Prospering in the Missing Middle

Posted by on September 12th, 2014

By: Mina Shahid, Kulemela Investments




In the Zambian Chinyanja language Kulemela means to prosper. There are over 100 million smallholder farmers in Africa today. We have never met a farmer who just wants to put food on the table. They want to send their kids to school, and build a better house. They want to prosper. In order for African farmers to prosper they need access to markets and these markets need access to flexible investment capital. The Kulemela team has been farming alongside African smallholders, and advising agricultural entrepreneurs since 2008. Entrepreneurs that create opportunities for farming households often need $20,000 worth of missing-middle financing, not a $200 microloan or a $200,000 impact investment. Entrepreneurs like Basideen Issifu – Ghana’s first commercial guinea fowl producer and poultry incubator manufacturer. We’re inspired by Basideen because he envisions a vibrant agricultural community in Ghana that doesn’t need to import 90% of its poultry. And Samuel, a small-scale juice processor who we met recently. He has over $100,000 dollars in collateral but he still cannot access a $15,000 loan to purchase oranges from his network of outgrowers to meet an export order. Basideen and Samuel represent the $140 billion credit gap in Africa. Without financing their potential, and that of the Ghanaian agriculture sector as a whole is systemically constrained. With a network of young professionals who want to invest their money with purpose, Kulemela is igniting vibrant communities both in North America and Africa by offering alternative investment opportunities for Western investors, and designing financial products specifically for small and growing African agribusinesses who require $10k – $100k of growth financing. Working directly with agribusinesses that are too big for microfinance but not yet ready for mainstream impact investment or commercial bank financing, we are creating a world where African agriculture is deemed prosperous, entrepreneurs have the tools and resources they need to succeed, and small-scale farmers have too many choices rather than too few. At SOCAP14 we’d like to expand this community and learn about how other actors are tackling the challenge of designing flexible investment products for the missing-middle.

Effortless Energy offers free, no-hassle way to stop climate change, one home at a time

Posted by on September 12th, 2014

By: Claire Tramm, Effortless Energy


home energy


Effortless Energy offers free, easy home upgrades at no cost to customers. Our innovative efficiency-as-a-service model leverages software, advanced data analytics, and finance to make home energy efficiency the no-brainer it ought to be. After a visit from an Energy Expert, we pay for and upgrade things like thermostats, refrigerators, lighting, and furnaces to make them more efficient. Then, we share in the utility bill savings we create by charging customers per unit of energy saved at a rate lower than the cost of using energy. As a result, customers receive a more valuable, easier-to-control, more comfortable, quieter, healthier, and greener Effortless Home while saving money on their bills.

Saving the 30-40% of kids failing to learn to read

Posted by on September 12th, 2014

By: Glenn Andert, Read Me Stories (8Interactive)


read me


By allowing 30-40% of kids to fail to learn to read, we (the adults) are putting them on the path to education failure, poverty and crime. Itäó»s our mission to put them back on track. We have a proven track record of putting 98% of these struggling kids back on track. About Read Me Stories in 60 seconds: (*) 5 million kids to-date, NO promotion, NO sales force. Next goal 50M. (*) Outstanding reputation with kids, parents and teachers: 20,000 reviews, 97% delighted. (*) Bilingual versions for Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and more. (*) Hello from our creatures: How it works: (*) Disney-caliber content engages even kids that hate reading – they look forward to using Read Me Stories for homework, instead of print books. (*) Outstanding real-world outcomes head-starting kids with reading before they get to school, accelerating the entire class, and putting the 40% that are failing at reading back on level. (*) Serves as digital reading homework. Integrates perfectly with in-classroom reading literacy solutions and practices. (*) Provides the teacher with weekly literacy assessments giving insight into effort, mastery and problem areas, with zero admin for the teacher, and no additional time for the child. Read Me Stories is uniquely positioned at the boundary between school and home, with both proven consumer engagement and proven core literacy outcomes. Read Me Stories is deployment and investment ready. We would be delighted to meet with you.

NDI: Mothers of Light

Posted by on September 12th, 2014

By: Fairoz, Nusantara Development Initiatives (NDI)




When NDI began our work about 2 years ago, we were not very certain how things would develop. We had a strong conviction that empowering women in order to end energy poverty, matter. We knew, based on our field observations and research, that women are a powerful link in solving the last mile problem in rural areas. But at that stage, these were just ideas. The first batch of women entrepreneurs whom we trained therefore, would either validate or disprove our assumptions. We called them Mothers of Light. It was a name decided just an hour before the training began. Someone in our team said it would be a nice touch if we have a name to refer to our program. And just like all start-ups, things that would matter later on have in their origins a history that is not spectacular, sexy or based on dazzling insight. In this first batch, we had a lady called Ibu Zaimah. She was the oldest in the batch. She severely lacked basic skills äóńduring the training session, she could not figure out how to fill basic information despite being taught several times. To understand her situation, you would need this context: Imagine that you are a 60 year-old person who is now reporting back to class after a 40-year absence and picking up a pen for the very first time. That was Ibu Zaimah on the first day of lesson. We struggled a lot in helping her keep up. One day, she turned up with her son, whom to our surprise, stayed for the whole lesson. At the end of the day, we asked why her son stayed all the way. She said she wanted her son to learn so that he can in turn teach her at home, and guide her along the way. I think that was the point when things click for us. Like all new initiatives, we made mistakes in the beginning, and will continue to make mistakes along the way. But what we saw became a commonly occurring pattern that distinguishes between those who made change in their community and those who donäó»t. The women who were effective change- makers had grit and a desire to be better. Ibu Zaimah wanted her family to have a better life and saw in this program the opportunity she never had. One year after the program began; her husband lost his job, propelling her as the sole breadwinner. Now, she has become one of the most effective äóÖMothers of Lightäó» in our program. Ibu Zaimah, together with assistance from her son, has sold more than 500 solar lamps and brought light to more than 2000 people. And I would like to think that it was through her that we finally distilled the essence of the term, Mothers of Light, a name that we came up in a rush but now brings with it a greater sense of clarity and purpose.

Birthing Companies, Creating Hope

Posted by on September 12th, 2014

By: Michael Oluwagbemi, LoftyInc Allied Partners Ltd.




LoftyInc is a social enterprise in the business of advising and seeding start-ups and SMEs in social impact sectors of Nigeria, Africa’s largest nation and biggest economy, with 45% youth unemployment rate and enormous opportunities. Innovation in this environment is a necessity: it is the only path to survival for thousands of young people seeking a way out of despondency. Through two of our initiatives – LyfeCamp and Wennovation Hub, we are building vibrant communities of innovators in partnership with tertiary institutions and our non-government organizations. Since 2012, we’ve touched over 2,000 students through our WennoCamp, WennoHunt and WennoPlatform programs, seeded 8 start-ups and created over 75 high quality jobs in the process. In our LyfeCamp program which is designed to be a high paced business planning and implementation bootcamp that co-opts students from 50 universities, we reached over 200 students in 2014 and have selected 12 of them for social impact investments ranging from nutrition, eco-innovation and healthcare solutions. Some of the companies we seeded have gone on to commercial success or acquisition, but above all they are creating badly needed jobs and engagement for youths of our sprawling nation. Our strategic focus for the next two years is to craft services that target bottom of the pyramid SMEs including payment services, strategic product design services, back-end inventory management and ordering services among others. We are currently building a network of these SMEs across our channels this year and will look to begin launching some of these services in 2015.