FUNDES was founded in 1984, realizing the vision and values of the Swiss businessman Stephan Schmidheiny, who was concerned about unemployment harshly hitting the most impoverished sectors in Panama and Latin America at the time.

Schmidheiny noticed that the best way to make a change was to set up an organization that could provide micro merchants with access to credit in order to create employment and contribute to Panama’s development. This pioneer program marked the beginning of the continuous work that FUNDES has performed by promoting micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

FUNDES originated in Panama as a visionary organization in the development of the private sector in the region. Two years later, in 1986, the model was set up in Costa Rica and then in Guatemala in 1988. A year later, FUNDES was established in Colombia, and in Bolivia in 1990. It began operations in Chile in 1992, and in Argentina and Mexico in 1993. FUNDES established a presence in Venezuela in 1994 and El Salvador followed in 2000.

To date, FUNDES has 35 years’ experience promoting competitive development by strengthening micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Latin America. Thanks to its extensive career and strategic use of technological tools, it drives the growth and professionalization of SMEs, allowing them to integrate efficiently with the value chains along various sectors, and impact the ecosystems and economic growth of the communities where it works.

Historically, FUNDES has gone through several stages in its development, going from a financial support organization to its current business model, all while retaining the values upon which it was founded. Today, FUNDES offers three lines of business: Insights, Strategy, and Solutions. Collectively, they provide access, know-how and results side by side with partner corporations, governments and development organizations.

Throughout its existence, FUNDES has conducted studies and published reports to broaden knowledge in the SMEs segment, identifying better practices to promote their development. It has collaborated with over 80 multinational companies, 30 governments, development organizations and foundations, and has relied on a network of 500 consultants. Furthermore, FUNDES has presence in 12 Latin American countries, building trust with over 500,000 SMEs.