Funders To Your Social Enterprise with Tyler Gage – Runa

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How To Attract VC Funders To Your Social Enterprise - with Tyler Gage of Runa Amazon GuayusaTyler Gage is the President and Co-Founder of Runa Amazon Guayusa tea company, a social enterprise that exports sustainably harvested guayusa tea sourced from indigenous communities in Ecuador. An idea that started while attending Brown University in 2008 Runa is now exciting social venture that has lead Tyler to spend the last five years working with indigenous communities in the Amazon developing fair trade initiatives with generous funding from business plan competition prize money, angel and VC investors, USAID, the government of Ecuador, and many other organizations.

In this interview, Tyler explains the process of founding a social enterprise in a developing country, and offers advice for those interested in starting their own socially-conscious business. He discusses:

  • What it took to set up an tea export supply chain in Ecuador
  • Tips on walking your talk as a triple bottom line business and establishing trusted partnerships with indigenous communities
  • Founding sources (you’ve never heard of) that are available to social entrepreneurs in developing countries
  • What it takes to get funding from USAID
  • How to make your startup attractive to angel and VC investors

Now Tyler and I have a little bit of history. Years ago I introduced him to a family of shamans from Ecuador – the Mamallactas. Tyler graciously allowed us to host a ritual in his home. During ceremony the Mamallactas served guayusa tea to the participants, which was Tyler’s first introduction to the tea, an experience that sparked a company.

Traditionally, indigenous Kichwa families in Ecuador wake up at dawn and gather around a communal fire to drink gourds of guayusa. During this time, village elders teach the youth about ancestral myths, hunting techniques, social values, and about what it means to be “Runa” – meaning “fully alive” or “fully living human being,” in the indigenous cosmovision.

I’ve been impressed by the growth of Runa which started as a business idea while Tyler was in college. But what I’m most impressed by is Tyler’s commitment to sustainability and preserving indigenous traditions. I am most excited by his recent venture – Rios Nete is a healing and research center in Peru dedicated to the practice and preservation of indigenous Amazonian medicine – set to open in the beginning of 2015.

It will be the first institution dedicated to practicing and methodically researching Amazonian medicine. In addition to receiving patients who seek to treat illnesss through traditional means, Rios Nete intends to catalog, preserve,
and scientifically validate the components of this medicinal approach, in order to protect both the plants and the knowledge of their medical uses from extinction.

To check out this amazing initiative, go to RiosNete.org.

Mentioned in this Podcast

  • USAID
  • RiosNete.org

Where to Find Tyler Gage

  • Check out the Runa Facebook Page
  • Visit the Runa Amazon Guayusa Website
  • Follow Runa on Instagram
  • Check out our boards on Pinterest 

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Lorna Li

Chief Evolutionary Officer at Entrepreneurs for a Change
Lorna Li is a business coach, entrepreneur and Amazon rainforest crusader, with a passion for green business, social enterprise, and indigenous wisdom. She helps changemaking entrepreneurs harness the power of the Internet to reach more people and make a bigger impact, while designing the lifestyle of their dreams. She is an Internet marketing consultant to changemakers, and works with innovative tech startups, sustainable brands, social enterprises & B-Corporations on SEO, SEM & Social Media marketing.
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