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A Call for Philanthropic Risk Capital for Refugees: Lessons Learned from the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator

A Call for Philanthropic Risk Capital for Refugees: Lessons Learned from the Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins Accelerator

SEM Cohort with Thane Kreiner and Marie Haller

SEM Cohort with Thane Kreiner and Marie Haller

Miller Center’s Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins (SEM) accelerator program graduated a cohort of 18 organizations in December 2018 that are all serving and/or led by refugees, migrants, and human trafficking survivors. As we accompanied the entrepreneurs leading these organizations over the past year, we learned more about the needs of social enterprises serving these marginalized communities that were formerly supported solely through humanitarian aid. In order to share our learnings and encourage other stakeholders to join us in this work, Miller Center convened and facilitated a panel at SOCAP 2018, presented at the December 2018 ANDE Network Update, and is now publishing a report, “SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT THE MARGINS Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures”.

An important tension that surfaced throughout the SEM accelerator program is the gap between the funding needed by each enterprise to grow its impact and the minimum investment current refugee-focused funders are able to deploy. This disconnect emerged onstage at our SOCAP panel discussion featuring 4 SEM program alumni and 3 funders including Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundation, and KOIS Invest. Experiences of the SEM accelerator social enterprises confirm a gap between what social enterprises in the emergent sector need and what funders seek.

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Impact funds for refugee-focused entrepreneurship are seeking organizations with earned revenue in excess of US$1 million. Our panelists shared that typically seed-stage funding for start-ups comes from friends and family. Many refugee-focused social enterprises haven’t yet attained $1 million in earned income, however, in order to implement their growth strategies, need more funding than can reasonably come from friends and family.

I wondered: how would an entrepreneur who is also a refugee have a network of friends and family with money to fund her start-up? How can entrepreneurs looking to fill in the large gaps left by humanitarian aid change a broken system with only donations from friends and family?

The ideas put forth by Anand Giridharadas in his book Winners Take All, and referenced in his own talk at SOCAP resonate, “I once heard a quote attributed to Archbishop Desmond Tutu addressing a room full of philanthropists, ‘Your job’ he said, ‘is not to make the poor more comfortable in their chains. Your job is to break the chains.’ The question I would ask those of you who seek to change the world through capitalism [...] is whether you are really breaking the chains or making them more comfy?”

This is an essential question for those pledging to fund the creation of new systems that can better support our world’s most vulnerable communities. Is reserving both philanthropic and impact investment capital for only those enterprises that are able to scale to US$1 million of earned revenue really helping change the broken system that is leaving millions of people in refugee camps for decades? Is it even making refugees more comfortable?

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In this same speech, Giridharadas calls on philanthropists to provide the capital to “serve as the start-up incubator for government action [...] test things in the quiet of philanthropy and then seek to mainstream them into our laws and institutions and systems.” Using philanthropic capital to propagate emerging, more socially responsible systems, is not a new idea. Monitor Group and Acumen Fund’s “From Blueprint to Scale - the case for philanthropy in impact investing” talks explicitly about the idea of “enterprise philanthropy” and how, “philanthropy is the essential but often overlooked catalyst that unlocks the impact potential of inclusive business and impact investing.” The urgency and scale of the refugee crisis demands impact capital solutions across the entire spectrum of available options. Philanthropic capital is a key part of the equation, and could be the vehicle that ensures the nascent social enterprise solutions that support refugees are able to flourish and exceed  that magical–some might argue arbitrary–million dollar revenue mark. Natasha Freidus, co-founder of Needslist and a Miller Center SEM program alumni, agrees, “I find it disappointing that philanthropic institutions who frankly, can afford to take the risk, are not investing in early-stage startups or providing philanthropic capital to help cover the 'pioneer gap'."

Miller Center and other stakeholders, such as the Refugee Investment Network, are working diligently to try to connect the seemingly disparate needs of entrepreneurs whose passion is to change a broken system and impact investors who are averse to risking capital in new and untested ways. There is no impact without risk. You can read more about our findings from working with our initial Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins cohort in our report: SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT THE MARGINS Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures. We look forward to hearing from you about how we can work together to build new and better systems that allow everyone in our human family to thrive.

 
Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins: Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures

Social Entrepreneurship at the Margins: Helping Refugees, Migrants, and Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Futures

 
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Marie has been working as an educator for 10 years. After discovering the concept of social enterprise in 2012, she has been focused on learning about and supporting the growth of the ecosystem through running various education programs at Impact Hub San Francisco and more recently with Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Inspired by her Miller Center work with maternal and child health organizations in east Africa, Marie has also recently trained and now practices as a birth doula through the SF General Hospital volunteer doula program.

How Human-Centered Design Thinking is Transforming Lives Around the World

How Human-Centered Design Thinking is Transforming Lives Around the World

Cooperative leaders and micro-entrepreneurs gathering empathy at an innovation workshop in Kigali, Rwanda.

Cooperative leaders and micro-entrepreneurs gathering empathy at an innovation workshop in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Design thinking is just a fad.”  “We’ve been doing design thinking for the last 20 years–it’s just the same old process with fancy new words.” “People who use design thinking never follow through with their projects–it is a waste of time to generate ideas that never get implemented.”  These are examples of a few of the kinder critiques of design thinking. Detractors are suspicious, antagonistic, and downright hostile about design thinking and the types of promises being made about its integration into business and education.

In my own journey as an educator learning human-centered design thinking at the Florida Hospital Innovation Lab (FHIL) in Orlando under the tutelage of Dr. Karen Tilstra, I must admit the process seemed at best silly, and at worst absurd.  I kept thinking, “What is the deal with all those sticky notes and whiteboards filled with insights?”  But then I started seeing the results of design thinking firsthand. Teams of students came away from the innovation process empowered, and with an important tool to make social impact.  FHIL helps Florida Hospital save lives and money, while social enterprises use design thinking to serve the poor around the world.

In the last six years, I have been transformed from a doubter into an evangelist for human-centered design thinking.  I integrate it into every class I teach, and I am always thinking about new ways it can be used. Instead of depressing students with the problems of the world, I now teach them to use their knowledge of problems to come up with desirable solutions.

What is Human-Centered Design Thinking?

Human-centered design thinking (HCDT) is a helpful tool that guides interdisciplinary teams to create viable solutions to social and environmental problems.  At its essence, human-centered design thinking is an innovation mindset and a problem-solving methodology used in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. It is also increasingly taught in colleges and universities.  HCDT focuses on the needs of the end user or beneficiary and can be used to tackle any problem. The fast pace of change and the complex problems of our world demand new ways of innovating solutions, and HCDT is a game changer for social enterprises.

Makers Unite is an inspiring example of how HCDT is being used in the social enterprise space.  Makers Unite, a Global Social Benefit Institute enterprise based in Amsterdam, works with Syrian and African refugees and integrates design thinking throughout its business.  Refugees, called “newcomers,” are taught creative confidence and HCDT in a unique 6-week curriculum, and make products that are sold through e-commerce. Newcomers are then matched with appropriate employment or educational opportunities.  The founder of Makers Unite, Thami Schweichler, is a trained designer; he is always asking the end users how his enterprise can be more helpful and he constantly strategizes how Makers Unite can be financially sustainable and better able to scale.

Design Thinking at Santa Clara University

Human-centered design thinking is transforming the lives of students at Santa Clara University, and specifically at Miller Center.  Our Education and Action Research division trains and sends out interdisciplinary student teams to work alongside social enterprises in the developing world.  A year ago, student teams used HCDT to assist a rural cooperative in Mumeya, Rwanda, in building a business plan for a crop storage facility, and to provide insight to Pollinate Energy, a clean energy social enterprise serving urban slums in India.

Kelly Grunewald, Social Enterprise Intern, leading a design-thinking activity.

Kelly Grunewald, Social Enterprise Intern, leading a design-thinking activity.

Source: PICO International

This summer, working alongside PICO-Rwanda, a community-organizing nonprofit, Miller Center deployed six Santa Clara students to conduct “Business 101” and innovation workshops for rural cooperative leaders and urban women micro-entrepreneurs.  HCDT was at the heart of the preparation of the students and the content of the workshops.  Kelly Grunewald, Miller Center Social Enterprise intern, summed up the power of design thinking: “Human-centered design thinking is a vehicle for transforming the world into a more just and sustainable place.”  Kelly experienced firsthand how design thinking guided Rwandan leaders in framing their challenges and discovering solutions “on their own.” She remarked that it helped leaders “tackle big problems,” by making them “more manageable”. The foundation of design thinking is empathy–listening to others and getting to the heart of the challenge.

Michelle Stecker's innovation model, developed at Santa Clara University (2018)

Michelle Stecker's innovation model, developed at Santa Clara University (2018)

The HCDT method we use at Miller Center is called “The Innovation Journey,” which I developed this year with the help of Shagun Patel, illustrator; Caitlin Blohm, graphic designer; Allan Báez Morales, Director of Frugal Innovation Hub; and countless students, staff, and faculty, who were kind enough to give terrific feedback at all stages of iteration and refinement.  A class of engineering, business, and arts and sciences students, learning how to facilitate HCDT, inspired the model. The Innovation Journey focuses on the needs of end users and reminds us that the journey never ends. We now have teams of SCU students using HCDT for field research, Engineers Without Borders projects, student club challenges, and everyday life problems (like how to keep the kitchen clean!).  A team even used HCDT to create an innovation space in Nobili Hall for Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship employees and SCU students.

The PICO-Rwanda/Miller Center design-thinking innovation team at Centre Christus in Kigali, Rwanda.

The PICO-Rwanda/Miller Center design-thinking innovation team at Centre Christus in Kigali, Rwanda.

Human-centered design thinking transforms people.  Instead of being paralyzed or overwhelmed by the complex problems of the world, practitioners are trained to develop solutions while focusing on the spoken and unspoken needs of the end users.  HCDT is not a fad–it is here to stay, and it is a new tool in the hands of passionate change makers. There are innumerable examples of people around the world who are following through with HCDT projects that are changing lives.  Our Santa Clara students are living proof of how human-centered design thinking is transformative!

Note:  If you would like to help support the Global Social Benefit Fellowship or Social Enterprise Internship program, please click here or contact David Harrison at dmharrison@scu.edu.  These transformative programs are dependent on financial support from generous donors.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Michelle Stecker, PhD, Miller Center’s Director of Education and Action Research, teaches and designs social innovation and entrepreneurship curriculum and leads the effort to integrate human-centered design thinking into the College of Arts & Sciences at Santa Clara University.

Photo and image credits: Video produced by PICO International; all other images and photos property of Santa Clara University.

Why we need Women’s Economic Empowerment for a Sustainable Future

Why we need Women’s Economic Empowerment for a Sustainable Future

Fortunately, we live in a time where female entrepreneurs are gaining recognition for their innovative and socially impactful work. Miller Center alumni like Lesley Marincola (’11) and Shivani Siroya (’12) immediately come to mind.

But, even in 2018, with the proliferation of reporting fueled in this #MeToo and #TimesUp era, we are reminded that our ecosystem remains unequivocally male-dominated. While I will not be discussing the sexist remarks and gender prejudice that still prevails in our society (that’s a story for another day), in this piece, I want to call attention to how empowering women can lead to our sustainable future.

On the job, women make about 80 cents for every dollar as compared to what a man earns. This inequality is even more pronounced when it comes to fundraising. When female founders pitch their ideas to investors for early-stage capital, they receive significantly less—a disparity that averages more than $1 million—than men, according to BCG.

In contrast, according to the same research, businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men. Also on average, more than 11 million U.S. firms are now owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales, according to 2017 data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

What can we do to scale up our work and boost economic gender equality?

Women’s Economic Empowerment as a catalyst for change

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 Women’s economic empowerment is the highest contributing factor to close the gender gap. It is the most impactful way to build a world where women can exercise personal choice and freedom to make their lives better. Given that women are a majority among economically disadvantaged groups, women’s empowerment is essential to opening doors for equal wage and investment.

According to the World Bank, addressing gender inequalities by focusing on women’s empowerment is not only essential to reduce poverty but is also “Smart Economics”.  Better gender equality enhances productivity and improves development and outcomes for future generations. Women represent 40% of the entire global labor force and more than half of the world’s university students. Increasing productivity is directly related to empowering women by making it easy for them to access education, develop competency in a skill set, and pursue opportunities to use their talents

Miller Center’s goal to bring gender parity

Gender parity is a human rights issue and a precondition for, and an indicator of, a sustainable future. As a part of Miller Center’s effort to bring gender-balanced cohorts, a new affinity group of women-led social enterprises has been introduced in our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) online accelerator program. The goal for this affinity group is to bring more women social entrepreneurs onboard, refine and validate their business and financial models, provide a customized resource library with curated content specific to their businesses, match them with industry-relevant mentors, foster peer-to-peer connections with our alumni, and offer opportunities for their businesses to flourish.

 

From one woman to all women

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Out of all the sustainable development goals of the United Nations, Goal 5, gender equality, has been a major part of my life’s work. Coming from a patriarchal society like Pakistan, I have experienced male dominance first-hand in all spheres of my life. Women in rural, as well as sub-urban areas of Pakistan, have a subordinate position within their communities, even within their own households. Starting from the basic right of education through acquiring the skills needed to get a better-paying job, girls need to shackle multiple barriers to access what is given for granted to men.

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Joining Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship as a Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow is close to my heart and closer to what I strive to do in my life: building countless opportunities for women all over the world. The idea is to set an example from one woman to all women so our future generations get to see the world where gender is just a classification of human biology.

Applications for our 2019 GSBI programs are being accepted through November 2, 2018 and women-led social enterprises are encouraged to apply. For more information, click here or email gsbi@scu.edu.

Let’s make it happen together!

 

About the author

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Hira Saeed joined Miller Center in July 2018 through a partnership with the US Embassy in Islamabad and Atlas Corps. Hira works as a GSBI Women’s Economic Empowerment Fellow to implement  new  research,  initiatives,  and  projects  to  help advance women’s economic empowerment through GSBI programs globally and with a specific focus in the Middle East.


Photo and image credits: Women empowerment artwork used under Creative Commons CC0; Planet 50-50 from UN Women; Group photo at Aman Foundation courtesy of Hira Saeed; all other images and photos property of Santa Clara University.

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS SPIRITUALITY

Over the summer, Miller Center accompanied over 150 social enterprises through our accelerator programs to help them discern pathways to scale their impact as they serve the poor, protect the planet, and economically empower women.

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

Bay Area Boost (June 2018)

We worked with Jesuits in Cameroon and Benin to accelerate more than 60 community-based enterprises that support women farmers and artisans and provide IT training to women. In partnership with Catholic Charities, we ran a Bay Area Boost for 32 social services organizations and enterprises. For ten days in August, we hosted 26 entrepreneurs from 18 social enterprises on the Santa Clara University campus as part of our 9-month GSBI® In-Residence accelerator program. Over 150 “friends and family” welcomed them at Testarossa Winery, site of the historic Novitiate Winery, an enterprise of Jesuits in formation for almost a century. 240 impact investors, mentors, and guests attended our GSBI Investor Showcase and our social enterprises had on average 3.6 investor meetings each. Our 18 2018 Global Social Benefit Fellows returned from 7 weeks in Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, India, and Zambia conducting action research for GSBI alumni social enterprises. Indeed, it’s been an amazing summer of walking with change leaders around the world.

2018 Miller Center annual report

2018 Miller Center annual report

Witnessing social entrepreneurs discern growth plans is a spiritual experience for me. Because their intention is for the greater good – to improve, transform, or save lives of people living in poverty, their work is powered by love and compassion. As we accompany them through this process, we see what more we can do to help others, a manifestation of the notion of magis. They are architects of hope, the theme of Miller Center’s 2018 Annual Report.

After I chaired a panel on mobilizing resources to help refugees at the Third Vatican Impact Investing Conference this summer, people asked me about my faith. Similar questions arose following my welcoming comments at our August GSBI events. I describe myself as spiritual, not religious, as you can witness from the story of my communion experience at St. Peter’s tomb. Because we are multi-dimensional and intersectional in our identities, so too is our spirituality. This I am sure of: social entrepreneurship is a core component of my spirituality.

Wildfire smoke blankets California  Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project

Wildfire smoke blankets California
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project

The view from my home in Sonoma County is obscured by smoke drifting down from Mendocino County, Oregon, British Columbia; a hurricane hurls towards Hawai’i, where I have planned a brief dive vacation next week. Climate change is affecting our lives, but it affects the poor the most.

Refugees flee violence driven by hunger, thirst, political corruption, greed, power; many have nowhere to go, rejected by those who claim moral authority. There is much reason to lose hope.

Despite the smoke, I prepare for Friday afternoon yoga, putting on a soft t-shirt with a Jimi Hendrix quote: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

The opportunity to accompany architects of hope is proximity to the power of love, and that connects us all. We invite you to join Miller Center on this incredible journey.

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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

 

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.

Pursuing Scale: New program offers advanced content and mentorship for Tech Awards Laureates and GSBI Alumni

Pursuing Scale: New program offers advanced content and mentorship for Tech Awards Laureates and GSBI Alumni

Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship has launched a new partnership with the James & Rebecca Morgan Family Foundation and Charmaine and Dan Warmenhoven to re-engage and support past recipients of the Tech Museum’s Tech Awards with a mentored acceleration program that combines Miller Center’s proven curriculum emphasizing  business fundamentals along with advanced content focused on investment facilitation, leadership, and governance support.  We call this new program GSBI® Technology Entrepreneurship for Change (TECh) Accelerator.

Since 2003 GSBI has accelerated the impact of over 893 social entrepreneurs by delivering world-class accelerator programs that connect global social enterprise leaders with Silicon Valley business executives to develop more sustainable, scalable market-based solutions to the problems of those living in poverty around the world.  In this time we have realized that our alumni social entrepreneurs continue to benefit from mentorship and acceleration even as they transform from start-ups to mature social enterprises.  This program represents Miller Center’s core value of accompanying our entrepreneurs beyond the formal bounds of a GSBI program - committing to provide continued support in order to help them reach scale.  

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Miller Center has selected 14 social enterprises to participate in this new five-month program. The program starts with a refresher on business fundamentals, including impact model, business model,  financial model, and growth strategy. It then advances to a personalized curriculum consisting of master-classes taught by industry experts on some of the most persistent barriers to scale: navigating the impact investing ecosystem, techniques to effectively structure and manage a board, strategies for becoming an effective manager and leader, and building a high performing team.

A powerful component of the program is active accompaniment through the investment process for which Miller Center GSBI® programs are renowned. Miller Center staff help to open doors for program participants, and provide mentorship on new topics including outreach tactics, due diligence, and deal structuring.
 
Since 2001, 296 social enterprises with “technology benefiting humanity” working in the fields of Environment, Education, Economic Development and Equality have been honored by The Tech Museum. Over 40 of the Tech Award Laureates are also GSBI Alumni. Miller Center is eager to re-engage these Laureates and Alumni and help them scale their impact. 

A profile of the 14 social enterprises in this cohort can be found below.

The organizations will benefit from the proven GSBI accelerator curriculum, Silicon Valley mentors who accompany them and serve as trusted advisers, and the collective wisdom gained from accelerating over 800 social enterprises in 65 countries.

Thanks to the support of the James and Rebecca Morgan Family Foundation and Charmaine and Dan Warmenhoven, this cohort will be the first of three annual GSBI TECh Accelerator cohorts. 

“I support the GSBI Technology Entrepreneurship for Change(TECh) led by Miller Center. My enthusiasm comes from decades of experience with Santa Clara University’s culture and successful support for social entrepreneurship when Father Locatelli was forming the Center, “ said Jim Morgan of the James and Rebecca Morgan Family Foundation. “It is exciting to see the Tech Laureates and others getting opportunities for investment facilitation and networking, plus management and financial coaching that can be so helpful.”
 
Each cohort will consist of up to 15 social enterprises utilizing technology to benefit people living in poverty and protecting the planet. These enterprises will have had a solid track record of success, but are now looking to break through to a new level of scale.
 
“Over the years, Dan and I have been incredibly impressed and inspired by the amazing work accomplished by The Tech Laureates. To help give them the opportunity to continue, and scale their endeavors to benefit humanity is a privilege.  We look to this program to help them in their quest to bring impact and change to our world," said Charmaine Warmenhoven.
 

TECh Cohort: 

All Across Africa employs local artisans.

All Across Africa employs local artisans.

Organization Name: All Across Africa
Headquarters: United States of America
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: All Across Africa brings artisan crafts to modern products and styles that utilize local renewable materials and generate global demand.
Countries Impacted: Burundi; Ghana; Kenya; Rwanda; Uganda

 

Organization Name: Amplio (formerly Literacy Bridge)
Headquarters: United States of America
Enterprise Type: Non-profit
Description: Amplio makes it possible to share knowledge through its Talking Book audio device and monitoring and evaluation services. Talking Book is designed to help development organizations, governments, and businesses amplify their work and share knowledge on-demand with people who are cut off from traditional sources of information.
Countries Impacted: Ghana

 

Organization Name: AREWA24, LLC
Headquarters: Nigeria
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: AREWA24 is Nigeria's first all-Hausa-language satellite television channel produced locally by and for northern Nigerians. 

 

Organization Name: Awaaz.De
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: For-profit
Description: Awaaz.De develops cost-effective, easy-to-use communication and data collection tools that work on mobiles and landlines, breaking language and literacy barriers, to make information, connectivity, and communication accessible for everyone.

 

Organization Name: BeeLine Reader
Headquarters: United States of America
Enterprise Type: For-profit
Description:  BeeLine Reader is technology that makes reading on screens easier and more accessible. It helps readers of all ages and skill levels, but it is especially helpful for ELL readers and readers with dyslexia, ADHD, and vision impairments. We build B2C tools and also license our technology to nonprofits and for-profits that want to make their platforms more accessible.

 

Organization Name: Circ MedTech Ltd
Headquarters: Israel
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Circ MedTech Ltd. develops, manufactures, and markets PrePexTM - the first and only medical device to facilitate a safe and virtually painless non-surgical male circumcision (MC) procedure available for all ages.
Countries Impacted: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Malawi, Lesotho, Kenya, Indonesia, Botswana

 

Organization Name: Grupo para Promover la Educación y el Desarrollo Sustentable, A.C.
Headquarters: Mexico
Enterprise Type: Other
Description: Grupo para Promover la Educación y el Desarrollo Sustenable, A.C. provides hands-on learning to build ecotechnologies that satisfy water, food, house, energy and waste management needs. We train people and supervise the self construction of the ecotechnologies.

 

Approximately 99.99% of bacteria can be netted and destroyed by the ceramic filtration technology owned Nazava.

Approximately 99.99% of bacteria can be netted and destroyed by the ceramic filtration technology owned Nazava.

Organization Name: Nazava Water Filters
Headquarters: Indonesia
Enterprise Type: For-Profit
Description: Nazava Water Filters is a for-profit social enterprise, targeting the 1.8 billion people that do not have safe drinking water from their tap. Our mission is to provide safe and affordable drinking water to everyone, everywhere. We enable low-income households to filter their well, tap or rainwater without the need to use unrenewable fuels to boil or use electricity. Nazava filtered water is 3x cheaper than boiling and 9x cheaper than buying bottled water. As Nazava replaces the need to boil water, we also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save time for women seeking fuelwood. 
Countries Impacted: Burkina Faso; Maldives; Mozambique; Philippines

 

Organization Name: Pollinate Energy
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Pollinate Energy distributes life-changing products, ranging from solar lights to clean cookstoves and medicated mosquito nets using a women-centric salesforce. 

 

Organization NamePotential Energy 
Headquarters: 
Berkeley, California
Enterprise Type: Nonprofit
Description: Potential Energy manufactures and distributes the Berkeley Darfur Stove, an energy-efficient stove for rural, refugee families.

 

Organization Name: SAI Sustainable Agro
Headquarters: India
Enterprise Type: For-profit
Description: SAI Sustainable Agro works with smallholders in their abandoned agricultural land through an innovative, system-changing model. Farmers grow leguminous crops along with tree farming that increases their income, as well as provides social and ecological benefits.

 

Organization Name: Solar Ear
Headquarters: Canada
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Solar Ear's mission is to serve the hearing impaired in developing countries using a unique model of manufacturing affordable, solar-powered hearing aids with local deaf workers who are trained to perform at a world-class level.
Countries Impacted: Botswana; Brazil; Mexico

 

Organization Name: We Care Solar
Headquarters: United States of America
Enterprise Type: Non-Profit
Description: We Care Solar saves lives in childbirth by advancing the use of solar electricity in under-resourced health centers. Their award-winning Solar Suitcase is a compact solar electric kit for medical lighting and communication that enables timely and appropriate emergency care in maternal health facilities and settings without reliable electricity.
Countries Impacted: Afghanistan; India; Liberia; Mexico; Nepal; Nicaragua; Nigeria; Rwanda

 

Organization Name: Whirlwind Wheelchair International
Headquarters: United States of America
Enterprise Type: Hybrid
Description: Whirlwind endeavors to make it possible for every person in the developing world who needs a wheelchair to obtain one for a chance of reaching maximum personal independence and integration into society.
Countries Impacted: China; Philippines; Morocco; Republic of Georgia; Vietnam; Canada; South Africa; Mexico


   

Banner photo: Solar Ear founder Howard Weinstein.
 

Social Enterprises Merge in Search of Scale

Social Enterprises Merge in Search of Scale

“Scale” is a nebulous and elusive concept in the social enterprise ecosystem. However, if the community is to make any tangible progress toward the social impact objective it seeks to achieve, like energy access for all, or access to clean water and sanitation, scale is an essential topic for us to wrestle with. The recent merger of Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation, two of our Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) alumni social enterprises, provides a look at a new and rarely seen avenue toward scale.

Click here   for more details on Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy.

Click here for more details on Sustainable Development Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy.

Since 2003 GSBI has accelerated over 893 social entrepreneurs by delivering a  world-class accelerator programs that connect global social enterprise leaders with Silicon Valley business executives to develop more sustainable, scalable market-based solutions to the problems of those living in poverty around the world. Over the past 15 years, we have seen that there is no single “right way” to scale. However, we have seen some themes emerge.

In search of scale, GSBI alumni have perused a number of distinct paths. Some entcerprises are able to leverage their proof of concept and record of success into large investments that will afford them the possibility of dramatic expansion. This was the case with GSBI alumni Husk Power Systems, who recently raised over $20 million to add an additional 300 mini grids in India and Tanzania and bring energy access to over 100,000 customers.

Founded in Mexico, Sistema Biobolsa has replicated operations in Kenya.

Other alumni, like Sistema Biobolsa, see replication as the most promising avenue toward scale. Sistema Biobolsa, worked with the GSBI Replication Initiative to package its business model and technology and cultivate international partnership that can replicate its success in new geographies.

But what if there are already a number of social enterprises that utilize a similar model? Organic expansion becomes difficult because the competitive landscape reduces the potential addressable market, and replication becomes challenging, as replicating organizations may face significant challenges from their more established local counterparts.

While many may seen  a challenge, GSBI alumni Alexie Seller of Pollinate Energy, and Anya Chefneff of Empower Generation saw an opportunity.

Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation both aim to increase last mile distribution of socially beneficial products (solar lanterns, clean cookstoves, etc) by training and employing women (and men) who live in under-resourced and under-served communities.  Pollinate works in India and Empower Generation in Nepal.

Empower Generation’s model and impact to date is impressive. Launched in 2011, its distribution network includes 20 women-led businesses that manage over 250 sales agents, working as village-level entrepreneurs and earning an income with every product sold. As of December 2017, the network has distributed 57,000+ clean energy products, saving Nepalese families over $2,737,000 AUD in household energy expenses and displacing 12,861 tons of CO2 by replacing kerosene and candles. Empower Generation has impacted the lives of 294,626 people by providing them with cleaner, safer access to power, light, and cook stoves.

Pollinate Energy has also had an impressive track record and has reached over 130,000 individuals in over 1000 communities throughout India. In sum, Pollinate has helped to save over 4 million liters of kerosene- offsetting almost 10 million kgs of CO2 emissions. They have also helped to save Indian families over 215 million rupees.

Stronger together: by merging, Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation anticipate an accelerated path to scale (Source: Pollinate Energy)

Stronger together: by merging, Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation anticipate an accelerated path to scale (Source: Pollinate Energy)

Alexie and Anya first met through a connection made through GSBI.  “We Immediately saw that there were significant similarities between both of their models, as well as highly aligned leadership values and ambitions. There was the right set of raw ingredients for a strong collaboration,” said Cassandra Staff, Chief Operating Officer at Miller Center.

By merging, the two organizations will be able to leverage their increased size for greater purchasing power and economies of scale. They will also be able to amplify each other’s strengths and distinct advantages.

For example, one organization had more a sophisticated operational system; leveraging these systems across the newly-merged organization will streamline processes, supply chain, data collection and analysis, sales force recruitment, and leadership.  On the other hand, the other party had much more advanced skills-development programs for their staff and sales agents. By integrating these trainings, the talent at Pollinate Energy will have the skills needed to scale with their organization

“One exciting development for India will be adopting Empower Generation’s rural-based sales approach. This will allow us to reach remote families who are currently missing out on accessing our life-changing products. Together, we will reach millions faster and more efficiently, and be better placed to empower women to play a central role in the development of their communities and their families. This is critical when our model still currently relies on the support of generous donors to support our growth,” says Alexie Seller, who will remain as CEO for the new merged organization.”

While there are obvious advantages of leveraging each other’s strengths, the process of identifying those strengths and determining the practicality of merging was not without its own challenges.  In order to help facilitate the merger process, Miller Center Executive Fellow, Steven White accompanied both of these organizations throughout the process and provided strategic advice on how to navigate this process.

 

Source for banner image: Sustainable Energy for All. Click here to view the recorded announcement of the merger between Pollinate Energy and Empower Generation.

Addressing Issues in the Bay Area

Addressing Issues in the Bay Area

Miller Center announces new cohort in partnership with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County for Bay Area-based social entrepreneurs

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Bay Area residents have enjoyed meteoric growth in the past few years, bringing in $781 billion for gross domestic product in 2016 alone. While this new surge of wealth may be beneficial for some people, the rise of incomes has been followed by a concurrent rise in inequality.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of social entrepreneurs and innovation working to reconcile the Bay Area’s breakneck growth with stable levels of income equality, with the ultimate aim of making a livelihood possible for every citizen.

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Miller Center is excited to share that we are collaborating with Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to run a Bay Area GSBI® Boost from July 24-26, a 3-day capacity building workshop engineered specifically for social entrepreneurs concerned with income inequality and its impact on the San Francisco Bay Area. These entrepreneurs envision a Golden State in which innovation and high standards of living for all residents are not incompatible ideals, but instead are complementary ambitions welded together as core values of the Bay Area.

Miller Center will leverage Silicon Valley expertise to equip these social entrepreneurs with the skills they need to address the challenges of domestic poverty and economic inequality. Specifically, Miller Center’s GSBI Boost workshop allows social entrepreneurs to gain valuable business knowledge, improve their strategic thinking, and articulate a business plan that demonstrates impact, growth, and long-term financial sustainability. GSBI Boost will also bring together social business leaders from the community for an unparalleled networking event.

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The Catholic ethos of unity in faith and universality in mission harmonizes well with the historically welcome spirit of the Bay Area. Similarly, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County helps individuals and families rise above economic barriers, regardless of their background. Miller Center will gild the GSBI Boost with the altruism of Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, channeling values such as humility and service toward those in need.

Selected entrepreneurs will take advantage of various opportunities in the GSBI Boost:

  • PROVEN PROGRAM.  Experience Miller Center’s structured, validated curriculum that has helped over 800 social enterprises attain operational excellence and prepare for investment.

  • EXECUTIVE MENTORS. You will be accompanied by Silicon Valley mentors with expertise in innovation and entrepreneurship who are your trusted advisors.

  • RELATIONSHIP BUILDING. Not only will you work directly with Silicon Valley mentors, but you will work alongside other leaders also trying to solve the problems faced in the Bay Area.

  • NO CHARGE.  All Miller Center GSBI accelerator programs are offered at no charge to selected social enterprises.

  • INVESTOR SHOWCASE*.  An opportunity to pitch your plan for scaling with a justifiable ask at an Investor Showcase in Silicon Valley. (*Available only to enterprises selected to participate in the subsequent GSBI Online accelerator program.)

We invite all social entrepreneurs who are delivering solutions to impact the vulnerable or low-income populations of the Bay Area to apply.

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.

Banka BioLoo: A Journey from Start-up Social Enterprise to IPO

Banka BioLoo: A Journey from Start-up Social Enterprise to IPO

2015 GSBI alumnus Banka BioLoo, a social enterprise that innovatively tackles human waste management, had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on February 5, 2018. The enterprise operates in India, which is home to 60% of the global population that must defecate in the open due to not having access to toilets. Within the greater global context, data from 2015 indicate that only two out of five people were able to use safely-managed sanitation services. In light of the overwhelming reality of minimal sanitation services, Namita Banka began to examine sanitation infrastructure and started Banka BioLoo.  The enterprise began operations, as a for-profit social enterprise, in 2012 and is currently co-directed by Namita along with Sanjay Banka, Akhilesh Tripathi, and T. V. Rama Krishna.

While the conversation surrounding waste management is one that many shy away from, Banka BioLoo recognizes that the impact of inadequate sanitation services in India is much too grave to ignore. Poor water supply and sanitation problems in India have contributed to a serious risk of sanitation-related diseases, which particularly impact children under the age of five. Banka BioLoo seeks to provide solutions for those who do not have access to toilets, and for those that do, the enterprise helps in the process of treating and managing the waste. Distinctly, Banka BioLoo offers Indian defense-patented bio-digester technology, making it possible for users to manage waste onsite and reduce dependency on resource-consuming sewage infrastructure. Banka BioLoo also provides operations and maintenance of bio-toilets to Indian Railways, its largest client-partner. In 2015, Sanjay and Namita participated in the GSBI In-Residence accelerator program, where they were mentored by Daniel Kreps and Naresh Nigam.

Watch Sanjay Banka's presentation at Miller Center's 2015 GSBI Investor Showcase   here  .  PDF:  Banka BioLoo's 2015   Investor Profile   

Watch Sanjay Banka's presentation at Miller Center's 2015 GSBI Investor Showcase here.
PDF: Banka BioLoo's 2015 Investor Profile 

After the GSBI In-Residence, Sanjay shared, “GSBI has added many dimensions to Banka BioLoo since our immersion in the accelerator. It truly accelerated many things at our end, most notably my joining the company full-time. And I’m sure it’s the beginning of things to come.” 

The journey to IPO began in September 2017. Banka BioLoo pursued the Emerge platform offered by India’s largest stock exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE). Emerge, also known as the SME platform, is a marketplace that brings together seasoned investors and emerging or small and medium companies. It connects businesses that possess “exciting growth plans, innovative business models and commitment towards good governance and investor interest” with investors that can meet their financial needs. In the process of moving forward and growing as a business, maintaining Banka BioLoo’s social mission along with stable financial growth has always been at the top of the team’s priorities. The “triple bottom line [of people, planet, and profit] was an essential part of the discussion” when reaching out to investors, Sanjay says.

The Banka BioLoo team hit a major roadblock when two major investors backed out right before the IPO. Amidst that hectic event, the organization’s leaders were undaunted and passionately kept moving forward. Sanjay and the non-executive director Vishal Murarka spent two weeks in Mumbai, confidently and unwaveringly, pitching to investors. “We were left on our own,” Sanjay said. “[But] we leveraged our network and reached out to new investors through colleagues, friends, and family.”  Ultimately, due to the team pooling together their connections, resources, energy, and business prowess, Banka BioLoo pushed forward: the resulting IPO raised two million dollars.

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Throughout the IPO journey, strong governance was a key anchor that kept the staff rooted in their mission and firm in their determination. “The IPO was fast,” Sanjay said. “[The team] was working long hours; the business had to be running smoothly simultaneously with the IPO details.  [Our] top management dealt primarily with the IPO process.”  Banka BioLoo’s CFO, T.V. Rama Krishna, had prior experience with taking a company public and played an invaluable role in successfully reaching this milestone only a small percentage of businesses are able to achieve. Sanjay described the whole process as a “mini miracle”.

In preparation for the IPO, Banka BioLoo was required to adjust the makeup of its board and added three independent board members to establish a solid governing team moving forward.  “One [independent board member] is an angel investor, another is an HR expert, another is an entrepreneur: eight members total are on the board. In Q4 2017 the transition happened, all of it a part of the going-public process,” Sanjay recounted. It is becoming increasingly popular for companies to make these major changes to their boards pre-IPO, in order to demonstrate their commitment to good governance.

With the capital raised from its IPO, Banka BioLoo is now able to take on larger projects — projects that they were originally hesitant to tackle — and continues to lead the fight in providing access to adequate, sustainable sanitation solutions in India.  Sanjay’s reflections on the imperfect, but strengthening and gritty nature of Banka BioLoo’s IPO journey, shed light on the hustle and heart that moving a business forward demands.

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