“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.
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.
- 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- The SDG Indicator Handbook
- UN Stats List
- SDG Data Hubs – Explore Geospatially Referenced Data by Goal
- UN Data Forum Blog
- 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!
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 Finding real numbers about these grand challenges can outdated, biased based on the source, etc.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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
600 million Africans do not have access to electricity, and most of them burn fossil fuels inside their homes. Is there a way to power off-grid homes and businesses sustainably?
The Green Mini Grid Facility Kenya (GMG Kenya) provides grants and technical assistance to mini grid developers, to expand energy access to rural communities in Africa. In this episode, we talk with Nakul Sharma, a senior associate at I-Dev international and one of the lead managers of the Green Mini Grid Facility (GMG Facility Kenya) project.
- 10:00 Why is a Power Grid Important? | Find out what life is like off the power grid, and what it takes to get power to people who live on less than $4 per day.
- 14:30 African Resources | Africa is the world’s largest geothermal resource, so why is expensive diesel fuel so popular?
- 20:00 The Mini Grid Solar Business Model | See how GMG Facility addresses the biggest problem in their market: demand for power.
- 27:00 Maslow’s Hierarchy | Kenyans priorities food first, then education. But when they can save 25% of their daily income, priorities shift.
- 36:00 A Business Model that Puts Itself Out of Business | With enough mini grids, the governments and industry in Kenya will see rural areas as viable to connect to the grid. How will GMG Facilities stay in business?
- 40:00 Global Goal #7: Clean Energy for All | Nakul asserts that athough access to sustainable power is clearly in the future, it will take time.
Most countries have a national electrification plan. This program was created to cover the communities that were not included in the program. Some are so rural that it isn’t economically feasible to add the communities to the grid.
The households they help are the lowest income households with no electricity access. They use kerosene and flashlights to operate at night and cook. The mini grids use a standard solar or hydro technology, and 400-500 households and businesses can be powered.
Nakul says that if their company is successful, the mini grids they create will create a larger grid and make the community viable to connect to the existing governmental grid. “Success for this sector means that we connect these communities to the larger grid.”
“So essentially, it is GMG Facility’s job to put ourselves out of business.”
GMG Facility also covers funding: they pay for 50 percent of the cost of the panels, batteries, and hardware. Then, they help the communities and businesses raise the remaining 50% to pay for the grid. The idea is to use the funding and the development to generate interest in the sector: developers, investors, and governmental interest in connecting these communities to the grid.
Why is a Grid Important?
“What we’re seeing in the lowest end of that spectrum are some really cool innovations. What is the key issue for someone making less than $2 or $3 per day? It’s affordability.”
Nakul talks about a recent innovation in buying power in whatever increments you can purchase it, as you need it. So for agricultural communities where income is seasonal, they can buy power when they need it.
Previously, the lowest increment you could buy power was $0.50 per day, which is half to a quarter of the daily income. So, integrating a “pay as you go” business model was critical for affordability.
The African continent doesn’t need more coal or dirty fossil fuel. “Kenya alone has the worlds largest geothermal resource currently because it sits on the rift valley. I don’t know the science of it but I know it creates a hell of a lot of steam.” Steam turbines create energy from these rifts as well as hydroelectric power from dams as electricity resources.
However, diesel is the most widely used resource in Africa. It’s both the dirtiest and the most expensive resource. Nakul is optimistic though that Africa has the most opportunity for using clean energy since so much is available at a lower price than diesel.
“A commercial and industrial stand-alone solar system for a business can produce power for $0.04-.07 per kilowatt hour, while diesel provides power at $0.40 per kilowatt hour. The general electric grid can provide power at about $0.15 pkh… So, the opportunity is enormous,” Nakul asserts.
The Minigrid Solar Business Model
Affordability is the main deciding factor in the success of the mini grid business model. Developers go from house to house collecting payments, and GMG Facility had to come up with a way for developers to be compensated dependably.
“When your power bill comes in, you also get the option to pay-as-you-go with credits in advance of the month. You can also use mobile money and pay with your phone. This way, when the mini grid developer goes around and physically collects payments, he isn’t put off week after week when families cannot pay. Instead, they can pay with their phone or pay as they go in advance.”
Nakul shares the main driving question to the business model: “How do we create demand?” He says there are 2 models the company is looking at to answer these questions.
- Traditional model: developer driven. In this model, the developer finances the equipment teaches a business or family how to use the equipment, and manages the grid and the implementation.
- Enterprise-driven model: In this model, you look at a larger company (like an aquaculture company and see what they need. Then, you set up a mini grid right next to that commercial complex to provide power to all of its related facilities. This way, the company provides 70% of the demand for the mini grid to break even, and the remaining 30% of the profit comes from the demand for rural businesses and families.
Those at the lowest income bracket in an emerging market have problems at the bottom of Maslow’s heirarchy – food, shelter, and
basic health. Nakul suggests that energy is a basic need for education, connection to the internet, and communication to generate income. As GMF has interviewed families though, they have found that they typical expenses priorities are food first, and then education expenses second. Since kerosene, diesel, or a flashlight are viable options when you’re living on less than $4-$5 per day, the demand for energy decreases as funds decrease.
But there are health repercussions of using kerosene. The oil burns and produces smoke that can cause asphyxiation in the lungs.
Nakul talks about the World Bank study to link the use of fossil fuels to deaths or health hazards. He says they couldn’t find strong evidence for the health risks, and therefore clean energy companies need to focus on the economic benefits.
“Kerosene costs 50 cents per day. A stand-alone solar home system costs 50 cents per day for only 420 days,” Nakul says. So after a bit more than a year, you own the system. Each system is good for about 20 years.
“We’re Putting Ourselves Out of Business”
Nakul creating a scaling strategy for a business model that will be irrelevant once it works: Once GMF successfully connects many smaller mini grids to the larger grid, the mini grid developers won’t be needed.
Nakul’s idea is that the developers will be the distribution channel for power from the main grid to get to the minigrids across Africa.
“We already have the distribution structure, so let us supply it to the households.”
One of the problems, Nakul says, is that even when the grid arrives it isn’t as dependable as a larger city grid. Eventually using the mini grids as power distributors from the main grid is a great way to mediate reliability and rural access problems.
Global Goal #7: Clean Energy for All
“Africa is probably where India was 20 years ago.”
He says it’s a matter of time before off-grid communities will be connected to the grid. As technology costs go down over time, power will be more and more available to emerging markets and those who have never been able to pay for energy.
He also mentions the critical step of Government endorsement and funding of power into the commercial and private sectors. Nakul leaves us with a recommendation to get involved at a personal level in the clean energy sector through crowdfunding.
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.
- 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
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.”
“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.
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.
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.”
- 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.
In this episode, find out how the Hack Fund platform uses blockchain to create accessible funding for startups outside of Silicon Valley.
- 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.
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:
- Scoring Each company is reviewed and scored by other entrepreneurs instead of by other investors.
- 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.
- 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.”
“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.”
- 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.
- 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.