Monday, June 08, 2015

"For the tomatoes, the clock is ticking" And Other Inspiring Stories From Fledge

Fledge is an accelerator for startups that not only hope to make money, but also to make the world a better place.  I need to say right at the beginning, that I'm related to the creator of Fledge through marriage.  But I think if you look at these videos, you can see for yourself what a great concept it is and how well it's being executed.

A few startups are chosen for each session.  They're given $20,000 and six weeks of extensive training on how to make their business work.  All aspects from financing to marketing to production to human resources.  The fledgelings get mentors and get to meet with investors.  At the end of the six [10] weeks, they have Fledge Demo Day, which was last week in Seattle.  The videos are from Demo Day. I got to go to the first Fledge Demo day about 18 months ago.  It was an exciting event. 

This round's fledgelings are all international - from Africa and Argentina.  I'm particularly impressed by this group because the entrepreneurs are all local folks, not foreigners, who have already started businesses and they'll return to grow those companies.  Several of them talk about how they came to see the problems they're solving as children, watching their moms and grandmothers getting sick from the charcoal fires they cooked on every day.  Or, in another case, how Mom could only cultivate two of her ten acres because she couldn't afford to plant the rest of the land. 

Tom Osborn  Kenya Green Char

Tom is concerned about the health and financial costs of charcoal stoves in Kenya.  And charcoal requires the cutting of 125,000 acres of trees per year.  His answer is to make charcoal from sugar cane waste.  The charcoal is the traditional cooking heating material in his country.  His sugar cane charcoal has no smoke, is cheaper than traditional charcoal, burns longer, and provides jobs for women who act as distributors.  It also, of course, recycles the sugar cane wastes and leaves all those trees standing.

Sebastian Sajoux - Argentina, ArqLite  (the links go to the Youtube vidoes - or you can just let each one take you to the next)

Has a process to turn non-recyclable plastic into little rocks that can be used make concrete.  It produces a cement that is lighter, better thermal insulation, and quieter than traditional cement and also gets rid of the plastic that would go to landfills. 

Paul Nyambe - Zambia - Zamgoat

Buying goats from villagers and getting them to market where there is a big demand for goat meat.  This gives remote villagers extra money for something they already do and meets a demand for goat meat.

Femi Oye - Nigeria  SME Funds, Go Solar Africa, Green Energy Bio Fuel and Cooking Stove

Femi has several companies to bring cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy to Nigeria.  There's the alcohol based cooking fuel made of agricultural wastes and the solar panels.

David Opio - Uganda - Ensibuuko 'Germinate'

This is a financial tool - Mobis - that helps SACCO's (cooperative banking groups in Uganda) be more accountable and gives customers access to their accounts on their cell phones.

Nnaemeka Ikegwuonu   Nigeria Cold Hubs

Nnaemeka tells the story "For the tomatoes, the clock is ticking."  He traces the path of the tomatoes from Chibueze's farm, to Eugene's truck, to Alex's stand at the market.  He shows how many tomatoes - about 40% - have to be thrown away because they spoil in the Nigerian heat.  His solution is a solar powered refrigerator.

The market can be the solution to a lot of problems.  An entrepreneur who doesn't pay attention to the needs of the customers won't succeed.  But the market model doesn't require business owners to  pay attention to the needs of the community, or to people's health,  or to the environment's health.  These companies do that. 

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