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.
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.
On a recent morning eating breakfast and getting ready for work in Sao Paulo, Brazil I was watching the local news. An interesting feature popped on the screen. The news channel was profiling a citizen movement in the city aimed at improving living conditions and citizen safety. Basically citizens were building man-made signs and leaving them in locations where theft, rape or other violent crimes had taken place. In doing so advising citizens of the potentially dangerous locations and commutes and taking citizen safety into their own hands where the police wasn’t up to the task. What a neat idea I thought. If only they also had such civic engagement for non-emergency problems around the city. Well it turns out they soon might. In the USA, there is an innovative company which has created a tool to help citizens engage local government and media to fix non-emergency problems around their communities. Things like graffiti, open potholes and uneven sidewalks, etc. SeeClickFix, which started in New Haven, CT, and since expanded into more than 10 American urban centers including Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. Today it is the largest citizen reporting tool in the United States. It is doing so well that it was recently backed by Omidyar Network and O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures and is gaining interesting to expand abroad to places like Australia, Singapore and the UK (and I hope Brazil soon too). Read on to find out more.
This week I would like to profile a San Francisco based company which shares with me the distinct honor of having a Quechua name. Cuyana which means “to love” in the traditional Andean language of the Inca people is a socially driven fashion company that designs and manufacturers clothing and accessories inspired by the stories, craftsmen, and finest materials of the world; country by country. So far it has designed collections from Ecuador, Peru, India, Argentina, Japan and most recently Mexico. Its products have also been profiled in Elle, Conde Nest Traveler, People Magazine and others. Lets now take a closer look.
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.
I recently joined The Hub Sao Paulo chapter and in that process I have started to learn about some of the interesting entrepreneurial activity in Brazil. One of the first businesses I came across was Aoka. Aoka is a small eco-tourism company that works at the nexus of intercultural exchange, community development, education and travel. With the central philosophy that people can enjoy and will pay to see the world through different eyes achieving social consciousness and environmental awareness through responsible interactions with other cultures. In addition, it is one of the first Brazilian tour operators with an operational model to effectively measure and neutralize the CO2 emissions produced by its trips. Aoka was also a Ashoka Changemaker awardee in 2009. All good reasons to learn more. Continue reading
As Google Glass is soon to be released and will perhaps be the hot new thing for 2013, today I would like to profile a creative social business also providing an innovative business solution using eyeglasses. VisionSpring has been operating for more than a decade to provide eyeglasses and job opportunities to people without prior access at the base of the economic pyramid in Bangladesh, El Salvador, India and South Africa. It has used an innovative human centered affordable product and delivery design model built in partnership with IDEO to sell eyeglasses to more than one million people to date. Its business model has been proven to provide productivity benefits to its customers and it has been featured in the New York Times and recently won a large grant from USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures fund.