The Kenyan manager of Metta shares about the business climate in Nairobi and talks about how technology improves the emerging markets by solving simple problems.
- 6:45 What is the startup landscape in Nairobi Kenya? The small population and scarcity of talent and resources impact which businesses thrive.
- 18:45 What is M-Pesa and why is it such a big deal? M-Pesa is mobile money sent through text. It makes business safer and easier for Kenyans.
- 26:00 What are the biggest challenges to starting a business in Nairobi? Companies have to be solving an immediate, critical problem and avoid government corruption.
- 31:00 How does technology impact building a company in this ecosystem? The technologies that work are very simple and they solve a pertinent problem.
- 37:30 What will it take for people to get access to basic needs and address the Global Goals? Maurice talks about social impact companies that give people jobs while they address systemic problems.
Maurice Starts with the vision of Metta:
All entrepreneurs to have an equal opportunity and access to resources across the globe. To do that, we form partnerships in the middle east, Asia and Africa so that by 2025 each of those markets are connected and able to move from a nascent to an established entrepreneurs ecosystem.
Currently, Metta is located in Hong Kong and Nairobi. They will be starting in Bali and Thailand soon, and they have representatives in 14 countries. Through the virtual platform, their members can log in and meet each other.
“If I was to predict, I would say probably South America will be next for us.”
Metta is not just a place where entrepreneurs come together, but a place for them to find resources, community, and mentorship.
“We are limited in terms of mentorship to grow businesses into unicorns, and limited in terms of investment opportunities. We’re also limited in terms of finding talent. …So, we’re offering something different than coworking spaces and accelerators. We’re offering shared resources.
Business in Nairobi
“The difficulty you face in East Africa is that we are a very small population. Within even the small market the people are at the bottom of the pyramid.”
Maurice talks about the market in detail: “Since technology innovations are new to the market, there’s very little investment in those projects in Kenya.” Many of the people are involved in NGOs and are refugees from other countries. So, the mentality, Maurice says, is “Gimme gimme gimme.” Startups and investment are a new conversation.
What does success look like for startups in Africa?
The successful companies, Maurice says, are companies who don’t mind sharing. Also, they are the ones creating solutions for people living on $1 per day or less. The individual entrepreneurs who are successful are the ones who take meetings and go to events frequently. They spend money to get talent, too.
“They do spend an arm and a leg to get the talent they need. But you need a good team who can hold fort while you go to brave the fronts of getting investment.”
First World Problems
Maurice teases about first world problems that Americans deal with versus survival problems that Africans deal with. “Do we even have a road?” he laughs.
It is easier for an expat to start a business in Kenya because they can look at what businesses worked in their country, and bring those same business models back to Kenya.
The Benefits of Starting a Business in Kenya
Maurice lists the benefits for founders in Kenya:
- Payments are transmitted so quickly through M-Pesa
- The weather is good and Nairobi is beautiful
- Kenya needs businesses and startups
- Most Kenyans speak 3-4 languages. English, Swahili, language from schooling (Japanese, French, etc) and one of the 14 tribe languages.
- Moderately expensive to live there, but more stable than neighboring cities and countries.
- Many expats and company headquarters based in Nairobi as well.
Here’s the basic outline of the power of M-Pesa:
- No internet access needed
- Money transfers through text
- There are 100k agents or dresser-sized ATM’s to get money
- Banks are now partnering with M-Pesa to put your money in your M-Pesa wallet
Interestingly, there are still 70-80% cash transactions in Kenya, but the technology is spreading rapidly. M-Pesa was a major need in Kenya because opening a bank used to be for the rich. The minimum deposit for a bank account is $100, so it was too much to open and maintain a bank account for most Kenyans.
Also, carrying money is dangerous in underdeveloped countries. So M-Pesa provides a measure of safety.
Challenges of Doing Business in Nairobi
Maurice says that in order to be successful in Nairobi, you have to be solving an immediate, critical problem. He notes key areas that impact business growth in the country:
- Addressing an immediate need
- Avoiding corruption – caution when interfacing with the government
“Funny enough, we’ve had the most recent political assassinations of any country. That was an eye opener. Also, Europe is 35 years behind Silicon Valley, and Africa is 10 or 15 years behind Europe. But I think right now, it’s coming of age.”
Do Tech Companies Survive in Emerging Markets?
“The fundamental thing people are forgetting is that you are solving a problem first, before you introduce the tech. So over here you find that the technologies that work are not that advanced. They are very simple and they solve a pertinent problem.”
Problems like “How to get milk to a place that has a lot of bananas” – these are the simple technologies that work in Kenya.
Blockchain has been recently introduced to address corruption in the government, and Maurice says that is a huge step. “It’s simple but very very key.”
As far as exponential technologies, Maurice says they are present and it’s a matter of time before they begin to spread. Adaptability is the issue, though. For example, in order for Uber to spread to Kenya, people have to know how to use Google Maps. Google Maps hasn’t been adopted yet, and the country isn’t well mapped. Once distribution, basic data, and familiarity with basic applications are established, exponential tech can grow. “10-20 years, I’d say,” says Maurice.
What It Will Take To Address the Global Goals
“It’s already started” Maurice says. He talks about social impact companies that give people jobs while they address systemic problems.
- M-Pesa: 30 million people rely on M-Pesa for their transactions through their flip phones.
- So, wherever you go, you’ve gotta have a financial foundation!
- M-Pesa addresses the corruption and banking problems that made starting a business next to impossible.
Three years ago, two biomedical engineers had the courage to travel to Uganda and discover why millions of newborns die of preventable causes. In this episode, hear how Sona and her co-founder Teresa created a social impact startup while still in grad school, and how you can tackle a Global Goal with field research.
- 7:50 Sona’s Story to Become a Social Entrepreneur While still in grad school, Sona and her cofounder headed to Uganda and decided to solve the problem they found at the newborn wards.
- 9:30 Tackling Global Goal # 3.2: Neopenda’s goal is to help end all preventable deaths for children under 5 years old with a simple vitals monitor.
- 15:45 Why is the Product so Disruptive? Sona talks about infrastructure and medical device problems in emerging markets, and the valuable data that their devices collect.
- 22:30 Business Model and Growth Path How will two biomedical engineers grow a company to enter and transform newborn health in an emerging market? Hear how to enter an emerging market with new technology.
- 32:00 Create A Career Around a Global Goal Chandler and Sona share what it takes to explore a problem you care about and create a solution. “You might come out of grad school with a startup… and be the happiest you’ve ever been.”
Three years ago, two biomedical engineers had the opportunity to travel to Uganda. They discovered that many hospitals did not have medical equipment and that newborn wards are overcrowded and undersupplied. They discovered that babies don’t make it out of the hospital for preventable reasons, and decided to do something about it.
After spending time at the wards in Uganda, Sona and her soon-to-be co-founder discovered the key problem with few nurses taking care of so many newborns at once. This meant that the nurses didn’t know when the babies were in trouble. Sona and Teresa then designed a wearable technology for newborns that continuously measures four vital signs and signals health problems:
- Pulse rate
- Respiratory rate
- Blood oxygen saturation
The vital signs from all the newborns in the room wirelessly connect to a tablet that the nurse holds. This way, the nurse can see the status of all the babies in the room.
“3 million newborns are dying around the world, and most of them are in emerging markets. Something like 80% of those deaths are preventable.”
How does Global Goal 3 Direct Tech development?
Image via sight.iee.org
Although the rate of mortality for children under 5 is decreasing, the mortality rate of children under 28 days old has not decreased. Neopenda targets that problem specifically. Sona talks about Uganda as a great starting point, since there has been a 46% increase in the country’s spending on medical devices. Uganda also has one of the highest fertility rates of any country in the world.
Turning Overwhelm to Impact in Uganda
Chandler asks what the first visit to Uganda was like, and Sona mentions how much emotion is still there for her.
“It’s overwhelming…and it’s inspiration for us. When we go, we spend time in the hospitals to see what’s really happening. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say it’s overwhelming. We already have ideas of what our next products will look like… but it isn’t one solution that will fix everything.”
When there are 2 nurses watching 125 babies stay alive for the first 28 days of their life. Neopenda’s first product makes a huge difference, and Sona was moved to tackle the problem after walking by bed after bed of babies that had died unnoticed.
The Business Model: Who are Neopenda’s Customers?
Neopenda is for-profit, and they focus on emerging markets. “We are impact driven… and we see that emerging markets are a huge opportunity for us because there aren’t very many medical device companies specifically for emerging markets. That market is untapped.”
Neopenda will sell devices to private facilities in emerging markets because they have more purchasing power and less red tape to try new devices. The cost of acquisition is higher with private facilities while the team goes from hospital to hospital, but Neopenda is engaging health ministries (governmental organizations) to get to public health facilities. Finally, Neopenda is partnering with international NGO’s who already have a presence and distribution channels all over the world.
Private Hospital Partnerships
Many private hospitals in emerging markets are backed by faith-based organizations that have a lot of jurisdiction over the hospitals they work with. That means it’s easier for Neopenda to work with the organizations and the hospitals to find out what will best serve their infrastructure.
Sona says it’s unusual for a 3rd party company to provide medical devices through partnerships, and shares that they sell the monitors in packages of at least 15 to ensure the wards have more than one monitor. “We don’t want to be the only monitor in the wards,” Sona says, “but that is often what we see right now. So, it is displacing the market a little bit but we want to show the value of the product not just from how many lives we actually help, but also in helping them understand how we can help improve their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. How can they improve the retention rates of nurses… all kinds of types of value that we can provide with one device.”
Is the Market Ready?
Sona says there are some facilities that are excited to do pilot studies and some that are not as willing to change. That unwillingness impacts the sales cycle and rate of adoption. This means that pilot tests can become the inroad to make product adoption an obvious choice.
Sona talks about the divine as similar to the finger-clip you get when you get at the doctor to pick up your vital signals. The sensors connect with bluetooth to the nurses’ tablets. She talks about designing the product to work on low energy and without wifi. The next step, she says, is collecting data with the tablets for NGO’s and hospitals to better address the problem.
Chandler asks what else they will be able to do with all this data, and Sona brings up analytics for resource allocation. “Another level,” she says, “is that most wards are calculating statistics on the babies on paper.” Neopenda can collect all that information simply through the tablets. The tablets can run for 5-7 days on batteries, then recharge the battery with a standard micro USB cord. With Bluetooth, the tablets can connect without wifi, and the company will be able to collect all the data from the tablets to the cloud by connecting once or twice a month.
Sona talks about FDA approval, logistics, and the business model, and shares that Neopenda is about 1 year from commercialization. The company has opened a crowdfunding equity campaign and is moving through rounds of investment while the product pends FDA approval.
Emerging Market Challenges
As far as the challenges in emerging markets, Sona talks about medical device testing regulations. Many emerging markets do not have regulations for new device adoption, and they do not purchase devices. Most medical equipment is donated in these countries. “It will be a mindset shift,” Sona says. She mentions the “equipment graveyard” room in most hospitals in these markets, where donated devices without manuals or working parts pile up.
This is just one reason Neopenda is a for-profit model instead of a nonprofit. “The more profitable we are and the more successful we are as a company, the more babies we can help.”
How to Get Involved
Sona recommends several steps to start off as a social entrepreneur:
- Reach out to leaders in the industry you’re interested in, and reach out to projects or initiatives that are already happening.
- Follow your heart and interests!
- Get out to the field as much as you can and witness the problems there.
Sona says, “Choose a Global Goal, start doing some research, and you may come out of grad school with a company… and be the happiest you’ve ever been.”
- It takes a high commitment to address a Global Goal. The Neopenda device was designed specifically for the problems their customer faces. No wifi needed, long-term battery, and valuable data provision.
- Get in the field. Have you gone to explore your customers problems?
- Here’s a link to check out Neopena’s fundraising campaign!
The founder of SoCap and ImpactAssets shows how impact investing works, and how to start a private foundation with as little as $5,000.
- 2:15 What is ImpactAssets? Tim talks about how impact investing works, and what differentiates it from regular investing and venture capitalism.
- 9:30 What Was Impact Investing Like Before? Although investors face the same problems in choosing companies to support, the biggest difference is in the mindset.
- 12:15 The Coolest Social Impact Events in the Country Tim talks about the start of the social impact conference movement, and the ten years it’s taken to create social impact hubs all over the world.
- 25:00 Donor Advise Funds: A Big Pile of Accounts and a Tax Break Time breaks down how to create your own miniature family foundation, and why it’s a good idea.
- 38:30 Where Should I Invest? Interested in doing good with your investment dollars, but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to have advice and options brought to you.
- 48:00 The Secret To Investing Like a Millionaire Tim talks about democritizing investing, and how much impact is possible when small funds and personal funds are aggregated on the ImpactAssets platform.
Last year, the Social Capital Markets Conference
brought 3,000 social entrepreneurs and impact investors to San Fransisco to collaborate. Now, the founder of SoCap shares how to democratize impact investing even further with the ImpactAssets
platform. ImpactAssets is the leading facilitator of direct impact investing and donor advice.
What is ImpactAssets?
ImpactAssets is an asset management platform built by impact investors for impact investors. The platform hosts thousands of investors of all contribution levels. That way, the assets can be allocated across many vetted projects.
Mission: Time shares that ImpactAssets was first built for “The apologetics of impact investing.” Or to bring the idea of impact investing to the mainstream and show that returns are good. But now, Tim says
“It is time to move toward much more dynamic user experience…where people are highly engaged and can express their passions in a collaborative way.”
Tim talks about impact investors interacting with more information inside their portfolios, and increasing face-to-face conversation with social entrepreneurs.
Tim shares about his journey in investing before impact investing was a thing.
“We were getting on planes to pull down $100k from a family foundation. Impact investing didn’t come online as a term till much later.” At the time, it was called “responsible investing.” Tim says, “things were a lot slower and much less mainstream at the time.” That was more than eight years ago. But in the timeline of cultural and social change, eight years is not long at all.
“You’ve got to be calibrated for the long haul. It’s a zeigeist shift, a total cultural shift we’re in… and you measure that in decades and generations, not quarters and years.”
PreHistoric Social Impact: What Was Impact Investing Like Before?
Tim says it was similar in some ways, in that it takes “wrestling” with wealth holders to allocate funding to vetted projects for social good. He says the same issues still abound, even with impact investing becoming more mainstream. “Stage and scale are complexities that are never going to go away in impact investing,” he says.
Tim talks about the question of market value when investing in social good companies.
“Can you do just as well or better by doing good? Or should you actually suspend some of the rules around the conventional rate of return and get stuff done that needs to be done in the world?”
He asserts that those questions will only be fully answered when we reframe capitalism entirely.
The Coolest Social Impact Events in the Country
Tim talks about a common theme in the events he’s started. “I’m comfortable and see the value in middle-ware plumbing: What sits in the middle and knits people, ideas and capital together?” Be it a digital platform or an in-person event experience, he says
“I see it as a catalytic tool kit.”
In 2008 when the markets crashed, Tim saw the need for a gathering place for the tribe. Social entrepreneurs needed to keep steam in a depressing time. “The market was messy and fractured, and we needed to get everybody together to look at things in one place.” The idea of SoCap was to create a diverse, impact-driven Lollapalooza.
More recently Tim and his team have been working on more in-depth meetings and events. It’s important for all involved parties to “put their chips on the table,” and look at what there is to work with in one place. “We fell in love with this idea of having a persistent exchange of value of diverse parties on a regular basis. You talked about collaboration a year ago with your neighbors from another country, but it became out of sight and out of mind.” Tim casts a vision of ImpactHubs
that are “embodying where change goes to work.”
Now, there are 103 of these hubs across 30 countries and 5 continents, and about one new location opens per month. “We’ve had as many as 600 members in San Francisco, from student groups to investors to consultants to nonprofits to for-profit companies. All these things can hang together.” The intention is to take care of social impact projects that have “middle-ware” or system-oriented needs.
“I’m trying to build a set of frontier activities that will pull the public toward more appropriate tools to get done what needs to get done in the world, considering the wicked problems we’re facing today.”
Tim defines donor advised funds and shares that they “allow people or companies to bring a bunch of assets and get the tax break at day 0.” The opportunity in donor advised funds is that all of your donation and investing money can be “scrubbed of doing ill in the world” and designated in areas that align with your personal passions.
Also, Tim talks about the “menu” of projects and categories that ImpactAssets provides to people, so that they can take their 100k and support 10 different really cool curated projects. The investing options are customised and various, to make sure investors find the best place for their dollar to get specific things done in the world.
“The technology is not the issue, the will is not the issue, it’s the customer acquisition that is the issue,” Tim says. It costs something to connect investors and projects, even with great technology. Tim describes the business model, which is 1% of recurring annual assets.
Where Should I Invest?
Do you want to establish a personal charitable foundation? Then, you go to a donor advised fund, and THEN you invest in your favorite VC fund. That way you get the tax break. “It’s like having your own little Gates fund.” The fund is for putting aside funds you want to use for good, when you would still like advising and curated options.
How amazing that we can have donor advised funds for $5,000 and eventually $500 is a big deal – it’s a democratization of investing to make a difference. “It’s not just a playground for the rich and powerful,” Tim says. It calls to question “oligarchical philanthropy in the United States.”
Why is a Donor Advised Fund a Good Idea?
Unless you have tons of time and money, Tim says you’re going to find more options and more intentional returns with Donor Advised Funds. The funds do not have a return profile, because they are so specific to each donor.
“The answer depends on what you choose to munch on off of our platform,” Tim says. The returns are solid, but there is not a direct market value relationship with impact investing options.
The Secret To Investing Like a Millionaire
“They make it possible to become a major endowed philanthropic institution, in terms of your capabilities and access to impact investing, because you’re joining a group of many people that are aggregating to the scale that’s required.
If you have thousands of people with their little investing pools and put them together on a platform, you can allow them to access these incredibly arcane elite structures of private debt and equity etc. at effectively no minimums, because at an aggregate level we’re still making those institutional minimums. So that’s the secret, and what we’re making available.”
Tim talks about customizing the investing experience as a platform, by tracking opportunities, companies, and transactions. Before long it will be easy to find the options that relate to the Global Goal you’re most interested in solving.
“I think we will move a small number of billions of dollars over the next not too many years… I think our catalytic change this is is related to, how do we engage and innovate for a wide range of participants to get involved and integrate values into their day to day expression of passion with their wealth”
- What it took in 2008: 10 years ago a small group of people stood up and created something that has now grown internationally.
- Impact Hubs make SoCap a yearly event: It’s so important to create an ecosystem of resources and support tribes to get something done in the world.
- Donor Advised Funds: These are an amazing way to structure your investment funds easily and efficiently to make a difference in areas you’re passionate about.
The internet is great at two things: breaking down big ideas into smaller topics and matching people. Adam and Chandler ask, can we solve Global Goal – sized problems with the internet? On this episode, we find out how DoGood.io can do just that.
- 7:00 The 4 Keys to Solving a Massive Problem Adam tells us how DoGood.io integrates scoping problems, staffing teams, funding and executing projects within the platform.
- 18:30 How does Blockchain fit in? Adam explains simply how the DoGood token works, how it incentivizes people to solve big problems, and how their own ICO gives value to the tokens.
- 23:00 No, You Can’t Buy Lambos from an ICO Raise Here, Adam and Chandler talk about a critical accountability gap in the ICO model. The DoGood platform addresses this problem simply.
- 31:00 | How can Blockchain forward the Global Goals? Most people think of the currency side of blockchain technology. Adam and Chandler show how much more is possible in tackling the Global Goals with blockchain, from accountability to supply chain honesty.
Listen to this episode if you’re wondering how on earth you can make a difference in a global-sized problem, and how you can use blockchain and the DoGood.io platform to do it.
Image by Hitesh Choudhary for Unsplash
After hearing a Ted Talk about why Ted Talks are bad, DoGood founder Adam Harriss realized something powerful. There are no simple solutions to global problems. He says, “They’re presenting a solution to these problems in a 10-minute time frame. Which you can’t do. But the audience is left with a placebo.”
He started to think about how to pull solutions together in a way that addresses the complexity of these Global Goal sized problems.
“One group is not going to be able to solve these problems, and nobodyhas them tackled. In order to solve them you need a wide array of individuals, types of knowledge and funding to solve these problems.”
Listen Now to hear more.
The Ultimate People-Problem Matchmaker
Adam realized, “When I looked at what it takes to solve a problem and innovate, I found that there are several steps that the internet is perfect for solving.”
1. Scope the problem
To start to tackle a large problem, it must be simplified into manageable smaller priorities. DoGood helps participants scope the problem and break it down into its smaller components until you find the part that can be addressed by a team.
“The internet has been great at breaking things into taxonomies. That’s the bread and butter of the internet – being able to show how these things are linked.”
Image by Martin Bjork for Unsplash
DoGood asks the right questions to get to the root of the problem: what’s the root cause? How can we break it down visually?
2. Staff Against the Problems
Second, solving big problems requires a marketplace to match people and staff a team around the smaller problems. DoGood assigns people to project teams to create tangible solutions.
Third, teams require funding to solve problems. “We have built crowdfunding into the platform, and we’d like to partner with investor platforms as well,” says Adam.
4. Method to execute
Finally, a funded team needs a project management system and an effective strategy to find out if their solution is viable and sustainable. Based on the lean startup model, Adam recommended the following steps to go to market:
- Create an MVP (minimum viable product).
- Test your assumptions about the needs and the problem in a business model.
- Find a positive signal from your tests, and then build onto that first workable component.
- Create a business model canvas and kanban charts to create an ongoing method for execution.
Listen Now to hear more.
Image by Daria Nepriakhina for Unsplash
Accountability to Solve Problems Effectively
“We believe ICOs will be a method of fundraising that could be a huge factor in solving these [global] problems…but there needs to be transparency.”
Adam talks about the lean startup system as a great way to maintain accountability. Funders need to know two main things as a project rpgresses:
- How is the team progressing, are they succeeding?
- Should I continue to fund?
The lean startup system provides that information. It creates a feedback loop and conversation, “so that positive change can be made and money is used in an efficient manner.”
Listen Now to hear more.
Image by Rawpixel
How Does Blockchain Fit In?
There are 2 main ways Blockchain supports the golas of the DoGood platform.
1. Incentivise and Reward
First, there is an incentive system within the platform, which is a blockchain token. DoGood uses Etherium as part of the incentive system. People earn tokens by contributing to the “Wikipedia” of problems and solutions. So, if you have specialized skills you can get on the platform and get paid to explain part of a bigger problem.
DoGood assigns a value to the tokens through their ICO.
Also, curators can offer a bounty. A curator would say, “‘If you solve this problem, you will earn the pool of funds that have been set against the problem.’ Curators promote the problems and raise funds for the bounty.” The curators also get awarded with a percentage of the funds they raise.
2. Mitigate the ICO transparency problem
In ICO raises, investors need to be protected. By giving investment funds to teams in stages as they reach their goals, DoGood ensures that social and ecological problems are being solved efficiently. It works in 3 steps:
- ICOs are differentiated by being protected by an escrow system.
- Teams take 20% of the overall investment to prove their problem-solving business model, then investors can vote on whether the next round should be invested.
- If investors vote no 3 times, the remaining investment goes back to the investors and the token is returned to the cryptocurrency.
Listen Now to hear more.
Image by Icons 8 for Unsplash
How is Blockchain Applicable to the Global Goals?
Adam and Chandler list the main applications of blockchain in accomplishing the UN Global Goals:
- Creating fundraising transparency and trustworthiness
- Eliminating cheating and corruption
- Identifying reliable projects and team members
- Breaking down large goals, like “life on land” down into smaller problems and then applying blockchain technology to solve those problems.
Chandler then gives a supply chain example. Imagine “you can buy a fish and know where it came from.” Then, companies will be able to solve supply chain problems and increase sustainable practices throughout their operations.
Listen Now to hear more.
Image by Rawpixel
The DoGood Business Model
DoGood is a SASS model, or software as a service. It is free to use for anyone who wants to contribute solutions and problems, and when you want to retain IP you pay to use the platform. Also, “When you have a team, you can use the platform to manage your team with the lean startup system, use our project management system, and leverage mentorship. That’s paid.”
Adam talks about their most critical needs currently, and highlights “more people and more problem-solving.” He says DoGood’s first target to bring onto the platform are those interested in building sustainable businesses and crypto investors.
Chandler talks about the main takeaways with respect to the Global Goals.
1. How many problems do the Global Goals actually break down to?
There are 17 problems with more than 250 targets per problem. Each of those targets can be broken down into smaller priorities that a team could take on.
“It will take specialists in every 250 target to solve these microproblems. So, what background and unique knowledge do you have?”
2. There’s an incredible potential for accountability with DoGood and Blockchain.
Chandler asks, what becomes possible when we’re holding ICOs accountable to meet their goals, and unlocking funding as their teams hit the goals?
Listen to this podcast to find out exactly how Adam Harriss and DoGood.io have created breakthrough solutions to these questions to accomplish the UN Global Goals.
The founder of I-DEV shares how tech, microfinance, and strategy in underdeveloped countries helps mom-and-pop-shop economies thrive.
In this podcast, you’ll hear what the inside of an impact-investing and strategy company looks like. You’ll also hear what questions an impact investor asks to find out what problems and needs are occurring on the ground in developing countries.
- 2:10 Raising $80 Million in 45 Countries | Patricia tells us how a group of passionate bankers, investors and managers have impacted 350 companies worldwide.
- 4:35 Inspiring Success Stories | I-DEV International works with all sizes of companies, including the leading tech company in East Africa. Even so, the impact is with local family businesses as mom-and-pop shops get access to funds, apps, and metrics to run their businesses.
- 15:30 The Innovation Answer in SMS and Data | When a developing country adopts mobile money, the opportunity for innovation skyrockets. Hear how an investor thinks about building business in a mobile-first economy.
- 21:20 Get on The Ground | “You need to have somebody on the ground in that country to be abl to understand the different dynamics.”
- 30:00 On the Ground Insight: How Can We Help? “Do the people you really want to impact even have access to a phone? Let alone to the internet? And if they got access, would they actually use it?”
Photo Credit Lukas Budimaier for Unsplash
“I-DEV International is a strategy and investment advisor focused on supporting the leading businesses in emerging markets to achieve growth, innovation and also to raise the capital they need to get to those levels. We particularly focus on Latin America and Africa.”
Photo credit: Annie Spratt for Unsplah
Where IDEV Came From
Patricia talks about the group of investment bankers, Operations, Management consulting. This group was interested in helping to build out startups in emerging markets in order to grow the economy in underdeveloped companies. With their expertise, they have been able to bring business best practices into East African and Latin American startups and companies.
“We believe that’s where a lot of innovation and push for economic development and progress comes from. If we look at developed countries, that’s where a lot of job creation happens as well.”
Patricia talks about the different groups in I-DEV and gives a breakdown of the finance and business development industry.
Group 1: Insight and Strategy
IDEV has an insight and strategy group, which focuses on consulting portfolio companies of the impacting investing sector. The insight and strategy group answers the question, “How will this business get to profitability? How will they get to their next market?” I-DEV brings a birds-eye view of the scaling process and years of business experience to companies who would otherwise make do in an environment with few resources.
Group 2: Investment Advising
I-DEV also has an investment advisory group, which focuses on helping companies raise capital. Raising capital can be an exciting experience with the help of professional consultants when a third-world country company realizes they could have access to thousands or millions.
Group 3: Innovations and Direct Investment
Finally, the innovations and direct investment group select companies that they want to hand-hold through every step of the capital raise and growth process. So far, I-DEV has helped 350 companies in 45 countries raise more than $80 million.
Photo Credit Anes Sabitovic for Unsplash
Patricia mentions a few larger companies IDEV has worked with and talks about working with all sizes of companies. I-DEV worked with “Green Mountain Coffee on supply chain transparency,” so that the company could implement best practices and increased sustainability from coffee farm to store shelf. She also mentions working with Grupo Bimbo, a large Latin American bakery company that owns Sara Lee, where they were“Looking at microfinance payments and the tech platform they used, to provide loans and other products to the mom and pop shops they work with.” In other words, I-DEV helps large companies support the small guys selling their products to the public.
Patricia mentions working with Google.org and the UN Foundation, and then highlights four different categories of companies that I-DEV focuses on Clean energy, agriculture and ag tech, mobile and digital technology, retail and fast moving consumer goods (hint: impact investors are looking in these industries to provide direct support).
Photo Credit Annie Spratt for Unsplash
Twiga foods is a large food distribution company in East Africa. I-DEV helped them raise the largest tech seed round in East Africa in 2015. Twiga will soon be that largest grocer in Africa without opening a single grocery store. And how did they do it? With an app.
In Kenya, 86% of retail is done through mom and pop shops (an “informal market”). The store owners will spend a lot of time going to secondary markets to buy products that they then resell locally.
“Twigga has an app that allows these shop owners to order their bananas, their potatoes, and their mangoes through the app so that the company can go to the secondary markets, buy products in bulk at better rates.” They are also able to buy more in volume from the farmers at the secondary markets. The app saves time and money for the shop owners.
Photo Credit Luis Tato for afr.com
Most importantly, Patricia mentions the following impactful side outcomes to this one effective mobile solution: With the data from the app, I-DEV can find out:
- How can they scale their offering to neighboring countries
- What products consumers are buying, and the demand for those products
- The pricing and spending in each region
- Market trends and timing for introducing new products
- How to build trust in new large-scale brands
Kenya growing in mobile tech growth. Surprisingly, the country has better mobile coverage than California! Also, because of the popular mobile money app in Kenya, 96% of adults have mobile money. Before, “They didn’t have bank accounts and they didn’t trust brands to put their money behind.” Suddenly, tech innovation is more available in a massive way now that this adoption has happened.
Photo Credit Brandon Ong for Unsplash
Here’s the tech hack: most transactions can be done through SMS, so the digital commerce is not dependent on smartphone adoption.
“The mobile market is the access to innovation in developing countries.”
The more data that becomes available on consumer habits in developing countries, the more strategic and microfinance support can pour in. Before, developing companies were a black box for economic growth and innovation, simply from a lack of insight on the buying habits of the locals. Now, it’s possible to pull rich data on commodities and trends in the country, on market demand, prices, and habits of shop owners, so those owners can move into loans.
The companies I-DEV targets to support are the ones using that data to build a scalable business model.
“It’s often a volume play,” she says, “we’ve really seen this critical tipping point in the last few years, where… now you have companies that really from their DNA are thinking about how they can get to massive scale.”
Get on the Ground
Patricia talks about establishing trust and building partnerships to make a difference in a new area. In order to make any headway in building an economy, the tribe needs to okay a new product or service.
“When we first moved to Africa, we got a lot of pushback…Yes, every country is different and every region. But I would say, if you are sensitized to the things that commonly change, you can figure those differences out pretty quickly.”
Patricia says the biggest differentiators within markets are socioeconomic status and income, rather than cultural differences. Though Latin American and East African markets are different from each other and from western markets, there are definitely transferable concepts. Patricia says the choice to get involved in those emerging markets specifically was strategic: “We think that they can learn from each other.”
Recommended Resources and Takeaways
After hearing so much about an unfamiliar region, Chandler asks how to plug in and find resources when starting a venture in an emerging market. Patricia says, “I would recommend you go wherever you think you’re going to launch.” She also recommended reaching out to venture capital associations in those areas to find out their goals and interests. On the same note, Chandler shares a favorite quote:
“If you’re building something for me without me, it’s not for me.”
Photo Credit Frederik Trovatten for Unsplash
Takeaway 1: Solve Locally
“One of the best ways to tackle problems globally is to solve locally. I love that they work with businesses on the ground in the countries that are still in the process of developing to help them get the resources they need to scale.”
Takeaway 2: Ensure Access
“Also, I-DEV’s model challenges those of us with super tech-focused companies to say, ‘okay great you want to tackle poverty… but do the people you really want to impact even have access to a phone? Let alone on the internet? And if they got access, would they actually use it? Why or why not?’”
Takeaway 3: Get Clear on Your Impact
“This is the Global Goals Project so we talk a lot about tech. It all comes down to the impact and the difference that you want to make.”
The founder of HyperCubes describes how to solve complex global problems with tech and build a disruptive company with satellites.
Can one person make a difference in the UN Global Goals with exponential technology? In this episode, the founder of Hypercubes says yes.
- 2:00 Planet Diagnosis Data | Hypercubes uses cutting-edge satellite, sensor and AI technology to take daily chemical analysis snapshots of the earth.
- 4:45 Late Bloomer to Hyperspectral Technologist | Brian Lim shares with us each step of his journey to become a space entrepreneur: “I was throwing realistic out the window. So, I picked being a space entrepreneur.”
- 12:00 You Can’t Miss the Boat | Brian and Chandler then talk shop about exponential tech. “The way I would describe it is riding the wave.”
- 19:10 3 Keys to a Killer Satellite | In the satellites HyperCubes builds, there is the satelite piece, the sensor piece, and AI component.
- 28:15 Valuable Data | With companies gathering massive amounts of data from their satellites, information to support sustainability is available to the marketplace.
- 33:00 Space Industry Insider | “First, in the space industry space, no one can hear you scream.”
- 39:00 Life Hacks to Leverage Community | After an inside look at the space industry (33:00), Brian encourages listeners that big problems can be solved with 2 ingredients: a large community and the technology already available. “If you can get 5 minutes out of 10,000 people, you can find out anything you need to know to get something done.”
Planet Diagnosis Data
Hypercubes uses cutting-edge satellites, sensors and AI technologies to take global snapshots of the earth and its daily chemical analysis. Each captured pixel includes the chemical data of that part of the earth. The satellite gathers data on everything from plant species to chemical poisoning in the environment, and the AI data analysis can provide unheard of data: whether a farm requires more fertilizer, the stage of a wheat field harvest, the likelihood of a bridge corroding and breaking, and even the chemical analysis of mines to see iron on the right and gold on the left.
Most importantly, this means that HyperCube can tell which companies are cleaning up the environment like they promised. Incredibly, this data-rich device is less than twenty pounds and has similar dimensions to a shoebox. A $1.5 million shoebox.
Late Bloomer to Hyperspectral Technologist
After hearing about Hypercubes, Chandler wants to know “How did you get here?
“I’m a late bloomer.”
Brian got his degree at 28 but grew bored of the industry after just 18 months. He decided to strike out on his own and build a business. Brian was “bright eyed and bushy tailed, wondering, how do I start a business?” To answer that question, Brian joined Fishburners, a nonprofit coworking space for startups in Australia. During the interview, they asked him if he would help with upkeep in the space. “Sure I’ll take out the garbage. Can you teach me how to build a business? I kept the internet running and they taught me about a business”
While at Fishburners, Brian began a laundry list of ideas and companies and started creating. “I figured out how to measure creativity in one’s brain – it’s from the corpus callosum. When you’re being creative it lights up.” But getting a device the size of an MRI machine into a cellphone was a little beyond his expertise, and more hauling work than it was worth. “There was no elevator in my building.”
Scrap it All, Let’s Do Space
Brian experimented with 14-15 ideas and tried 10 companies. After several unsuccessful attempts, he assessed the situation.
“They all suck. I decided I’m going to give a go to anything I want to do. I’m throwing realistic out the window. So, I picked being a space entrepreneur.”
This happened in a conversation over beers at first. When asked, “What do you want to do, Brian? I drank the beer, slammed it on the table, and said, ‘Space.’ And then the whole room cracked up.” He thought it was the alcohol talking, but “low and behold, I did get started.” Brian attended the International Space University in Australia.
“I started Launchbox first, taught kids in school how to build a satellite… I left that company and went into Delta V Space Hub.” Delta V Space Hub is a space startup ecosystem started by several entrepreneurs pooling their resources and creating a coworking location. Brian also became a TedX organizer. “ I just did a whole bunch of crazy stuff.”
Image by Donald Gianetti @wizwow via Unsplash
The Launching Question
Eventually, Brian asked a professor at the International Space University the right question to find his next step. “Yeah we can do plant species detection from space- its called hyperspectral, but don’t worry about it it’s too hard for you.” Hyperspectral is the technology that allows chemical analysis at a distance, and the same technology that Brian would embed into satellites and launch into space.
Brian dove into creating a company around this technology shortly after. He joined Singularity University in 2014, a Silicon Valley hub for projects using exponential technology for impact.
“Why do you use exponential technology, and what are you looking to use it for?”
“I’m a geek. I love my toys and I love my tech… [Since] all this stuff is going so bloody fast, where do you go from here? I realized the immense capabilities, and the way i would describe it is riding the wave.”
According to Brian, You can create the wave or ride the wave.
Pros and Cons of Riding the Wave
“Exponential tech allows me to rapidly go places i couldn’t go before, and demonstrate things that were considered impossible even 2-3 years ago. They are like foundations: They take the longest time to build and the most work, but they create the tallest skyscrapers”
Though exponential technology is hard to stay on top of all the time, it matters to continually ask questions to find out what’s possible.
Opportunities are evolving. Computing power is doubling every 18 months. With research and intention to solve a specific problem,
“You’re never going to have to worry about missing the boat.”
A Menu of Innovation
Brian lists several eye-opening technological advances:
- Bandwidth doubling every 30 months
- The human genome can be mapped for less than $1000
- 3D printers are printing parts for nuclear reactors and aircraft.
- Phone plugins to detect radiation
- Advances in nanotechnology
- Cryptology has passed its tipping point and is here to stay
- Advances in AI
- Power prices dropping and performance increasing
Brian points out, “You’re using exponential tech when you build a website and build an app.” It isn’t so expensive when you start with existing technology, or “ride the wave.” But, “When you try to predict the future, it gets expensive.” Predicting or creating the wave is where large teams, massive amounts of research, and millions of dollars come into play.
Image by @spendude via Unsplash
3 Keys to a Killer Satellite
19:10 – In the satellites HyperCubes builds, there is the satelite piece, the sensor piece, and AI component. Fortunately, building a satellite is dropping in price, and even launching satellites is more affordable “Thanks to elon musk.” Certain people recently claimed “We’ll never have a re-usable rocket! Now, there’s dead silence. China is building reusable rockets. Everyone’s getting in.” In other words,
“We don’t bet against Elon anymore.”
- A Satellite Brian shares, “If you know how to asemble a phone, you know how to assemble a satellite. Sensors used to take up the size of an entire room, and now they are the size of a grain of sand.”
- Super Sensors HyperCubes uses passive sensors in their satellites to capture data. The sensor gets its data by reflecting sunlight. “The data output is insane. My first propotype I was playing with put out 400 megabytes per second. That’s like 40 game of thrones episodes being streamed at the same time. In high def.” Hyperspectral may be the ultimate answer to all passive sensors, Brian claims.
- Artificial Intelligence How do humans handle that volume of data? With advanced AI. Brian laments, “I’m not concerned about the increase in AI. I am concerned about the decrease of Human Intelligence.”
The satellite industry grows more and more accessible each year. Where it used to take thousands of people and billions of dollars to launch a satellite, now it only takes hundreds of people and millions of dollars.
For example, NASA created Phonesat to test the ease of building and launching a satellite. “They took an old android phone and made some changes, and then threw it into space and it worked.”
Now, “there are 3000 active satellites in space, half a million in crap that we’ve left up there” (27:00) and before too long, exponential technology companies like OneWeb will make information accessibility a global phenomenon. “Anyone anywhere anytime anyplace can check their tinder.”
NASA image via Unsplash
Space Industry Insider
With companies gathering massive amounts of data from their satellites, information to support sustainability is available to the marketplace.
“Companies are taking pictures and using sensors so you can see deforestation, in order to accumulate that data over time and add accountability. It’s The biggest integrity question – you said you wont pollute the river, why is the river still purple?”
Brian then shares the steps to launch a satellite into orbit:
- Register your satellite with the country of origin
- Organize with the UN what rate of frequency you’ll be using
- Get a “Big ass rocket.”
On the topic of getting into the space industry, Brian gives listeners a fair warning. “First, in space, no one can hear you scream.” It’s funny, and it applies to the space industry. When you’re a new entrepreneur in the space industry, no one “hears you scream.” No one understands. Those operating an established project doubt entrepreneurship, and other entrepreneurs don’t understand what you’re working on.
The space industry will be $50 trillion industry by 2050. Brian lists a few sectors of the industry that are growing rapidly:
- Launching satellites – rocket builders.
- Satellite builders
- Communications to gather data
- Space tourism – 7 people per year
- Space mining
“An asteroid coming in the next 5 years coming into the Earth’s orbit, with $100 trillion of precious metals on it. Whoever can plant the flag on it will have a good business. And please, entrepreneurs, don’t point the asteroid to earth and cause another dinosaur age extinction. We don’t need that.”
Image by @spacex via Unsplash
How to Build an Exponential Company
Chandler asks, “what patterns do you look for when you’re starting a company?”
“I look for the biggest problems to solve. If you start from the source and work your way up, you will find a problem that will suit you. I always study big, complex problems.
Technology’s up front investment cost. If you ride the wave, the stuff is already cheap. If you want to make the wave, that’s the expense. To get around the wave, buidling community is key. The thing that creates exponential sales is a community.
The internet has given the ability to create communities rapidly around topics of value of interest to our ethics, goals, morals and values. If you can get enough people in one place you can draw any problem and an answer and a solution will be provided. Building a community of people allows you to leverage the world.
If you can get 5 minutes out of 10,000 people, you can find out anything you need to know to get something done. When you have that, all you have to do is present the answer that makes sense to them, and you will find an answer.”
- How is this going to impact your business?
- Can you use this data to grow your business?
- Are you prepared to shift your practices or business model when this data hits the marketplace?
The formula to create your own exponential tech company is only two things: gathering a tribe of people to ask questions and discover the problem, then choosing a technology to solve the problem.
You can get to work on it right now.
Email Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and new ideas.