ANNOUNCING SEID SEED GRANTS

This year, SEID is introducing a second flagship program to financially support student teams that are developing social enterprises while at MIT.  With support from National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, we will select five MIT student teams to receive funding, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, for the summer of 2013.  By accepting a SEID Seed Grant, these teams will commit to reporting on their project progress over the course of the summer, according to defined milestones, and they will utilize at least two resources found in MIT’s innovation ecosystem.

Goal:

1)    To provide early-stage seed funding to MIT teams that are developing viable enterprises in emerging markets but have not received major funding from other related competitions.

2)    To match MIT teams with Sloan MBA advice and other MIT social enterprise resources as needed in their early stage development.

SEID Grant Eligibility Criteria

All MIT IDEAS Global Challenge finalists (<41 teams) and all 100K emerging markets applicants (<16 teams) will be considered for a SEID Seed Grant should they choose to opt into our review process.

Once the IDEAS and 100K winners are announced, SEID grantees will be selected from those that did not win first place in either competition (or in the case of the 100K, the Emerging Markets track). We will assess teams based on their applications submitted to the IDEAS Challenge or 100K; no additional information will be requested from teams unless explicitly requested during the review process.

SEID Grant Selection Criteria

Teams will be assessed using basic criteria from IDEAS and the 100K Emerging Markets track, with the following distinctions:

·      We will focus on ideas and teams that still need basic validation or to test one critical hypothesis in their business plan (e.g. how significant is the pain point; does the solution provide real value; is the solution scalable; is it compatible with local attitudes and norms).

·      All grantees should have a clear understanding of their business model, with a sustainable revenue stream and a primary focus on emerging markets.

·      Preference will be given to teams with members from across MIT programs.

The judges, comprised of SEID officers and MIT entrepreneurship faculty, will award funds, not to be below $3,000 or above $10,000, with the goal of enabling the team to validate the key assumption or answer the key question, however the team sees fit to do this.

Grantees will be announced during the third week in May. 

SEID Grant Reporting Requirements

·      Meet with SEID Seed Grants team to present summer plan with milestones

·      Provide a written mid-summer report

·      Deliver a post-summer case write-up and public presentation to SEID membership

·      Bi-monthly check-in’s with the Social Entrepreneurs In Residence at the Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

·      Meet with at least two offices identified in SEID’s innovation ecosystem map of MIT.

 

SEID is not able to provide workspace for selected teams.

Developing a solar power boat transportation network in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of sitting in a 5-seater prop plane flying over the Amazon rainforest. As we looked below at the river and trees that extended as far as the eye could see, it really started to dawn on us that we were heading into the jungle.  While there were plenty of great experiences on our trip to Ecuador, there’s no doubt that our time in the Amazon rainforest was the highlight.

Pacho0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Background

Our SEID team consisted of Howard Hong, Arvind Nagarajan, Javier Nieto, and Saurabh Sanghvi. We worked with Fundacion Pachamama, an Ecuadorian nonprofit focused on protecting the Amazon region and the tribes living there. Our team worked with them on a project to bring solar-powered boats to the Achuar region of the Amazon.  In coordination with an MIT engineering team focused on the boat design, our SEID team was responsible for putting together a business plan for the endeavor to ensure local ownership and sustainability for the project. To that end, our trip to Ecuador was designed to truly understand the current transportation methods within the Achuar region, income and travel opportunities, and potential implementation paths for solar-powered boats. Arvind, Javier, and Saurabh traveled to Ecuador for a total duration of three weeks, from December 29 to January 18, spending time in Quito, Puyo, and the Achuar region.

Pacho1

Initial Preparation

We spent our first week in Quito, putting together a plan for the trip and taking in the sights. On the work end, we coordinated with Oliver Utne, the project manager at Fundacion Pachamama, and Wain Collen, an independent consultant on the project. We reviewed the goals for the project, gained background information on the Achuar region, and presented the initial models and frameworks we had developed through the semester. We discussed the gaps remaining and the best way to address them, coming up with a detailed itinerary for our trip to the Amazon to fully flesh out the business model. In addition, we developed comprehensive interview guides for key individuals we hoped to interview during our trip and created exercises for focus groups to understand the existing travel habits of the Achuar people.

This work did not prevent us from our share of fun in Quito. While we stayed in a hostal in a quiet area in La Floresta, we were close to the action (read: parties) in the Marsical region. For New Year’s, we experienced Ecuadorian traditions: in what could only be described as a combination of a mini-riot and Halloween, tons of people dressed up in costumes, burned effigies (little dolls) on the streets, and then jumped over the large fires that resulted. From what we were told, these rituals were an attempt to rid yourself of the past year’s sins and start afresh for the new year.  With little hesitation, we got in the action:

Pacho2

After New Year’s Day, we had time to do some sightseeing during the day. Quito, at an elevation of ~2,800 meters nestled between mountain ranges, offers some spectacular views. From the top of Panecillo to the Teleferico, there are plenty of places where you can see all of Quito. Plus, we even rented scooters one day, which allowed us to experience driving in Ecuador first-hand and see most of the city. All in all, our time in Quito only got us more excited for what was to come.

Pacho3

The Jungle

We left for the jungle during the first week of January. First, we took a 5 hour bus ride to Puyo, a rural town on the edge of the rainforest. To get into the Achuar region, pretty much all chartered planes take off from Puyo. There, we met Pascual Collero, a member of the Achuar community that had been elected to serve as the coordinator for all economic development projects in the Achuar region. He was really excited about the potential of solar-powered boats and helped coordinate the logistics of our trip into the Achuar region.

After our 45-minute prop flight into the Amazon, we landed in Sharamentsa, an Achuar community with about 30 families and 150 people. A relatively sizable community within the Achuar region (where there are ~7,000 people), Sharamentsa was one of the few communities that was seeking to actively solicit tourism. They let us stay in their new tourist cabins, which were an absolute marvel in the midst of the jungle. Right on the Pastaza river, our cabins had hammocks, beds with mosquito nets, and running water for most of the day.

Using that as our home base, we proceeded to begin the most important part of our trip. Pascual introduced us to the entire community and outlined our objectives, and the community leader was very welcoming. We interviewed several community members using the interview guides we developed. In addition, we gathered the entire community for focus groups to get a sense of the travel habits of the community. The exercises we did with the community proved to be a major success: everyone was really engaged as we allowed them to put beans on the communities that they currently traveled to or wanted to travel to.

Pacho4

               After two days with the Sharamentsa community, we took a boat ride to another community to get a different perspective. We went to Charapacocha, a nearby community that had ~250 residents. On our ride there, we quickly saw the difficulties of navigating the rivers, as we went upstream and into some narrow waterways to get to our eventual destination.

Pacho5

               Though we spent less time in Charapacocha, we gained a lot of insights, especially through the focus groups. Hearing how the community members traveled and the limitation of gas-powered boats (namely, fuel and costs) were helpful as we thought about how to structure the solar-powered business.

Our time in the Amazon consisted of a lot of work, but we found time to enjoy our surroundings as well. Augustino, a member of the Sharamentsa community, took us on a hike to a nearby waterfall, giving us explanations of the sights and sounds of the forest as we went along. In addition, we spent a lot of time just interacting with the community – learning their customs and rituals and having fun. On our last day, they even threw a little party for us, putting on a skit to commemorate our trip. The trip was truly a once in a lifetime adventure.

Pacho6

Final Deliverables

After our return from the Amazon, we spent time working to coordinate our findings and put together our final deliverables. We went to a friend’s house outside of Quito on a 2-day retreat with Wain, Pascual and Oliver, putting together our insights from the trip and trying to determine next steps.

Pacho7

We determined that fundamentally, if the project were to succeed, it would have to dramatically change the travel habits of the community. Currently, travel options work on a “taxi” basis – when you need to travel, you commission a boat (which costs quite a lot) and go directly to your destination. On the solar-powered project, the goal is to create a “bus”-like system of public transport, with set routes happening on pre-determined timeframes.

Based on this, we presented an idea to pilot a new system – instead of waiting for the boats to arrive (which may not happen till mid-2014), they could test a “bus” system with gas-powered boats at low costs. This way, they could start to understand how community members would use such a system and refine the routes and prices in accordance. Additionally, this would provide greater insight into the economic feasibility of the project. The Fundacion Pachamama team loved this concept and has decided to present the idea to the Achuar community at an assembly in mid-February. Hopefully, the project will get off the ground and they can start gathering more robust data on the travels of the community and how the eventual solar-powered system will operate.

After our meeting, we spent our remaining time synthesizing our key findings into a Powerpoint deck and refining our model to incorporate the knowledge gained on the trip. In the end, we left them with a robust business model that will allow them to test the economics of the gas-powered pilot, the solar-powered boats, or any hybrid solution they may end up with.  As the boat designs are finalized, they now have a good grasp of how much they will have to charge in order to maintain and operate the boats, and how a business model should be run in terms of labor and operations.  We are optimistic that the project can have a tremendous impact in the Achuar community and serve as a model for sustainable technological development.

Thanks

Overall, our trip was a tremendous success and amazingly enjoyable. We learned a great deal about the challenges of implementing new technology in developing countries and met some amazing people along the way. Without the support of the PSC and SEID, none of this would have been possible. We are deeply appreciative of the support and can’t wait to help out with next year’s SEID projects!

SEID Project – ARTI-TZ – Dar es Salaam Tanzania

 

DarSalaam1

 

Ali Kamil, Rajat Sethi and I (pictured left) are currently in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of D-Lab Scale-Up’s Harvest Fuel Initiative (HFI). HFI is collaboration with the New York NGO, The Charcoal Project. The project was sponsored and supported by the Sloan Entrepreneurs for International Development (SEID) club at MIT Sloan School of Management.

We are working with Appropriate Rural Technology Institute, Tanzania (ARTI-TZ), a Tanzanian not-for-profit company that works to promote the manufacturing and use of charcoal briquettes from agricultural waste and other dry biomass. Our MIT Sloan team is assisting ARTI-TZ in strategizing its commercialization efforts.

The overall objective of the project is to enable a fuel switch from unsustainable charcoal to sustainable non-wood charcoal in Tanzania. Over 90% of Tanzanian households use wood charcoal as their primary source of fuel. However, traditional charcoal production has led to severe deforestation in Tanzania, causing environmental stress and degradation, compromising watershed management, and increasing vulnerability to climate change. Tanzania has lost approximately 15% of its forest cover and more than 37% of its forest and woodland habitat. About 70% of the deforestation is due to the harvesting of wood for fuel primarily by urban households. Dar es Salaam alone uses approximately 500,000 tons of wood charcoal annually and the amount of wood charcoal consumed is expected to rise further in coming years.

DarSalaam2

Given this background, ARTI-TZ has been developing the non-wood charcoal industry in Tanzania on a commercial scale. It has been instrumental in establishing two Community Based Enterprises, which together will have the capacity to produce 2,000 tons of charcoal briquettes per year by September 2013. ARTI has also trained and equipped over 700 char-powder producers and will train additional 700 producers over the next six months, providing them with income generating opportunities. (A production site at one of the Community Based Enterprises in Bagamoyo pictured left.)

By replacing wood charcoal with ARTI’s agri-waste charcoal, it is possible to improve the livelihoods of millions of people, increase natural carbon sequestration and support communities’ ability to respond to the challenges caused by climate change.

In order to develop effective consumer awareness, marketing, and policy intervention campaigns for ARTI, we have been interviewing various stakeholders in the charcoal value chain.  In two weeks, we have interviewed 52 households and 12 institutions including hotels, retailers, restaurants, a school, and a hospital. We have also interviewed people working along the charcoal supply chain, such as transporters/suppliers, wood charcoal producers, and char-powder producers.

 

In the following week, we plan to complete the consumer interviews, collect user feedback on charcoal briquettes, and undertake brand perception surveys to establish a locally integrated brand for ARTI-TZ’s charcoal briquettes.  We also plan to interview 10 policy-making groups, which will help us evaluate the current initiatives being pursued by the government to support the charcoal industry.

One of the most rewarding moments for me so far has been receiving direct feedback from household users (one household pictured left) who have tried samples of ARTI-TZ’s agri-waste charcoal briquettes. Some have texted me back, wanting to visit our office to purchase a few bags of charcoal – a promising sign that we are heading towards the right direction.

 

DarSalaam3

——————————–

Team Bio

Ali Kamil is a first year student at the Sloan School of Management and School of Engineering’s fellows program. Prior to MIT he spent six years as a corporate strategy consultant advising leading Fortune 100 clients within the media, telecoms, and high tech domains. He is interested in social entrepreneurship and using ICT-based technologies for bridging the gap between developed and developing nations. He is a cofounder of BEEJLI Inc. that provides low-cost solar lighting solutions to Base-of-the-Pyramid populations in South Asia. A native of Pakistan, Ali has an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Rajat Sethi is currently pursuing a 3 year Joint Master’s program (2012-15) – MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management and Master in Public Administration (MPA) at Harvard University. He has been working as a social entrepreneur at the intersection of Technology, Policy and Tech-aided Development in sectors spanning across Rural Telecom Infrastructure, Clean Energy – Solar Power and its derivative products for Agribusiness. He is also currently working as a Short Term Temporary at IFC, World Bank Group on Impact Investment Strategy. Rajat, originally from New Delhi – India, has worked in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nigeria & South Africa.

Elli Suzuki is a candidate for Master of Science in Management Studies from MIT Sloan and MBA from HEC Paris. Previously, she worked at Citigroup, where she marketed multi-asset investment solutions to institutional clients from Asia, Europe and North America. She is interested in BoP clean energy investment in Sub-Saharan Africa and spent the summer in Dar es Salaam where she designed the business model for African Solar Rise, an NGO providing solar energy solutions and advisory service to small-scale farmers in Tanzania. She is originally from Japan and has lived in Japan, US, and France.

 

Harvard Africa Development Conference

Harvard Africa Development Conference

 

March 8-9

Harvard Law School

 

(More Info/Registration: http://www3.law.harvard.edu/orgs/

 

The African student organizations of Harvard University are excited to have you attend this year’s Development Conference, entitled “Visible Change in Africa: One Innovation at a Time.” This year, the discussions will be centered on highlighting innovative practical projects and development programs that have been established in various African nations and the visible impact generated from such endeavors.

 

We are planning on a diverse range of panels: Economic Empowerment for Women Entrepreneurs, Opportunities for Fashion and Entertainment Law in Africa, Re-conceptualizing Education in Protracted Crises, Leveraging Existing Resources for Change in Public-Private Partnerships, China and Brazil in the African economy, and Building Sustainable Heath Systems to Move Beyond Disease Based Aid.

  • Sponsors
  • Harvard African Law Association
  • Harvard Kennedy School Africa Caucus
  • Partnership for Education in Africa
  • Harvard School of Public Health Africa Health Student Forum
  • Graduate School of Design African Association (Africa GSD)
  • Harvard African Student Association
  • Harvard Medical School Africa Health and Advocacy Group

Energizing the team: MIT Sloan MBAs visit Dar!

group-300x225

Post from Caroline Mauldin, MIT SEID

It’s a particularly warm day in Chanika, Tanzania.  I’m standing outside of an EGG-energy “station”—a simple storefront boasting an orange sign that bears the company’s logo.  A young boy, maybe 12 or 13, glides up on his bicycle with a bundle secured tightly to the handlebars.  Taking the bundle, he walks through EGG’s open door and sits down in front of the station’s lone desk.  He is here  to swap his family’s battery, a new source of energy for homes and businesses living off of Tanzania’s utility-scale grid.

I’m traveling with a classmate for two weeks, wrapping up a semester-long project with EGG through MIT Sloan’s Entrepreneurs for International Development (SEID) club.  Along with two other classmates, who weren’t able to join us on the ground, we worked with EGG’s management team to review and refine the company’s sales process.  After three years in operation, EGG is cognizant of the need to ramp up their sales and institute a structured training and development program for their growing sales staff.

As with any start-up, sales are the backbone of growth and profitability.  Without an increasing customer base, companies do not live long past their 3rd or 4th birthdays.  For EGG, sales have proved challenging for many reasons, both expected and unexpected.

Among the expected: doing business in semi-urban and rural areas around Tanzanian’s dispersed geography is simply time-consuming.  Roads are unreliable and the distance between villages is significant.  Then there’s the matter of convincing new prospects that EGG’s products are better than their existing electricity solutions (typically kerosene for lighting), and that they should spend their spare shillings on such a seemingly grand investment.

Once EGG establishes a foothold in one area, customers inevitably follow, but rarely at a pace that promises scale—at least not yet.  The challenge, unexpected or not, is to tap into the social networks of existing customers, effectively turning them into spokespeople for EGG’s products.  Whether through social, business or religious circles, the expectation is that an EGG client, who has already embraced and experienced the advantages of battery or solar-powered energy, can bring others to the light, so to speak.

EGG has started down this path by aggressively increasing the number of “EGG Distributors” or independent agents in key villages and towns.  Typically the proprietors of small shops or kiosks (“duka” in Swahili), EGG agents simply allot shelf space to EGG batteries, serving as a swap spot for clients in the area.  As EGG expands this “distributor” or agent network, so too will the company’s footprint—and its potential for long-term sustainability.

After spending two weeks between the office in Dar es Salaam and their remote stations, our team developed a workshop for EGG’s staff.  Our goal was to energize the team as much as to impart some of that golden b-school wisdom recently absorbed in our Cambridge classrooms.  Translated into Swahili, we covered the elements of a successful pitch, the “funnel” of customer acquisition, and the four P’s of effective marketing.  But mostly, we got everyone talking (also in Swahili) about what was working and what wasn’t quite there yet.  Like any thoughtful start-up, EGG’s success is due in part to its ability to assess and iterate on its sales model.  For two days, EGG’s headquarters were filled with just that—the chatter and real-time iteration of a team committed to bringing affordable power to off-grid families and business.

As the company expands their distributor network and continues to train their staff, EGG will have plenty to celebrate when their 4th birthday rolls around.

california lottery

I’ve been working for the summer in a very interesting project with Endeavor, a non-profit company that finds high-impact entrepreneurs (EEs) in developing countries and give them the tools (mentoring, contacts, eMBAs, etc.) necessary to grow and make significant impact in their countries and the world.It turns out that the venture capital (or growth capital) industry in these developing countries is either very small or non-existing. This presents a very serious problem for EEs that want to expand their businesses. On one hand, it is very difficult to find growth money. On the other, entrepreneurs aren’t normally prepared for the fundraising process (learning about term sheets, correctly pitching their businesses, etc.), unlike entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or the Boston area. The Mentor Capital Program’s goal is to promote this industry in selected developing countries by training the EEs about the fundraising process and creating connections between US based VCs, local VCs, and EEs. This is where I come in.

Part of my project consists on creating investing environment “snapshots” of each selected country, evaluating both hard numbers and subjective comments from local experts and VCs. These snapshots will be targeted to US VCs and LPs (organizations that invest in VCs) to promote investments in these developing countries. As part of the snapshots, I’m creating a “where to invest” city ranking based on Village Ventures model. This special model takes into consideration variables that help predict where entrepreneurial activity may flourish, grow, and eventually consolidate.

It’s been very interesting getting to know local VC’s opinions and stories and compile them with research to help promote investing in developing countries such as Mexico, where I’m from!

Join us for the 2012 Career Trek!

Are you interested or curious about a career in International Development, Social Responsibility or Poverty Alleviation? Do you want to pour your efforts into an organization that improves the lives of others? Are you clueless about who offers such opportunities? Then JOIN US for the 2012 SEID Trek to New York City. On March 2nd we will be bouncing around in NYC meeting with various organizations that need people like you. We’ll visit organizations such as the Acumen Fund and Digital Data Divide(featured in Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat as his “favorite example” of a social entrepreneur’s initiative). Learn about possible career paths and get a chance to interact and have fun with Sloanies who think like you. Register, join the trek, learn about the firms and become involved. If you have any questions, email Pablo Reinoso (reinoso@mit.edu) or Xi Wang (xi_wang@mit.edu ).

Register here!

SEID projects with Vision Spring

Who knew that eye glasses could be so life-changing? Over the course of the semester, we had the opportunity to work with Vision Spring, an innovative social enterprise that seeks to alleviate poverty through the sale of affordable eye glasses. The organization recruits locals to work as Vision Entrepreneurs who conduct community outreach and educate people about the importance of good eye sight. Vision Spring customers range from house wives in El Salvador to farmers in rural India. Nonetheless, after having interacted with Vision Entrepreneurs, all customers cite the life-changing nature of eye glasses. With their new glasses, they can achieve higher levels of education, do their jobs more effectively and achieve their full potential.

Despite this innovative business model, Vision Spring has experienced demand generation problems and asked us to develop a marketing strategy that they could implement across their global offices. While we initially struggled to come up with a strategy that would succeed in all countries, we focused on design of effective marketing materials, market segmentation and partnerships with organizations that would help Vision Spring access these specific markets. We also provided a case study on how this strategy would work in El Salvador so that Vision Spring could see how our marketing guide would work in action.

We are so pleased to have had this great opportunity and look forward to hearing more about the amazing work that Vision Spring is doing around the world.

Marcus, Natacha, Nori and Akhil

SEID project with Sanergy


For the past six months, our SEID team has had the opportunity to work on an expansion strategy for Sanergy, a Nairobi-based social enterprise working to provide improved sanitation in East Africa. From the beginning of the project, our team was super excited to be working to support the Sanergy team. We had no idea, however, just how amazing of an experience we would have.

Shortly after Christmas, three of our teammates had the opportunity to join the Sanergy team in Nairobi, Kenya to finalize our market research. After celebrating the New Year with the Sanergy team, we then traveled into some of Nairobi’s slums to learn more about Sanergy’s current operations. After learning more about their sales force, construction, and waste processing, we then began our journey to investigate sanitation needs and challenges in the rest of East Africa. For the next three weeks, we met with a variety of social entrepreneurs, government officials, NGO workers, local neighborhood leaders and residents to learn more about the sanitation landscape in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda.

Overall, our SEID project was an amazing experience and although we learned more than we could have ever imagined (and, perhaps, even wanted to know!) about sanitation in East Africa, our team feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with Sanergy.

 

SEID project with Sproxil

Motivated by an interest in technology and global health innovations, our SEID team worked with Sproxil to improve consumer utilization of their mobile technology service to combat drug counterfeiting in Nigeria.  The technology allows consumers to authenticate their pharmaceutical purchase by texting an item-unique code to Sproxil for verification.  Combating counterfeit drugs is a pressing global issue; a report by the International Policy Network estimated that fake tuberculosis and malaria drugs kill 700,000 people a year.

Nigeria recently experienced a series of bombings and a nationwide labor strike and, as a result of the instability, our team wasn’t able to travel to Nigeria as planned.  We still managed to speak with local NGOs and government officials and interact directly with in-country project managers for multinational drug companies and their sales staff members.  These conversations helped us better understand drug distribution channels and the information needs of consumers.

We determined that both consumers and stakeholders, including pharmacists, sales reps and community groups, need to be better informed about the risks of counterfeit drugs and the benefits of Sproxil.  Our recommendation included a range of education efforts spanning print ads, radio dramas, street theater, as well as the creation of a pharmacy industry interest group and the integration of other innovative global health platforms.