I recently returned from a trip to the Philippines, where I was visiting the four winners of IIX’s Impact Accelerator program. Throughout the trip, I was constantly inspired by the passion of the social entrepreneurs and the sacrifices they endured in order to start their social venture. As I sat in a water pumping station in Orani Bataan, a town three hours outside of Manila, chatting with Stephen, the CEO of Hiraya Technology Solutions (a pioneering water enterprise that developed an advanced pressure management system to help water service providers adjust water pressure while reducing water waste), I started to become acutely aware of the enterprise’s key needs and the support it required to scale. This was an exciting challenge, but also a sobering one – it reminded me of the important role that Impact Accelerator plays in growing and scaling the impact of these innovative, early-stage enterprises.
In early 2013, Hardika Shah, Founder and CEO of Kinara Capital, an Indian Social Enterprise, aimed at addressing the debt gap between microfinance and commercial capital was looking to raise Series A funding of US$1million. While they had already secured lead commitments from two US-based impact investing funds, the Social Enterprise needed help in locating additional investors to meet its full fundraising goal.
Not too long ago, in 2007, Vodafone and Safaricom (Kenya’s largest mobile network operator) launched mPesa – a money transaction service for the unbanked. mPesa, allowed for easy transferring of money from one part of Kenya to another by just using a mobile phone. Mobile phones, devices used for sending text messages and calls, were now facilitating complex financial transactions, saving users an incredible amount of time and effort. A study suggested that incomes increased by 5-30 percent for all Kenyan households that adopted mPesa. To date, 17 million Kenyans use mPesa, which results in the transfer of funds equivalent to about 25 percent of Kenya’s GDP. This mobile banking solution created a new wave in the way the world approached the financial inclusion challenge.
“I have a picture of a mountain in my room and I will put post-its on it – what I spent, how much I saved, how much I have in my bank accounts… Every day before I go to bed, I will look at this picture, at my expenditure and my savings, and I would think: how am I going to achieve my dreams and goals?”
– Kartini, LiveOlive user (not her real name)
My journey at Shades of Happiness Foundation (SoH) taught me the true meaning of the Latin phrase, ‘Per Aspera Ad Astra’ – ‘Through Hardship to the Stars’. SoH is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in India, with the mission to promote social inclusion by empowering underprivileged children with the knowledge and skills to pull themselves, and their families, out of poverty. The initial years taught me three key lessons. First, talent retention is extremely challenging when you’re working with unpaid volunteers and interns – which affects the organization’s ability to deepen impact. Second, not only is fundraising mystifying (and often terrifying) for NGOs, but relying on donations or grant funding is a highly unsustainable approach to scale impact. Third, without measuring your outcomes, it is virtually impossible to sustain the organization’s impact trajectory. SoH’s overarching vision to change the world to act as a level playing ground for children of all backgrounds seemed remote and unattainable.
“I was done building the next better iPhone – I wanted to solve real problems, and in India – where I grew up and where the real problems are,” Mani Vajipey the founder of Banyan Nation Recycling had said to me in my first conversation with him. Mani and his co-founder Raj Madangopal decided to quit their high-ranking technology jobs in the US and moved back to their native Hyderabad in 2013 to develop innovative solutions to the waste problem in India. They spent a year surveying and understanding the market before starting Banyan Nation in early 2014. Today, they have a material recovery facility in Hyderabad that produces about twenty tons of high quality plastic recyclables per month and works to integrate, formalize, and legitimize hundreds of informal sector waste aggregators (known locally as “kabadiwalas”). IIX is working to help Mani and his team realize their vision to be one of the largest responsible and sustainable plastics recyclers in India.
Sateesh Andra is a Managing Partner at Ventureast, primarily overseeing the Ventureast Tenet Fund, a premier seed-stage VC Fund consisting of investments across technology (Mobility, Cloud, Internet) and technology-enabled (Education, Healthcare, Financial services, Cleantech and high-impact, invention- based social businesses) sectors. He has worked in or with venture-backed technology start-ups in U.S/ India for the past fourteen years. With hands-on start-up experience and in-depth knowledge of the dynamics of VC funding, he looks for highly motivated and energetic entrepreneurs to partner with.
Since the late 2000’s, Vietnam has become a hub for entrepreneurship, especially in the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) sector. The growth in ICT entrepreneurship can be attributed to two key factors. One, the country has a very young and tech-savvy population. According to World Bank 2013 data, Vietnam has 43.9 Internet users for every 100 people. Mobile cellular subscriptions in the country reached 131 per 100 people in the same year. Most notably, 36 percent of Vietnam’s population, or 33 million people, owns a smart phone, making the country the second largest smart phone market in Southeast Asia, just after Indonesia. Two, tech entrepreneurism in Vietnam has been fueled by the fast growing ecosystem. By 2014, Vietnam had six investment funds, ten incubators as well as numerous online communities and networks focusing solely on tech startups. This conducive ecosystem has churned out several success stories from the startup community in Vietnam such as VNG (an entertainment and social network platform), Vat Gia (a listing website) and VC Corp (a media company), just to name a few.