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.
This week I would like to profile an emerging social venture being built by a friend with a very novel and important idea and objective, that the US scholarship system is broken and needs to be reinvented to make it more accessible, transparent and fair. Raise Labs which last year was one of the winners of Facebook and Gates Foundation College Knowledge Challenge, and recently won $75K at the UPenn GSE and Milken Family Foundation Education Business Plan Competition is beginning to turn heads as it has developed an interactive online platform bringing together experienced educators and technology professionals to reinvent college scholarships. Continue reading →
Over the last few years we have seen the emergence of a new model for public-private partnership which innovatively allows private financiers to help public sector or non-government actors to achieve needed social goals. That model is the social impact bond (SIB) – or as the Economist magazine calls it a new way to link commerce and conscience. It is a model which allows the private sector to finance social programs and get paid back with interest by the government if and when a pre-determined social target is met. Started in the UK in 2010 it has since caught on around the world being used in places like New South Wales, Australia, the state of Massachusetts in the US and notably by the New York City government in conjunction with Goldman Sachs in an effort to help troubled teens avoid going back to jail. More recently a new company, Instiglio, started by a bunch of bright young Harvard Kennedy School grads has decided to take the model to developing countries starting with Colombia and now also India. Read on to find out more.
The world has taken notice over the last few years of a new investment wave known as “impact investment”. This asset class is designed to provide investors with both a financial return and a broader benefit to society. This is often referred to as investing with double or triple bottom line e.g. providing environmental and social benefits in addition to the financial returns. Impact Assets provides here a list of the largest 50 players in this space. As you can see many of the funds focus on developing or emerging economies but very few are based in those markets. I believe this trend is changing and there are more and more innovative Impact Investment vehicles emerging across the world every year. I would like to profile one which was started by a few friends in Colombia. It is called Banca de Inversion Social or BIS for short.