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2018 GSBI

Implementation in action: one community advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

Implementation in action: one community advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

One community made up of 25 social business leaders, 63 executive mentors, and 18 social enterprises is tackling all but four of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals

This community formed in January, where it began its journey together through the GSBI In-Residence accelerator program. This August that journey culminated with 10-days at Santa Clara University where Silicon Valley’s best talents and teachings collaborated with the world’s most innovative social change makers to examine how to scale solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Problems these social entrepreneurs have taken on by answering the questions:

How might we help the 4 billion people living in poverty get into the middle class?

How do we get affordable, clean energy to the 1.6 billion without electricity?

How do we provide clean, safe drinking water to the 750 million without?

At the end of our 10 days together, the entrepreneurs also had answers to the questions of: how do you create and track social impact, how does the business model work, what is the growth strategy, are the financials credible, and, how effectively are you managing the operations of your business?

If you are interested in their answers, I invite you to watch these powerful video presentations, and read these overview profiles.

The enterprises presented above carry the courage, brilliance, grit, and visions of the leaders, teams, and beneficiaries they represent. They also encompass the dedicated mentorship and guidance from professionals who accompanied decades of tacit knowledge into 18 audacious, infinitely important missions.

I invite you to join our network of 900+ social entrepreneur alumni by applying to our programs, 200+ executive mentors, 100+ student fellows, and growing community of supporters.

For those already on the journey with us, I thank you.

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Cassandra Staff
Chief Operating Officer
Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship

 

Solve Energy Poverty, Solve Climate Change?

Solve Energy Poverty, Solve Climate Change?

By the end of the recent GSBI in-residence program, I was feeling energized, appreciative, and – on one question – flummoxed. It was a fleeting, rhetorical question: Was my focus solving poverty or solving climate change? I’m a new apostle of simplified messaging, but on this point, ‘both’ still seems the right answer.

“The poor cannot afford poor solutions,” says social entrepreneur Runa Khan. In an era of climate change, none of us can afford poor energy solutions. Happily, clean energy is now nearly universally the most cost-effective way to generate electricity. We do not need to choose between cheap, high-quality and clean. They are the same.

I work in Haiti, building electricity systems in towns that have never before had grid power. I’m often surprised when people separate energy poverty from climate change. I get a good laugh out of my US clean energy friends when I gently tease, “It’s easier to build a ‘town-sized, solar-powered smart grid in rural Haiti than it is in [Washington, DC / Santa Clara / Insert any major grid-connected city name here].” They know it’s true. Of course, I face different challenges, but building something from scratch is always easier than disrupting the status quo. There is no incumbent infrastructure or utility business model in the towns where I work, so I get to collaborate with local and international partners to think through what the best system could be. Building self-contained off-grid utility systems, we get to face many of the ‘big grid’ challenges on a micro scale. Is 100% clean energy possible? Yes. Is storage essential? For solar microgrids, yes. Are clean energy microgrids exciting elements of resilient power systems of the future? Definitely.

First and foremost, building energy access is about solving poverty. Electricity is not sufficient for prosperity, but it is essential. In rural Haiti, families without electricity are spending 10% of their income on kerosene and candles for lighting. (In the US we generally spend less than 0.5% of our income on lighting.) Around the world, over a billion people have no electricity, with tragic consequences. Without electricity, there is very little opportunity.

Solving energy poverty can also help solve climate change. The two issues are linked. “Sustainable energy is opportunity – it transforms lives, economies and the planet,” reads Sustainable Development Goal 7. That Goal is summarized as “affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”

Clean energy microgrids can directly reduce CO2 and black carbon emissions by replacing kerosene lamps and diesel generators. If electric cooking pilots are successful, they can also replace charcoal. Though wick-based kerosene lamps emit only modest CO2, they are significant emitters of atmospheric ‘black carbon’, a strong climate warmer.

EarthSpark takes a ‘  feminist electrification’   approach to energy access, intentionally leveraging the arrival of electricity to benefit women. Here, Rosane Jean-Jacques, a grid ambassador, sells electricity credits from a tablet.

EarthSpark takes a ‘feminist electrification’ approach to energy access, intentionally leveraging the arrival of electricity to benefit women. Here, Rosane Jean-Jacques, a grid ambassador, sells electricity credits from a tablet.

Clean energy microgrids can also chart the course for grid decarbonization. Ironically, important grid innovation may come from remote villages that have not yet seen electricity. Where there is no incumbent infrastructure, there is an opportunity to build energy systems with today's best technologies and business models. These models that leverage clean energy, storage, smart grid, and customer participation can be adapted to inform the evolving utility business models in established markets. For example, both Homer Energy’s microgrid software tool and SparkMeter’s low-cost smart meters were both initially developed for stand-alone microgrids and are now seeing applications in central grids.

Of course, solving energy poverty will not alone solve the climate change crisis. There are many levers we should be pulling simultaneously, only some of which are addressed by solving energy poverty. Indeed, Project Drawdown‘s list of 100 climate solutions rank “microgrids” a lowly #78. But an integrated electrification approach involves not only microgrids but also rooftop solar (#10), clean cookstoves (#21), LED lighting (#33), and empowering women and girls (#6). Economic development enabled by the arrival of electricity can also influence agriculture, forestry, and many other key solutions.

To be sure, if tackling energy poverty did not also address climate change, it would still be worth doing. Regions with high energy poverty, in general, have had almost no role in causing the current climate crisis.  Poor countries should not be saddled with solving global emissions problems, but, because distributed clean energy systems are now cheaper and faster to build than the alternatives, poor countries have the opportunity to leapfrog straight into smart, clean, efficient systems. It just doesn’t make sense to build 20th century power systems in 2018.

Though more and more are getting built, microgrids are not easy yet. From California to Puerto Rico to India, Africa, and Haiti, proponents of microgrids are struggling with technical, participant, and policy challenges. That, to me, is precisely why energy access microgrids are so exciting. Clean energy microgrids are early-stage, but they hold enormous potential. When we solve these challenges and start to mainstream microgrids, we will have made meaningful progress towards solving both energy poverty and climate change.

About Allison Archambault
Allison is president of EarthSpark International, a non-profit organization incubating businesses that solve energy poverty. EarthSpark has built a town-sized, solar-powered smart grid in rural Haiti and has spun off a smart meter company, SparkMeter, which now serves microgrid operators in 22 countries.  She previously worked on large-scale renewable energy siting and grid integration and with an early clean tech company combining distributed energy storage, solar PV, and energy management. She holds a B.A. (hons) from Tufts University and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins. She is a member of the 2018 GSBI In-Residence accelerator cohort at Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

 


Banner photo (Les Anglais, Haiti): EarthSpark microgrids run on solar power and serve everyone from tiny households to pico-industry in rural towns.

Photo credits: EarthSpark International

The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital

The Justifiable Ask: Realities of Raising Impact Capital

Entrepreneurs often say that capital, or lack of it, is the biggest obstacle to business growth and cause of enterprise failure. In reality, there is much more to it.

The new cohort of 18 social enterprises (SEs), from 11 countries around the globe, is arriving to Silicon Valley next week for the 16th annual Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) In-Residence accelerator program. The goal for the SEs is to refine their capitalization and scaling strategy, connect with investors, and present them with exciting opportunities.  

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

The SEs in this year’s cohort are working on a variety of solutions–from last-mile distribution of essential goods in Sierra Leone, to preventing newborn deaths in India, to improving earnings potential and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Zambia.

Since February, these entrepreneurs have been working with experts and mentors to hone in their business models, growth plans, and capital needs, in order to scale their businesses and impact. As many entrepreneurs observe, much of their efforts come down to raising capital – identifying the different types of capital available to their business, the best way to deploy it within the company to position it for success, and the kind of expectations they can set for investors in getting a return on their capital (an impact and/or financial return).

In turn, an enterprise that has a clear and attractive business model, impact, and a Justifiable Ask is more likely to obtain the needed capital quickly and have investors knocking on their door. It is most often not about connections, but rather about attractiveness of the business to an investor, a reasonable capital ask given the enterprise needs and what it can deliver in return, and a thoughtful approach to the right partners.  

The Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) In-Residence Accelerator program has a comprehensive approach to investment preparedness that aims to help entrepreneurs put their best foot forward in attracting the right type of capital for their businesses.

When we talk about a Justifiable Ask, we think about the interrelation between these key items:

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

Photo from 2017 GSBI Investor Showcase

  • Growth strategy and strategic initiatives,
  • What resources are needed to achieve these,
  • How much capital do those resources translate to and over what time horizon that capital would be deployed,
  • The return the company may be able to provide an investor given their financial performance to date, the potential of the business (forecast) and the inherent risks,
  • The type of capital that is available and appropriate given the aforementioned factors.

By helping develop, then reviewing financial models, we help identify gaps and challenges that an investor may see–often pushing back on how realistic assumptions are, what key drivers of growth, profitability and cash flow may be, and help entrepreneurs paint a clearer picture of their growth opportunity, effect of capital infusion and return potential for that capital to investors.

During the ten-day In-Residence at Santa Clara University, the entrepreneurs are grilled on various topics related to their business with specific feedback on operations, impact metrics, internal finances, and growth strategy, among other topics. Although that feedback is sometimes difficult to receive as the panelists may shoot down exciting ideas, question reasoning or a new strategy, this exercise helps the entrepreneurs develop much stronger cases for their conversations with potential investors and partners. The SEs, with support of their mentors, then have to build the adjustments resulting from the feedback into their forecast and translate it to their capital need.

The result of the process, is an inspiring group of enterprises with diverse business models, working across the world towards solving important social and environmental challenges in their communities and globally.  Their capital needs are as versatile–from debt and equity to convertible notes and blended capital needs, including grants, debt and equity, to innovative structures such as a Security Token Offering (STO) and revenue sharing mechanisms.

You can see these entrepreneurs present their vision to scale and create a lasting impact on the world on Wednesday, August 15 at the 2018 GSBI Investor Showcase or via live stream, hosted by Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. If you are an investor and would like to schedule a private meeting after the Investor Showcase or connect online with any of the SEs, don’t hesitate to contact us!


 

Anastasiya’s expertise is in providing catalytic capital and advice on financial strategy to businesses ranging from early stage start-ups to multinational corporations. While Anastasiya serves as Miller Center’s GSBI Funding Facilitation Lead, she also actively manages a consulting practice supporting scaling social enterprises in raising capital, and investors in evaluating and structuring deals.

Prior to starting her consulting practice, she was the Director of Investor Relations & Financial Innovation at Agora Partnerships–facilitating over $50M in capital flow to social enterprises in Latin America and designing new funding programs. She is also a former Portfolio Manager of RSF Social Finance, a US-based impact investor with $100M AUM. Anastasiya began her career in Corporate & Investment Banking at Wells Fargo in San Francisco and New York City, providing capital markets advisory and other financial services to a portfolio of Fortune 500 corporates.

Anastasiya holds a Master’s in International Finance and Economic Development from the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics, and a B.S. in Finance from Santa Clara University. She is originally from Ukraine and enjoys visiting friends around the world, dancing, yoga, and rock-climbing.

Global Social Venture Competition Features Miller Center Connections

Global Social Venture Competition Features Miller Center Connections

The Future of Social Ventures Conference that took place on Friday, March 16 at UC Berkeley featured several Miller Center Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) connections, including keynote speaker Carlos Orellana, CEO of the 2012 GSBI® alumni enterprise salaUno, and current 2018 GSBI social enterprise Untapped.

The Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC) is a pitch competition providing exposure and mentorship to aspiring social entrepreneurs, a model that complements Miller Center’s accelerator programs. GSVC focuses on finding innovative solutions in the social enterprise space, while Miller Center’s Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI) offers stage-specific support to social enterprises to help them scale.

Pictured (L-R): Richie Garner, Gavin Cosgrave, Lauren Oliver, Christina Harris, Will Paton, Marisa Rudolph

Pictured (L-R): Richie Garner, Gavin Cosgrave, Lauren Oliver, Christina Harris, Will Paton, Marisa Rudolph

Several Miller Center student employees attended, including Gavin Cosgrave and Richie Garner, and 2017 Global Social Benefit Fellows Will Paton, Christina Harris, Marisa Rudolph, and Lauren Oliver. The students networked with conference attendees, learned from successful entrepreneur speakers, and watched presentations from several of the competing teams.

Orellana kicked off the conference with his keynote speech about his path from a career in finance to pursuing degrees in business and public health at UC Berkeley. There, he learned about Aravind, and realized that a similar business could benefit Mexicans suffering from blindness. Orellana discussed the challenges he faced with adapting Aravind’s business model to Mexico, and how salaUno and Aravind have since worked together to achieve mutual success. Today, SalaUno is the leading provider of cataract surgery in Mexico City.

Next up, Miller Center student employees attended a workshop hosted by OpenIDEO titled “Circular Design for Social Impact.” OpenIDEO is an online community platform that hosts challenges around a variety of global issues, an excellent pipeline partner for GSBI programs.

Founder, Food 4 Education, Wawira Njiru   Photo credit: Food 4 Education

Founder, Food 4 Education, Wawira Njiru
Photo credit: Food 4 Education

Wawira Njiru, founder of the 2017 GSBI Accelerator alumni enterprise Food 4 Education, started her business through an OpenIDEO challenge for creating ideas to help urban slums combat climate change.

At the workshop, OpenIDEO staff presented on the potential for rethinking products and services to account for their whole life cycle, from manufacturing to disposal. Teams of conference attendees were given two options for imagining new solutions: repurposing material waste from Nike shoes to create new products, or creating a new venture around reducing food waste. Each team progressed through the design thinking process and presented elevator pitches for their ideas at the end of the short workshop.

Following the workshop, Samasource and LXMI CEO Leila Janah spoke about her journey founding the companies, and about the potential of social enterprises to reduce poverty. Samasource has employed almost 10,000 bottom-of-the-pyramid workers to complete data entry and machine learning algorithm work. Janah recently wrote a book, “Give Work” about the power of jobs to lift people out of poverty.

During the afternoon pitch competition, the seven Global Social Venture Competition finalists from the U.S. West Coast region pitched their ideas and fielded investor questions.

Second among the batch was current GSBI In-Residence enterprise Untapped, which provides a clean water and last-mile distribution platform for developing markets. Untapped creates water-treatment centers that double as local distribution hubs to reach remote villages. Although Untapped did not advance to the world finals in Milan, they will continue to hone their enterprise for the 2018 GSBI In-Residence in August.