Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week!
DIV’s portfolio is full of great ideas coming from entrepreneurs around the world. Join us in celebrating some of our recent investments in their big ideas!
Off-Grid Electric Tanzania
When you combine a serial entrepreneur, a local expert with extensive in-country experience, and an energy and electricity guru, you have a pretty powerful solar start-up. So it’s no surprise that the founding trio of Off-Grid: Electric, Xavier Helgesen, Erica Mackey, and Joshua Pierce, are turning heads with their new approach to reaching off-grid consumers. Off-Grid aims to address the distribution challenges, service challenges, and high upfront costs that are prevalent in many off-grid rural electrification programs. The Off-Grid approach, on the other hand, uses a pre-paid electricity model and mobile banking to enable consumers to pre-pay for energy in in small increments and use automated payments to control costs, dramatically reducing consumer risk and improving consumer services. Visit Off-Grid at www.offgrid-electric.com.
It’s not every day that you see lessons learned from space applied on the ground in Tanzania. But power couple John and Annie Feighery and their company mWater are doing just that. John, formerly a lead engineer for air and water monitoring on NASA’s International Space Station, and Annie, a behavioral health scientist working in global health designed a mobile tool that tests for contamination in drinking water sources without the need for costly lab equipment such as incubators. Inspired by technology used on the Space Station, the mWater application enables low income communities to monitor their own water supplies at a locally sustainable cost. With DIV Stage 1 funding, mWater and partners in Mwanza, Tanzania, will establish a supply chain for the test equipment used with the app, and implement the mobile-based water monitoring system. This project will help nearly 90,000 people in two pilot wards to locate safe water and identify dangerous water sources. Read more about their project: www.usaid.gov/div/portfolio/mwater.
Four years ago, Sanga Moses, an accountant living in Kampala, quit his job, dug into his savings, and started looking into potential solutions to his family’s need for cooking fuel; his family lived in Western Uganda and, like 80% of Sub-Saharan Africans, depended on wood for fuel. The massive depletion of Uganda’s forests has made this fuel harder and harder to come by, and his sister was beginning to spend all day collecting it instead of staying in school. After years of research, design, and iteration, Sanga started Eco-fuel Africa with simple, manual machines that convert agricultural waste into fuel briquettes that burn longer, cleaner and are 20 percent cheaper than wood fuel. With DIV Stage 1 funding in 2013, Eco-fuel Africa has begun mass manufacturing the Eco-fuel Press Machines, leasing the machines to local unemployed women and youths in slums and villages, and training them to launch clean-energy micro-businesses. Not only will disadvantaged groups enjoy new entrepreneurial skills, but their communities will also benefit from cleaner, cheaper energy. Learn more about Eco-Fuel Africa: tmblr.co/ZOfcaswRHDwq
At only 27, Lesley Silverthorn Marincola has an impressive lineup of awards—from the likes of Businessweek, Forbes, and Echoing Green—that recognize her as a major entrepreneurial force for global good. All well-deserved for the young founder of Angaza Design, who is working to bring affordable solar home systems to low-income, off-grid families and small businesses in Tanzania Angaza’s goal is to offset the hundreds of dollars spent by off-grid homes annually on kerosene lanterns and disposable batteries with a healthier, greener, and cheaper alternative: pay-as-you-go (PAYG) power that capitalizes on the proliferation of mobile phones and mobile money to bring solar and other modern sources of energy to off-grid markets. In 2013, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) team selected Angaza for another award: a Stage 1 grant of $100,000 to test the PAYG technology and conduct and evalurate its development impacts. Successful deployment of PAYG energy solutions will allow families to save on kerosene and mobile phone charging costs, while improving family health, education and productivity. Visit www.usaid.gov/div/portfolio/angaza to learn more.
In 2006, Alexander Drummond and Jonathan Cedar met at the design consultancy Smart Design in New York City, where they quickly bonded over their interest in sustainable design. Countless nights, weekends, and prototypes later, the BioLite Camp Stove was born. The team’s HomeStove provides a potential alternative for the 3 billion globally who cook on open fires, which are notoriously inefficient and unhealthy. The HomeStove, on the other hand, reduces the amount of firewood required by families to cook, and cuts the toxic pollutants of burning wood by 95 percent —nearly 10 times more than other available improved cook stoves. BioLite and solar powered lamp innovator, Greenlight Planet, are breaking down barriers to clean-cookstove adoption by expanding their market-based model for making cookstoves in 200 villages in Orissa, India. Biolite and Greenlight Planet are conducting a randomized control trial with the support of researchers to evaluate how different financing mechanisms expand access to the HomeStove and whether the stove leads to improvements in wellbeing. Read more about the BioLite project here: www.usaid.gov/div/portfolio/biolite
Mozambikes, Limitada started as an idea of the founders during a roadtrip across Mozambique, when we encountered person after person walking along the side of the road with massive containers of water or bundles of firewood on their heads. To Lauren Thomas and Rui Mesquita, bicycles, which can carry up to 4x the weight and travel 3-6x as fast as a person walking, seemed like an obvious solution. They knew, however, that reaching rural communities with the economic and health benefits of the bicycle faced the challenges of high transport costs, low quality product, rough road conditions, and amplified prices in regions further from urban centers. Together, they created Mozambikes to overcome these obstacles with a model that leverages sales of advertising to corporate and institutional customers to make bicycles and accessories available at affordable prices for people living in impoverished areas. With Stage 1 support from DIV, Mozambikes will plan an expansion of its business model to target thousands of new people throughout the country and develop a system to track the development impacts and begin to issue annual social reports. Read more about the project at www.usaid.gov/div/portfolio/mozambikes
In 2008, young Colorado lawyer Doug Vilsack headed to Katima Mulilo, Namibia, with a backpack full of 50 solar-powered flashlights. Upon arriving in Namibia, where 70% of the rural population lacks access to electricity, Doug found enormous demand for the cheap, durable lights, and knew that more needed to be done to bring lights and other renewable energy technologies to off-grid communities in the developing world. In the four years since, Doug’s nonprofit Elephant Energy has been developing a market-based distribution network that addresses the supply chain and delivery challenges of getting affordable, durable, and sustainable energy technologies to critical “last mile” to rural customers through its network of 45 commissioned energyentrepreneurs spread over 8 regions of Namibia.. In 2011, Elephant Energy teamed with divi™, to pilot test a new solar lighting and charging product, the Divi Light, to address existing issues of distribution and customer-end financing. In 2013, Elephant Energy won a Stage 2 investment from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), to test these financing and distribution strategies at a wider scale, and to conduct a large-scale trial evaluating their social impacts such as increases in family savings, creation of employment, and environmental impacts. With this support from USAID, Elephant Energy expects to energize over 18,00 households in the next two years in Namibia and Zambia. It is projected that Elephant Energy, with divi™ technology, will energize nearly two million households in Africa in the next decade. Visit Elephant Energy at www.elephantenergy.org for more information
Clean Hands Inc.
Take a look at Walter Gibson’s 25 granted patents alone, and you’d know right away that he’s a natural innovator. Add to that his entrepreneurial spirit, and you’ve got a force to be reckoned with. After working in technology development, R&D, and product development, Walter branched out in 2007 to found Bear Valley Ventures with the aim of creating and delivering projects to improve health in developing countries. Two years later Walter was at it again and teamed up with Helen Trevaskis, a behavior change and innovation consultant, and Val Curtis at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to create Clean Hands Inc., a social business with the goal of increasing rates of handwashing with soap—an effective method of preventing diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, and other health problems—which range from zero to 34 percent around the world. CHI has developed pathogen-eliminating products, such as foam hand sanitizers, to meet sanitation needs where soap and water are inconvenient or inappropriate in urban communities with limited access to water. With DIV Stage 1 funding, the team will prepare for a test market and the launch of CHI as a commercial entity. Read more about their project: www.usaid.gov/div/portfolio/bvv
Yashraj Khaitan and Jacob Dickinson are not your typical recent-grads. After finishing up at Berkeley in 2011, they turned down more traditional job offers in favor of a riskier venture: founding a start-up to bring reliable, affordable electricity to people around the world. Together the 22 year-olds founded Gram Power and set to work in India, where 380 million people lack access to electricity. Their unique model combines locally generated electricity—typically via solar panels—with the company’s proprietary Smart Meters, which support pay-as-you-go financing to increase access and affordability for consumers. In 2013, Gram Power won a Stage 2 investment of $1 million to expand this model to the creation of Smart Grids, which will allow households to use appliances that people in the developed world take for granted—electric lights, fans, mobile-phone chargers, radios, and TVs. Partnering with a team of researchers from Berkeley and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, the team will also rigorously assess how electrification affects household welfare, power usage, and incentives to encourage energy efficiency.
To read more about exciting ideas in the DIV portfolio, visit www.usaid.gov/div and follow us @DIVatUSAID.