SEAF began in 1989 as the CARE Small Business Assistance Corporation (CARESBAC), a subsidiary of the international relief organization CARE, with the mission to invest in underserved markets with the intent to create sustainable employment growth by providing risk capital to small and medium sized businesses. As the company began generating profits, it was spun out of CARESBAC and formed as the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds – SEAF.
SEAF’s early success in Poland led to significant interest from Development Financial Institutions (DFIs) to establish SME-focused funds in other countries. Over a six-year period, SEAF launched 11 funds, including the Baltics Small Equity Fund and the first SEAF Macedonia Fund, both of which were instrumental in the development of the local entrepreneurial ecosystems. SEAF also made its first foray outside of Eastern Europe, launching funds in Peru and Bolivia.
SEAF continued global expansion efforts, launching funds the Sichuan SME Investment Fund in Western China and the Fondo Transandino Colombia fund, as well as funds in Central Asia, Georgia and the Balkans. Notable investments include the Serbian supermarket chain Gomex, Colombian fitness chain Bodytech, and Western China snack food producer Chengdu Bangbangwa – companies that have had significant impact on their communities and have scaled as regional and national leaders.
In 2006, SEAF also launched CEED, the Center for Entrepreneurial and Executive Development.
In a show of SEAF’s commitment to serving as a leader in SME investing, SEAF launched funds in SE Asia and Caucasus regions, in addition to continued development in Latin America. SEAF also made significant strides in building out its global platform, improving financial controls and building out global systems to integrate its vast network.
While SEAF continues to expand on a global scale, integral to the mission is the establishment and maintenance of a presence in each region. This is seen through SEAF’s launching of second-generation funds in Macedonia, Serbia and Colombia, as well as the launch of the SEAF Flex Fund, which integrates the entire SEAF network. SEAF has also continued its global growth, expanding to the MENA region with two new funds.