A normative definition that I use as a recovering angel investor myself is that an angel investor actively helps a seed stage startup succeed with both mentorship and capital in exchange for those intangible benefits of mentorship and a return on investment. In World Bank parlance, then, they automatically provide both investments and technical assistance with no agency costs; a great recipe for solving multiple problems (funding capacity, entrepreneurial capability and access to early stage finance) in a cost effective way. Knowing that 318,480 of them invested $22.5 billion on 66,230 ventures in the US and achieved 27% annual returns forms the basis of our hypothesis that angel investing could work well in the developing world.
Five hundred million. That’s the official estimate, the number that practitioners arrive at from a range of 200 to 900 million. That is the number of smallholder farmers in the world, and it makes a lot of eyes pop in development circles.
Take for example the most recent agribusiness value-chain event, Making the Connection: value chains for transforming small holder agriculture, which convened recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While the 500 attendees represented the private sector, government, civil society, farmers’ organizations and academia, almost all discussions had a way of looping back to one topic: smallholders.Why is it that the attendees were so fixated on the farming segment of the value chain? Is Africa not yet ready to climb past the very first rung of the value chain? Today, it is estimated that a mere 10% of the global agricultural production undergoes processing.
This summer I was invited to speak at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh, Scotland on Open Development. As you might know, TED features "Ideas Worth Spreading" and this year's global conference focused on "Radical Openness." This was an opportunity to highlight how the traditional development paradigm is opening up in dramatic ways that allows us to achieve stronger development results.
Today, many of us the world over are working to open up aid, increase transparency, empower citizens, and connect country practitioners to innovative solutions globally -- all of which moves us towards our goal of eradicating poverty. As per TED practice, this is interwoven with the evolution of my own thinking and experience as a development practitioner, since I was a student in India. I want to invite you to share your own innovations in Open Development.
This past summer, I joined my colleagues on a visit to the Global Innovation Summit and study tour in Silicon Valley—which is undoubtedly the world’s capital of innovation and entrepreneurship. Also joining us were representatives from Lebanon and Vietnam, who were clearly interested in enabling inclusive innovation in their respective countries.
The Global Innovation Summit brought together more than 500 innovation practitioners—including entrepreneurs, financiers, think tanks, NGOs engaged in inclusive innovation, and government officials from emerging markets. While we were there, we got an inside look at business accelerators, financiers, higher education institutions, and NGOs engaged in inclusive innovation. It was an important learning opportunity for us, considering the importance of innovation to the development agenda and the World Bank’s role in fostering innovation in our client countries.
One of the year’s largest conferences focusing on international development, European Development Days (EDDs) will be convened by the European Commission this week in Brussels, bringing together about 6,000 development professionals to discuss the theme, “Supporting inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.” A large contingent from the World Bank Group will take part in the array of EDDs panels and seminars – many of them to be livestreamed – on such topics as the global food crisis, environmental sustainability and resilience, women’s entrepreneurship and inclusive urbanization.
Palo Alto and Bangalore may soon have to make room for Nairobi at the top of the tech startup world. Kenya, the setting for such success stories as M-PESA, is making a name for itself as the center of the “Silicon Savannah”. This growth is supported by incubators, investment and policy – an ecosystem of actors committed to capturing opportunities in a promising field.
Today, the Climate Innovation Center (CIC), the first of its kind in the world, opens its doors to Kenyan startups hoping to also make waves in climate technology sectors. infoDev’s feasibility studies estimate that such companies can create up to 4,600 direct and indirect jobs over 5 years and over 24,000 within 10 years, but they require substantial support to realize this potential. To this end, the World Bank’s infoDev, in partnership with the governments of Denmark and the UK, engaged with Kenyan entrepreneurs, policymakers and financiers to determine what climate technology ventures need in order to flourish as their counterparts in other industries have done. In short, they seem to be: financing, business advisory services , networks and policies that support innovative entrepreneurship.
In May 2012, Alexander Shakaryan’s MicroForester, which is an online platform to stimulate reforestation in designated parts of the world, received the runner-up prize of infoDev and Nokia’s m2Work Challenge. The m2Work competition was a global call for innovators to design jobs that anyone could do from a mobile phone. Three months later, the Armenian developer assesses next steps for his fledgling company.
As an entrepreneur, winning a competition is only the beginning of the tougher part of the journey, which is creating a real company from an idea. You can win a competition with just an idea, but winning investors and customers depends on lots of other things like money, connections, and fame. The m2Work competition was good for local fame, and the m2Work Hackathon will help as well, but more importantly the events show us who the entrepreneurs are and how to help us on our own tough journey.
A few months ago I received an email from the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) about the m2Work contest. Inspired by the idea of microwork and driven by my love for nature, I had an idea for an app to allow people in different corners of the world to use their phones to earn money by planting trees. That was MicroForester.
Since the competition we have put together a great team of developers. We have developed an application for mobile platform iOS. The first trees have already been planted with MicroForester in Yerevan, Armenia. We have a sponsorship agreement with a local leading food industry company, and we also have mining companies interested in financing the project. We have a signed Letter of Commitment with the American Institutes for Research for a future USAID-funded reforestation project in Cambodia.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Building a Toilet Fair - Day 1
“Usually, Sunday would see the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Seattle campus empty save for a duck or two, and maybe a few zealous weekend workers. However, this last week was another story entirely. The campus was buzzing as exhibitors from around the world started to set up toilet prototypes for the upcoming Reinvent the Toilet Fair.
The Reinvent the Toilet Fair held August 14-15, 2012 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Wash. showcases innovations from around the world that are creating a new vision for the next generation of sanitation. The fair aims to inspire collaboration around a shared mission of delivering a reinvented toilet for the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe and affordable sanitation.
Here's a look behind the scenes during day 1 of transforming our campus into a toilet fair.” READ MORE
Too many of the people reading this blog will have experienced the familiar trajectory of a development project: prove the need, find the funding, define your outputs, deliver against your targets and either find more funding to carry on, or regretfully exit.
There is a fundamental mismatch between what I take to be the objective of development projects (sustainable, transformational change at scale) and a funding environment and model of project design based on a time bound, linear, output driven delivery model. So what lessons are there from elsewhere to help us move beyond this hamster wheel?
Bill Clinton observed that “there is no shortage of good ideas …the real problem is how to scale them”. There also far more people in the world interested in improving the lives of their communities than there are budding social entrepreneurs. Social franchising – taking a successful idea working in one place, distilling its essence and helping someone else in another place to create their own version of it – is one way of trying to break this cycle.