Today I would like to write about a topic and a company of extreme interest. The topic is how to improve educational quality and performance around the world using technology and innovation and the company I would like to profile is called BrightBytes. It is a San Francisco based tech start-up (like so many others) and its core business is to build tech enabled research-based decision support platforms to help education institutions improve their spending decisions to focus on practices that actually improve student learning outcomes. It is a EdTech company that is much more than just posting grades online. The company is building a buzz and raising money. Having been featured in Fast Company, and raising 750K from Learn Capital in early 2013 and another $15M in Series B capital from Bessemer Venture Partners in 2014. Recently it was also named one of the 20 most innovative EdTech companies globally.
Over the last few weeks I have been spending some time exploring business models that address issues related to access to financial services and products for base of the pyramid consumers. Through this effort I came across eMoneyPool, a Phoenix, Arizona based business venture which is using technology to revolutionize an activity practiced across the globe by many different cultures for hundreds of years – money pools. Money pools are essentially shared savings programs where groups form contribute savings to a shared fund and take turns withdrawing large sums from those “pools”. eMoneyPool is revolutionary, because it is bringing these group savings mechanisms online and expanding dramatically the potential customer base. It is a concept which got them initial recognition and funding from the Phoenix based incubator SEED SPOT, featured on the White House Business Council as well as more recently investment and recognition from the SOURCE and Accion Venture-Lab. Read on to find out more.
Over the last 2 months I have been taking my first online education class via Coursera. The course is on Gamification and is taught by Kevin Werbach at the Wharton Business School. It has been an overall positive experience. I encourage others who are interested to check out the course options. Truly Coursera, EdX, Khan Academy and others like them are transforming education. But that is a topic for another time. One of the gamification course segments was on the use of gamification in social impact settings. It was through this section I came to learn about Practically Green. Practically Green is an online platform which is adopts gamification tactics to inspire people to embrace healthy and more sustainable choices at home, at work at in their communities. It is a cool company, that recently was named as a finalist at the Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) Innovation Awards. Read on to find out more.
Let’s start the new year by profiling one of the most innovative, exciting and successful social impact business models of the last few years. Sproxil, a Massachusetts-based company started in 2009 with operations in five countries; Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, India and the US is revolutionizing the pharmaceuticals market and fighting back dangerous counterfeit drugs which kill approximately 700K people in developing countries a year. Sproxil is doing this through the empowerment of consumers to know what they are buying using their mobile phones. It is a novel idea, and it is working. Sproxil is growing quickly and gaining lots of recognition along the way including being named a White House Champion of Change and Fast Company most innovative healthcare company in 2013.
As the global economy almost came to a collapse over the debate about the right to public health care insurance in the United States. I thought it would be an interesting moment to share the story of a successful for-profit business model to provide affordable health care services to underserved BoP communities in South Africa. Unjani Clinics, which means “How are you?” in Zulu are a sustainable fee for service based business model that provide basic health services such as basic eye care in refurbished containers operated as franchises by certified nurse practioners. It is a model that has gained steam and expanded from three to seven clinics in the last year. Those looking to figure out better ways to better serve the BoP with healthcare services should take noticed.
A few weeks back I wrote about Cuyana an interesting social impact business model with a Quechua name. I recently came across another such company listening to a Good Life podcast. This one is called Runa which means “human being” in the native language of the Andes. It is a perfect name since Runa, is a Brooklyn, New York based agribusiness with a grounded human-centered approach to profitably and sustainably make a difference in the world. It does this by providing alternative livelihoods for indigenous Kichwa people in the Ecuadorian Amazon while at the same time providing the US market with a healthy new caffeinated beverage alternative called Guayusa. Runa has grown quickly from its small beginnings of importing the tree-leaf using personal luggage and doing homemade packaging and distribution to family and friends. Today it can now be found across the United States, most notably in the popular Whole Foods supermarket chain. In doing so its approach of bringing business ethic to social work has been praised by Richard Branson’s in his book Screw Business as Usual and its founders have even made their way onto Bloomberg TV. Read on to find out more.