Top Five Lessons Learned From Our Singularity University Series

Top Five Lessons Learned From Our Singularity University Series

In the SU series, we heard from some of the top minds at SU on how to leverage exponential technology and incorporate it into your own business. We saw some of the implications that exponential technology will have on our futures, and we saw the impact this technology will have in solving the Global Goals. Listen in to hear more about Chandler’s 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.

In this podcast, our goal is to uncover some of the most innovative companies leveraging leading-edge technology, like Singularity University. Companies like SU are taking on the global goals with social-impact driven business models.

We want this podcast to be a resource for you to learn about the innovative tech of our time and integrate it into your business model.

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Top 5 SU Series Lessons

  • Take Away 1: Start by Building a Regular Company… Then Go Exponential

When you’re building out an exponential technology business, one of the best ways to start is just to focus on building a regular company and focusing on solving a problem that you think that you’re uniquely good at that you will be able to specialize in in the marketplace and watch how that company develops organically.

  • Take Away 2: Bring in an Outside Specialist to Integrate Exponential Tech

One of the best ways to bring technology into your business is to hire someone that specializes in the technology that you want to leverage. Then, they can help you gauge the timing and success rate when you’re building an ‘exponential’ solution… since solutions like these often seem slow to start, and then make great leaps in traction. Only a specialist would be able to gauge whether your pace is a problem or if you’re just days away from the next quantum leap.

  • Take Away 3: Learn About Exponential Tech Across Industries

Once you get into the technology game, it’s advantageous to actually study all the different kinds of exponential technologies so you can stay on top of the marketplace. The nature of exponential technology is that industries across the world will be disrupted more and more quickly, and you’ll need to keep your eyes on the horizon to keep up and innovate.

  • Take Away 4: The Data Will Tell You Where to Start Innovating

You don’t have to be a technologist to get into the business of exponential technology. The best way to start is just to become more data-centric. When you start to see patterns in buying habits, online habits, and gaps in the market, you can begin to innovate solutions.

  • Take Away 5: Seeing The Innovations in Tech and Business Through Singularity

Chandler says, “Maybe I’m a little bit biased on this, but I really enjoyed getting the inside scoop of the latest and greatest of what singularity is up to in the world and their game plan over the next 10 years.” Singularity has been collecting the most innovate companies and technologists all over the world, so following their work will keep you up to date on upcoming opportunities and trends.

We will be taking a short break and when we come back we will start a series Impact Venture Capital, Private Equity Firms and how to measure impact with your portfolio companies at scale. Stay tuned!

Listen in to hear more about my 5 biggest takeaways from the SU series.

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The Revolutionary Keyboard for People with Motor Disabilities

The Revolutionary Keyboard for People with Motor Disabilities

In many parts of the world, students who cannot operate technology or participate in a classroom often drop out by high school.

With Key2Enable software, students can use technology with the motor function available to them, and easily participate in school and life.

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Episode Summary

In this episode, we’re speaking with William de Oliveira, the Cofounder and President at Key2Enable Assistive Technology. The mission of Key2Enable is to help kids with movement disabilities to stay in school and get great jobs with access to technology that they can use easily.

  • 1:30 The mission and founding story
  • 4:00 How it works and who can use it
  • 9:00 Global Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities
  • 16:00 Tech Specs
  • 20:00 Going to market and the Indiegogo launch
  • 32:00 How to support

We’ll cover the founders’ story, how the technology works, as well as the impact of the technology on emerging markets and underserved populations. Listen in and enjoy!

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The Mission

The company was founded in Brazil and now operates out of Florida. The Key X on their keyboard enables any motor-disabled person to operate a keyboard. William says,

The key X enables any person with a severe motor exhibit to have full access computers, tablets and smartphones. We give it to kids who cannot hold a pen or pencil and cannot vocalize words or speech in a regular classroom. The, they can stay in school and participate, and we can create an opportunity for them to work after they finish school.”

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The Founding Story

The founder, [01:58] Glacial Fernandez, was born with cerebral palsy. He was using a pointer to do his job, and created a concept to solve his own problem. He met Adriano and Julio and partnered with the two of them to create a prototype. Then they met William and Alexandros to help with distribution.

After starting in Brazil 5 years ago, the technology gained momentum and is now expanding into the US. “We’ve reached about 1000 students now,” William says.

How it Works

04:08 “With the first concept we created the key X. After that we created a few accessories:

  • Blink Accessory With the blink of an eye you can work with the keyboard. The sensor picks up eye movement and translates it to actions on the keyboard.
  • Squeezer Tool With the squeezer tool, students can squeeze with any part of their body.
  • Keyboard Button The keyboard button simplifies the use of the keyboard.

So in other words, if a person has any movement capability in their body, they can work with the Key X and access computers, tablets and smartphones.

Who Can Use Key2Enable Tools

[05:47] People with cerebral palsy and people with Parkinson’s find the tools useful since they have spasms in their hands and they moved all the time. Optical devices don’t work for them. They cannot access small keys on a keyboard or point straight to them.

“Our target is the people with severe motor disability. They are the ones who are always left out.

Our keyboard has nine very spaced out, large keys and motor-sensitive accessories that allow them to do anything we do on a regular keyboard.”

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Staying in School

After these kids finish middle school or high school, they don’t have many opportunities in life because they don’t have the assistant who was taking notes. In places like Brazil, the assistant isn’t a given. Even in the States, the assistant may not be assigned in high school or college.

With the key X, they can now:

  • Work from home
  • Work from an office
  • Use Whatsapp and communication tools
  • Schedule appointments
  • Stay in school and participate in the conversation
  • Play games

That’s 200 million people in the world who can now participate.

10 million in the states.

“It’s No Child Left Behind – that’s kids with cerebral palsy and adults with Parkinson’s. It gives opportunity back to them.”

Global Goal #10: Reduced Inequalities for All

Specifically, Global Goal 10.2: Promote universal social economic and political inclusion.

Key2Enable innovates in multiple other Global Goals as well:

  • Goal 4: Quality education. People can now get online and gain access to Google or other learning tools.
  • Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth. Now, this whole population has access to work.
  • Goal 10: Reduced inequalities. Key2Enable gives more equal opportunities in school and work to those who were previously marginalized.

“We saw so many teachers, so many parents crying because they never knew their kids could do these things. It’s a new world for them.”

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Technology Specs

[16:00] It’s around 14 inches, or the size of a microwave. It’s two pounds and there’s nine buttons with two different modes. One is for writing and one is for using different colors. That allows people to write all the letters of the alphabet, all numbers, and even other languages and letters with accents. They can do anything a regular computer can do.

“We have one teenager, Daniel, who is learning to code Java by blinking his eyes.”

“One girl in Brazil, one of our first users, is now the top performer in the school in mathematics. She used to use an assistant, and now she’s at the top of her class.”

Going to Market Dec 11th, 2019

The technology went to market 2 years ago and hit US markets on December 11th. You can find them on Indiegogo and buy keyboards for school districts, individual kids and nonprofits.

Key2Enable intends to put their assistive products in the hands of every person in need all over the globe.

“Money is the first challenge, and trying to understand the way the market works,” William says.

Key2Enable will be developing partnerships with foundations and school districts to support distribution and subsidize the cost.

Chandler and William talk about validating a hardware product:

“The first four letters are the hardest! But at the same time you have to integrate everything: the plastic strength, the visual, the colors, the layout… the challenge goes from the hardware to everything in the system!”

Purchasing the Tech

The keyboard is $750 and will be available on Amazon and through Indiegogo. Partners will distribute it in local counties in the US, and online store sales will grow after 2019.

Visit the Key2Enable website and their Indiegogo Campaign to stay up to date on their

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Takeaways

  1. Building a product based on a real need: the cofounders solved their own problem and then made it available to the world.
  2. Digital Inclusion: A tool or product can unlock a whole world for someone.
  3. Check out Key2Enable website and their Indiegogo Campaign to learn more and contribute!
22 Preparing Startups for the Abundant Future

22 Preparing Startups for the Abundant Future

Singularity University is on a mission to make the world a more abundant place. In this episode, we’ll hear from Molly Pyle, the Senior Program Manager of Singularity University Programs and the Co-Chair of the Women’s Impact Network.

Summary

In this episode we’ll explore the SU ecosystem, learn about the resources they have available, and get a glimpse into the next-level community it will take to prepare for an exponential-tech-driven future.

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[00:51] Ultimately we are working on preparing leaders of the future, whether it’s startup founders, leaders of governments, NGOs, you name it. We really want people to understand the opportunities and the implications of exponential technologies and help them become more connected. Connected to our global ecosystem as well as connected to the future business and tech landscape. We’re asking, how do we ultimately understand how to solve the world’s most urgent and pressing problems?

SU provides program services, information, education, and resources to help folks have the mindset, the tools, and the resources to ultimately transform the future and create a world of abundance.

How Singularity Started: Niching in Exponential Technology

[02:16] “Singularity University was founded by Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. These guys are very famous thinkers, inventors, futurists and entrepreneurs in their own right respectively. Ray and Peter came together one day and realized that the future’s going to look a lot different than what we currently understand it to be.

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Exponential technologies are those which are rapidly accelerating and shaping major industries. And ultimately every aspect of our life and that if we can understand these exponential technologies like:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Digital biology
  • Biotech
  • Nanotech
  • 3D printing
  • Blockchain robotics

We want to know how they’re changing and the law of accelerating returns, as Ray Kurzweil called it. We can actually leverage that information to help make the future abundant and help make it a place where everyone has access to what they need to thrive.

With exponential tech, we believe it’s possible to live in a world where nobody wants for anything. It sounds like a crazy sort of idealistic future, but we really view that the future can be anything that you can create it to be.”

An Exponential Mindset

[04:09] “An exponential mindset or an abundance mindset refers to that point of view that we have here at SU: that ultimately there’s no problem that we cannot solve when we apply exponential technologies and innovative ways of thinking. We really have that hopeful outlook on the world and our future. So we want to focus our energies on bringing that information to others and empowering them to create that abundant future we envision.”

The SU Ecosystem

[04:55] SU has hubs or chapters that are led by alumni. People who have gone through a program with us before will go out then into the world and galvanize others around the mission. They can start a chapter anywhere in the world.

“Right now SU has 126 chapters across 63 countries. We have 191,000 community members who either have been to an SU program or are part of an SU chapter and are really keen on the exponential mindset.”

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SU and the UN Global Goals

[08:47] The goals that SU focuses on are the following 12: Energy environment, food, shelter, space exploration, water, disaster, resilience, governance, health, learning and security. SU buckets various sustainable development goals under these 12 global grand challenges.

[09:18] “We are not telling you how to solve these problems. We are not standing on the stage dictating the future and exactly step by step what every country or government or city or organization needs to do. That would be really prescriptive, right? And it’s not our role to do that.

Our role is that of a convener. So we want to bring the right people together with the right skills and the right technology so that they can solve these big pressing problems that honestly should have been solved decades and centuries ago, but we’re still working on them because they’re that hard.”

The SU Community

SU resident entrepreneurs have 7 weeks of in-person mentorship and then 3 weeks of virtual mentorship. The point is to create a global network that resources mission-driven people.

SU is asking, how do you integrate a 190K+ people who already have a shared vision and value set? How do you make sure that they are authentically meeting and connecting with each other and helping each other?

The Startup Ecosystem for Global Problem Solving

[14:03] We’re on a mission within the next 10 years to back 10,000 impact startups. So 10,000 startups using technology, hopefully using exponential technology to solve a global grand challenge to make it a thing of the past.

About Molly

[15:16] “I am the designer, right? I mean, I speak on behalf of them because they are what I believe the lifeblood relate to creating this transformation in the world is through the design of experiences.

[15:34] Molly puts together the right curriculum, the right content, the right speakers, mentors, faculty, and what the program is going to look like so that it transcends everybody’s expectations.

How are businesses going to anticipate technological shifts in your own business model and your roadmap for the next five years?

[21:31] “That’s what we want people to really be challenged with. We understand that is not an easy thing to figure out, so that’s why this program is a hybrid model of in-person and digital support. For a whole year.”

Content Style: Curriculum Designed for Startups

[23:20] “We’ve asked the experts to redesign their usual talks and lectures completely from the ground up with startup founders in mind.”

It’s important that the information is actionable or meaningful to the student. So, even if you think you’re an energy company using blockchain, you listen to the talk on quantum computing and then you listen to the talk on the blockchain, and you realize there is a convergence of those two technologies. You realize that quantum computing is the key for you to massively scale or for you to 10 x your impact.

The Global Startup Program

[25:06] SU is packaging up the content curriculum, the speakers and sending it all over the globe to be – the global startup program. Part of this will take place in another country, another continent, and then faculty and students will come back to Silicon Valley for the accelerate phase. They network like crazy, look for opportunities for funding, meet local mentors, and ultimately then launch out a big demo fair in the valley.

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Where do I start?

[26:52] First, you can access SU’s digital content first and get all of that foundational knowledge before you even enter the first in-person phase. You can get access as a GSP participant to this digital platform with all of the digital courses. That way, you can feel really prepared walking in the first day of the program.

“But even if you’re not in GSP in those digital courses, I’d say they are a great place to start to understand what all this terminology means and beyond terminology. How do I actually integrate this to transform my life and build a future that I want to live in?”

A Fearless Abundance Mindset

[30:12] Molly says, “Once I heard Ray say in a talk, ‘optimism is not idle speculation. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.’

We can create the future that we want. It may seem really daunting and scary sometimes, but an abundance based mindset and ultimately a community of other people who can help you make it happen. With that, anything can happen.”

What do the next decades look like for SU?

[31:33] “We’re really working on our approach to sort of future growth with the platform mindset. So how can we build infrastructure that allows others to create, to convene and to connect ultimately to solve these really huge problems for humanity? So I’d say that’s what we’re thinking about.

Molly talks about the innovators and geniuses in emerging markets who have the creativity to solve global challenges.

[34:52] “If we get voices in the room and people around the table who maybe aren’t often invited- they have answers that are just waiting to be scaled, waiting to be acted upon. To me, that’s also what entrepreneurship is about. It’s a way of, if I may be radical here, decolonizing what current power structures look like by providing people with information, power, resource, and opportunity to create things. They may have never had that opportunity before.”

Molly emphasizes how many of us are all trying to solve the same problems. What kind of velocity could we create once we work together, across genders and cultures, to solve problems?

Takeaways

  • SU is a global organization – because the problems and solutions are global.
  • Challenge: join the SU virtual community and download the app.
  • Let’s increase the speed of our feedback loops, or we won’t be positioned and ready for the ever-changing future.

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Bonus: Six Real-Time Data Resources for Social Entrepreneurs

Bonus: Six Real-Time Data Resources for Social Entrepreneurs

“If you’re doing something for me without me… it’s not for me” In this bonus episode, Chandler shares six resources for social entrepreneurs to know what’s going on in the world – so you can start solving problems that matter now.

Podcast Summary

As social entrepreneurs, we believe that we can use business as a vehicle to solve problems.  

One of my biggest takeaways from Kenya is that you have to go to where you want to solve a problem to see it from the ground. If you don’t have the chance to go… You better have really good data about the challenges. I’ve found that’s pretty tough! So I started digging, and I found some amazing resources and thought I’d share my favorite top six with you.

  1. 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  2. The SDG Indicator Handbook
  3. UN Stats List
  4. SDG Data Hubs – Explore Geospatially Referenced Data by Goal
  5. UN Data Forum Blog
  6. The UN Global Pulse

Listen in to hear why these six are such game-changers… and to source data on the problem you’re solving!

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Maybe you’re excited about impact and trying to figure out what business you want to start, or maybe you’ve been in the game for a while and have had several social ventures. So we’re problem solvers and we see these global goals as opportunity to integrate those that we want to impact into our business model. The bigger our business grows, the bigger the impact.

“if you’re doing something for me without me… it’s not for me”

It takes really good data to effectively address a challenge. And I’ve found that’s pretty tough. Finding real numbers about these grand challenges can outdated, biased based on the source, etc. We’re talking about every country, 17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 indicators (which are the specific metrics they measure).Here are six resources you can use to find the data you need.

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Tool #1: Getting Started | The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. And we’re only three years in.

I’d highly recommend checking out the 2018 progress report! It’s on unstats.un.org You’ll find every global goal on here with progress metrics. Are we ahead of pace or behind pace? Which ones are Goals are going really well and ahead of schedule and which are behind?

For example, in the least developed countries, the proportion of the people with access to electricity more than doubled between 2000 and 2016.

However, the proportion of undernourished people worldwide increased from 10.6 per cent in 2015 to 11.0 per cent in 2016. This translates to 815 million people worldwide in 2016, up from 777 million in 2015.

These are just a few stats that scratch the surface. Go check out your favorite global goal and see the progress.

Tool #2: Diving Deeper Into Data | The SDG Indicator Handbook

The global indicator framework was adopted by the General Assembly on July 2017. It’s goal is to provide a solid framework for how we will go about measuring progress of the goals to inform policy makers and ensure accountability.

These efforts are especially important in identifying those left furthest behind, since data are increasingly disaggregated by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, disability, geographic location and other characteristics. This type of detailed information is the basis of effective policies.

Tool #3: Inside the SDG Indicator Handbook | UN Stats List

I found a great handbook that breaks all of these indicators down to make the progress very easy to understand. The handbook defines the indicator, shares how they gather data for the indicator, and shows references. For my data friends out there, you can even see the formulas they use! 😍

Yes. I’m excited too.

  • Indicator 1.1.1: Proportion of population below the international poverty line, by sex, age, employment status and geographical location (urban/rural)
  • Target 1.1: By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day[1].
  • Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

If that isn’t cool enough, this database has an open API. The database, maintained by the Statistics Division, was released on 20 June 2018 and contains over 1 million observations.

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Tool # 4: Explore Geospatially Referenced Data by Goal | SDG Data Hubs

This site breaks down all the indicators by location to see progress. They have maps and other data visualizations and analyses, and easy to download in multiple formats.

And, you can also see by country! Ireland, Mexico, Philippines, and the state of Palestine.

Tool #5 | UN Data Forum Blog

This blog is updated constantly with new info on how the UN is gathering data for the SDGs. For example, one great article was centered around the topic of how can we use mobile network data to integrate into the global data platform to better understand the progress towards the SDGs? This is particularly fascinating because the amount of people who have access to the internet is growing so rapidly.

With more than 5 billion people connected to mobile services in 2017, and projections reaching 5.9 billion by 2025 (71% of the world’s population), we can see the mobile phone sector is increasingly important in achieving the SDGs.

And still… can we use data to make decisions with over half of the current population not online?

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Tool #6 | The UN Global Pulse

Global Pulse is a flagship innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data. Its vision is a future in which big data is harnessed safely and responsibly as a public good. Its mission is to accelerate discovery, development and scaled adoption of big data innovation for sustainable development and humanitarian action.

To this end, Global Pulse is working to promote awareness of the opportunities Big Data presents for sustainable development and humanitarian action, forge public-private data sharing partnerships, generate high-impact analytical tools and approaches through its network of Pulse Labs, and drive broad adoption of useful innovations across the UN System.

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So if you’re like me and a data nerd, you’re going to spend a TON of time of these sites. My goal for you is that it makes you curious.

How can you use this data to better understand the people you want to impact. And to get what’s happening in your market? 

Or if you’re already hyper zoned on the problem… What impact are you making on a global scale?

Show us with the data.

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16 Proving the Value of Impact Investing in Emerging Markets

16 Proving the Value of Impact Investing in Emerging Markets

In areas where resources and infrastructure are scarce, a few key investments can elevate the entire economy. In this episode, find out how the IFC’s education and healthcare portfolios are impacting Global Goals 3 and 4 in Africa.

Summary

  • 2:00 How the IFC works | Investing in profitable AND sustainable ventures
  • 12:30 What kinds of investments does the IFC do in Africa? | How the IFC impacts a whole ecosystem with $5 million+ investments.
  • 18:00 Healthcare & Education | How the IFC supports these two critical impact areas in Africa
  • 21:00 Medtech & Edtech | Technology can bridge the gap for off-grid families to get fully accessible, standardized education
  • 26:00 Challenges to Scale in an Emerging Market | Kenyans value education, so the challenges of resources and infrastructure create opportunity for innovation.
  • 28:00 Measuring Impact | Standard and case-by-case metrics for impact investing
  • 35:00 Business in Africa | An invitation to do business in Africa

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Senior investment officer Ananya Sengupta works with the IFC Sub-Saharan Africa division. The International Finance Corporation is part of the World Bank group, and they are committed to partnering with the private sector to end extreme poverty and increase shared prosperity.The IFC has invested more than $25 billion in African companies to help their partners overcome the financial, operational and growth challenges of business development.

We’ll see how the IFC measures impact in this episode, and how the healthcare and education industries are developing in Ananya’s point of view.

Investing in Profitable AND Sustainable Ventures

“We must be able to offer something that the market cannot offer,” Ananya say, like expertise, advice, or specific kinds of loans. IFC is a for-profit group that is proving that investing in emerging markets can be profitable.

“For any economy to grow, it’s not only the government that needs to invest but the private sector that needs to invest too. They will only do that if they see that it’s sustainable. So that’s what we do.”

Ananya talks about working in the health and education team with the IFC, then moving into a portfolio team for investments. Her portfolio group has more than 150 businesses, and she specifically manages about 40 companies. “We monitor the portfolio, the quality, the trends, and also at an individual level. After we’ve dispersed money to a company and it comes into our portfolio, we give the company a credit rating.” She talks about her job in creating the reports on those companies to ensure the quality of her portfolio.

What kinds of investments does the IFC do in Africa?

Ananya talks about the different industries and countries that they are involved in. She says they work with investments above $5 million, “because we believe in having the biggest bang for the buck. Our philosophy is to work with bigger companies that have a bigger impact on their whole ecosystem. This way we can impact a whole ecosystem of companies around the one we invest in.”

Healthcare 

“We’re seeing a lot of medical tourism because Kenya’s becoming a center of excellence in healthcare. …But even though Kenya is strong in the region in healthcare, the cost is expensive. So many Kenyans go to South Africa or India for healthcare.”

Large parts of the population still don’t have access to affordable, quality healthcare services. Ananya says that the competition will help address those issues, as more and more companies arise from the market.

Education

The investments that the IFC does in education are some of the smallest in their portfolio, and “they meet a very real need… in areas where there are just not enough public schools.” She describes schools that are run by one or two people out of someone’s garage and the opportunity for corporate alternative schooling companies to come in and provide quality education.

She talks about higher education as well, which includes technical and vocational universities.

Medtech & Edtech

Technology can now address problems like:

  • Lack of teachers
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Access to a school
  • People living off of the energy grid
  • Education quality
  • Standardized curriculums

Ananya says that kind of technology is critical for Africa, from providing content and services that have never been available but also to increase engagement in education in Africa.

Challenges to Scale in an Emerging Market

Here are the main challenges Ananya mentions:

  • Lack of electricity (though there is internet)
  • Lack of resources and curriculum
  • Lack of teachers
  • Allowing remote access to a class they need

The opportunity, Ananya says, is that in Kenya education is very prized. People are willing to pay for their children to go to school.

Measuring Impact

Ananya’s portfolio group agrees on impact metrics that they will use to choose a company. Some of the Metrics the IFC looks for are:

  • How many female employees do you have?
  • What are the learning outcomes (for education)?
  • ROI over time – infrastructure metrics vary, and are specific to each company
  • How much business has this company given to SME’s (Small to medium sized businesses)?

Leap Frog to Africa

In Africa, you don’t have to go through all the pains of developing infrastructure because the market is ready for up to date innovation. For people who are willing to take that risk “there is a huge opportunity to make money and to make a real difference to the people here.”

Takeaways

  • The IFC has taken a long-term stand to prove impact investing is profitable, and have created thousands of jobs.
  • If you have a business with traction, head to IFC.org to get connected and see what work they have done for good.
12 The Blockchain VC Fund to Tackle Poverty

12 The Blockchain VC Fund to Tackle Poverty

In this episode, find out how the Hack Fund platform uses blockchain to create accessible funding for startups outside of Silicon Valley.

 



Episode Summary

  • 6:30 How to Raise $5 Million: “I don’t know man, I’m a nurse!” Jonathan shares the journey of balancing nursing night shifts, coding, and running Hackers and Founders events.
  • 14:00 Choosing Companies in Emerging Markets In Central America, the likelihood of a company going public or selling to Google is slim. How can a blockchain fund incentivize investors, and help them to select great companies?
  • 21:30 Thousands of Beers and Founder Struggles Once he was invited to the Small and Emerging Companies (SEC) committee, Jonathan knew “We’re gonna end up solving poverty in emerging markets.”
  • 29:30 Investment to Solve the Global Goals One micro VC fund in Latin America grows the market by 10% per year. Hack Fund can transform a continent’s economy by investing with local profitable companies.
  • 45:00 Technology to Solve the Global Goals Each new technology job creates a ripple effect of economic growth in an emerging market. See how this blockchain platform addresses root problems to address the Global Goals.

 

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How Jonathan Started Hackers as a Nurse

Jonathan starts us off by sharing the mission and vision of hack fund.
“The mission and vision of hack fund are to solve the world’s liquidity problems and to fix investing in emerging markets.” Jonathan spent a couple of years on an SEC advisory committee looking at why investment gets so concentrated in certain areas of the country. He kept hearing entrepreneurs faced with the same problem, ‘I’m not able to raise money for my business.’
“85% of the world’s mergers and acquisitions happen in Silicon Valley.”
Usually, how funds are freed up is that a company gets sold or it goes public. Otherwise, investor funds are frozen in their investment companies. Chandler explains, “We’re retaining this thing called equity, and it doesn’t actually mean anything until the company is actually sold.” Liquidity means I can turn my stock or investment money into cash.
Jonathan hilariously describes the process of creating a public mutual fund legally. When on the phone with a lawyer who could create such an entity, he heard something to the effect of,
“One second Jonathan, I’m on the deck of my yacht in the Manhattan harbor and it’s very noisy here. One second – Raoul! Pour more Chabli! Don’t spill on the white leather!”
It came out to millions of dollars to get the public mutual fund off the ground legally. But Jonathan was “absolutely convinced we need liquid funds.” He began to hear more and more about Blockchain, and began to think about creating a digital security with a Token. Jonathan loved this idea, and he thought it was possible if it could be done legally.
“Essentially we’re just issuing a digital stock certificate that is a share in our fund. It’s a Cayman Island company.” Cayman Island companies have specific laws that will recognize both digital and paper documents, and that leave funds in the Hack Fund sector totally unregulated.
“The superpower that the fund gives me is that as compared to a traditional silicon valley venture capitalist raises money from other people and buy stock in other tech companies. They hope to god that 1 in 50 of these tech companies gets acquired by google for 1, 2, 5 billion dollars, and then everybody involved makes money. Unless you have a huge acquisition or IPO, the venture capitalists don’t make money.
In my model it’s my job to make sure that my share price grows. We,, how do you measure that? I don’t know… they have profits?! I said profits in Silicon Valley!”
“My superpower is, i don’t have to worry about whether one of my companies gets acquired or not. I don’t have to ask any of my entrepreneurs, ‘what’s your exit strategy?’ I don’t care!”
Jonathan talks about the auditing and vetting that takes place to ensure his investments are viable companies making profit.

What’s Possible for Emerging Markets

In emerging markets, like Guadalajara or Ireland, potential investors don’t see a return potential on their investment because it’s unlikely that a company from those markets will sell to Google or Ebay, or go public.
It’s unlikely that a startup will find investors if they are in an emerging market like that. The Hack Fund can give emerging markets that same opportunity through a digital stock through cryptocurrency. And, the value of the stock is established by the profitability of the company.

 

 

How To Choose Companies for Investment

“Well, I’m actually disrupting my own business.” Jonathan talks about the events and mentoring he’s done to bring companies to Silicon Valley and get them funded. Now, with Hack Fund, he doesn’t have to do that.
To be selected, there are three simple steps:
  1. Scoring Each company is reviewed and scored by other entrepreneurs instead of by other investors.
  2. Introductions Those who scored well will talk with the Hack Fund investors, who will review and score them based on their capacity to hit specific milestones.
  3. Final Cut If they pass those stages, we sit down with them to see if we care about what the company is up to and if we can add value.

From Nurse to Technology Investor

It was Jonathan’s dad who had him become a nurse, because “computers are for video games and you can’t do that for the rest of your life.” His interest in tech and computers led him to move to Silicon Valley soon after becoming a nurse, where he worked as a nurse 3 nights a week and coded for the other nights.
Jonathan gives credit to his wife for the start of his career. “I believe she said, ‘I’m f*cking tired of hearing about coding and entrepreneurs, you have to go out at least once a month and talk about it to someone else.”
Jonathan started a meet up that grew and grew. In 2010 the Hackers and Founders event went global.
“When the economy tanked, the underemployed nerds started to make things. They would come up with a great idea and then ask me, ‘How do I raise 5 million dollars?’ I don’t know dude, I’m a nurse!”

Thousands of Beers and Founder Struggles

“The Hackers and Founders tagline is, ‘Making founders’ life suck 34% less all around the world.’ Primarily that’s because we spent years having beers with founders around the world and talking about what sucks. This money thing came up over and over and over again.”
“Apparently not a lot of people have had beers with thousands of entrepreneurs.” That gave Jonathan leverage, and he was invited to an SCC committee that began his mutual fund path.
“We’re gonna end up solving poverty in emerging markets,” Jonathan says. He talks about his hometown in rural Honduras and being “the only white kid at the end of a six-hour long dirt road. That’s where I came from.” There were 35 coup d’etats in the region, where cops had M16s and AK47s. His friends didn’t have shoes to play soccer. But his dream was to move to Silicon Valley, flip tech companies, and then come back and put shoes on the little kids.

 

 

“I think if we can use blockchain to tweak how capitalism works, tweak how we invest in companies, and tweak how companies access crypto markets around the world, I think we end up growing the economies in entire countries. For me that’s fun… That’s my Don Quixote hero’s quest. How do we fix poverty, and to do that how do we fix capitalism and make it a bit more collaborative?”

How does the Hack Fund work to Stimulate Emerging Markets?

One fund can stimulate an entire country’s economy dramatically. Jonathan says, “A hundred million dollar fund, or a micro-VC fund, spread out over 4 years, would increase investment into an entire continent by 10% per year.”
In addition, for every 1 tech job created there are five satellite additional jobs are created. So, each tech job feeds 5 people and impacts 10 or 15 people.
In order to put shoes on millions of kids in these countries, their moms and dads need better jobs. Jonathan talks about transitioning family incomes from agriculture to software-based vocations, and says that transition is possible within one generation. “For each young person who takes their software knowledge and builds a company, they will be making enough to stimulate their whole town on their own.” That creates lasting, systemic impact.
“I’m tired of precious little cute development projects. We need to grow these economies.”
Jonathan suggests transitioning agricultural economies to knowledge-based economies as a way to address poverty and grow the economy.

 

Technology to Solve the Global Goals

Jonathan talks about the ability to empower brilliant scientists and technologists in emerging markets by funding their idea development. He notices that people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had access to capital and that there are similar undiscovered geniuses in other parts of the world. What would happen if they got funding?
Another new capacity with the Hack fund is to enable people in different income brackets to invest, since it only costs $2 per person to become an investor. Once they are on board, they receive tokens that will eventually be used for basic living expenses.
“In emerging markets, there are going to be billions of people that are going to need to put a little bit of money to work.”
Jonathan talks about the inefficiencies of pensions and hedge funds, as he learned about them in nursing. He saw how much wealth was locked up in the nurse’s pension programs, and started thinking on a way for nurses to make 30% a year on their pensions by keeping the management fees low.
“This is why I think Blockchain is the future of finance.”

The Root Causes of all the Global Goals

Jonathan walks through the “clunky” user experience of the current Hack Fund platform. Users can log on now and invest, and the platform will become more user friendly in the next year.
And, Jonathan believes Hack Fund is on the right track to make a huge difference toward the Global Goals.
I believe the liquidity problem is the root cause of many of these problems… I’m not Utopian by any means. Yes, there’s corruption and scams. But just like the internet democratized peoples’ publishing, Blockchain will democratize people’s access to investment and entrepreneurship… And what the hell, that’s worth spending 20 or 30 years on.”
When it comes to the root cause of the problems that the Global Goals address, Jonathan speaks to education. He says access to the internet and funding education are steps before addressing education itself. He also mentions that corruption is a huge factor in emerging markets, and he imagines all nonprofits and governments putting their transactions on blockchain to create transparency.
Here’s the goal. In a number of years, families in emerging companies will say “I’m selling bananas but my kids are selling software.”

 



Takeaways

  1. Learning about a blockchain based fund that can solve the liquidity problem. This way, you can generate returns year over year as long as the value of the companies keeps growing.
  2. The gap between emerging markets and access to capital is huge! With access to more capital, the problems these economies face can be solved from the ground up. This is possible through new jobs and through equipping specialists in these countries to develop solutions that work.

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