Summer 2012 Seed Grant Teams
** Poster session:
Our poster session (directly following the Fred Swaniker lecture) will feature some of the summer seed grant teams:
Fred Swaniker, Founder & CEO, African Leadership Academy
Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:30pm
Join us following the lecture for light refreshments and meet the Legatum Seed Grant recipients
100 Main St, Cambridge Sloan School of Management, E62-233
MIT Leadership Center
MIT Sloan Africa Business Club
Free and open to the public
Team Members: Kevin Kung, Yafei Han, Daisy Chang, Lyndsy Muri, Jacob Young, Libby McDonald, and Kamau Gachigi Geographic
Geographic Focus: Kenya
Project: The Takachar project aims to convert household organic waste into charcoal. Charcoal is a common fuel in the developing world. In Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya, about 300 tons of charcoal is consumed daily. This not only causes severe deforestation, but the increasing charcoal price also puts a severe economic burden on households. At the same time, urban waste management is at best poorly done. The Takachar team are working with the local waste-sorting youth groups to implement a pilot charcoal project that can increase the income of youth groups involved in effective waste management by 46%. At the same time, they will collaborate with local community partners to engage in user experience surveys to market and distribute their eco-makaa briquettes locally. With several charcoal-making youth groups running, the amount of organic waste collected will be sufficient for Takachar to start a for-profit enterprise, by selling the modular components of their pyrolysis process to the youth groups, and/or by offering larger-scale, lower-cost, and more efficient pyrolysis service using a gasifying technology.
Team Members: Stephanie Yaung and George Xu
Geographic Focus: China
Quantamerix are working to provide more accessible and widespread testing for newborns in China. Worldwide, only 1 in 4 newborns are screened for easily treatable disorders that are only detectable at birth with a quantitative test. In contrast to the more than 90% coverage in the developed world, the newborn screening rate is less than 10% in resource-limited settings such as western China. In response to this need, Quantamerix are developing a point-of-care test for doctors to detect diseases in newborns before they go home with their families. Their proprietary technology provides quantitative results without requiring a separate device to read out the result from a test strip. Quantemerix’s low-cost, portable device will enable access to newborn screening, and will help thousands of newborns overcome avoidable disorders.
Team Members: Wardah Inam and Faizan Rasool
Geographic Focus: Pakistan
KnowElectricity is a social enterprise that aims to tackle a major energy crisis in Pakistan. With a country-wide demand of 22GW, Pakistan is only currently able to provide 18GW. This gap causes massive power cuts throughout the country. Knowelectricity is taking on this issue by targeting the consumer end. It focuses on consumer engagement for energy conservation through education and promotion of energy efficient products & practices in Pakistan. It has two programs running in parallel- Schools and Students Engagement Program (SSEP) and Products For Sustainability (PFS). SSEP is aimed at creating energy efficient responsible consumers by changing their behavior and adoption of new technologies and PFS is focused on products with sustainable advantages and financial benefits and aimed at creating understanding of technologies to drive consumer purchase of efficient products.
Team Members: Cole Shaw, Taylor Morris, Mary Masterman, Francisco Valenzuela, Sarah Bruce, Enrique Garcia Gutierrez, and Dr. Joaquin Salas Rodriguez
Geographic Focus: Mexico
Imagínate is a workshop that introduces university students to user-centric product design by getting them heavily involved in interviewing, observing, and understanding users. To conduct this workshop, Imagínate has partnered with the university research center CICATA in Querétaro, Mexico. The five-week long summer program approaches product design from an interdisciplinary standpoint by teaching students about design visualization, entrepreneurship, market analysis, and business planning. The thirty participating students will learn to communicate their ideas and concepts through sketching, model building, and manufacturing an alpha prototype. Additionally, they will learn professional skills such as teamwork, working with limited time and resources, project management, and analytical problem solving. Imagínate his working with several NGOs and social organizations in Mexico to present the student teams with design challenges relevant to local social needs. Their customer base will include universities looking to expand their curriculum, companies that are in need of these skills and government agencies.
Team Members: Chihari Shirai, Suprio Das, Norikazu Ogawa, Yumiko Yamada, Rebecca Smith, Laura Stupin, Eric Re
Geographic Focus: India
Zimba is a social enterprise focusing on building cost effective access to safe drinking water for underserved communities. Founded in 2009, the enterprise has designed a product that is innovative, simple and easy to use for customers. Our main product is an automatic chlorine doser, which attaches to handpumps in rural communities. Zimba’s most notable features are that it has no moving parts, does not require electricity and treats consistently the same ratio of water to chlorine, required to meet the drinking water standard. Currently, there are no other in-line chlorination products on the market that can achieve the same consistency of dosing at handpumps that Zimba does for the same price. Zimba seeks to make safe water affordable and convenient. They will be piloting the technology this summer in rural areas of India.
Team Members: Joseph Matthews, Diana Jue, Jackie Stenson, Rob Weiss, Prashanth Venkataramana, Jaya Movva, and Ben Younkman
Geographic Focus: India
Essmart is an essential technology distributor that gives rural retail shops in India access to technologies that improve their customers’ lives. Life-improving essential technologies such as affordable solar lanterns, water filters, and smokeless cook stoves do not reach the world’s poor. In India, technology manufacturers lack investment in the distribution side of their business. Dispersed, small-scale local retail shops are the people’s only outlet to new products, but shop owners do not know about essential technologies, how to get them, or how to service them. Essmart provides a complete solution by combining process innovations in sourcing, distribution, marketing, and after-sales service to bring essential technologies to their intended end-users through the local retail shop network.
Team: True Africa
Team Members: David Ly, Claude Grunitzky, and Matthieu Monsch
Geographic Focus: Togo
True Africa is capitalizing on the more than 80% of the African economy that is informal. It is a mobile-based directory service with a professional networking capability for African local businesses. As a consequence of market failures, involving a lack of advertising channels, the potential of the informal sector remains largely untapped. True Africe envisions the tailors, mechanics, hairdressers and others in Togo relying on True Africa to establish effective connections with clients using basic mobile phones. Users will be able to search for services, rate the service providers they’ve transacted with, and keep up-to-date with their favorite service providers. In a nutshell, True Africa is mobile word-of-mouth. As an innovative business tool, True Africa will provide bottom-of-the-pyramid professionals with the exposure and connections they need to generate interest in their services.
Team Members: Leonie Badger, Aminate Kane, and Claude Grunitzky
Geographic Focus: Senegal
The goal of Fula&Style is to produce fashionable and affordable business clothes, made with lighter and more climatically suitable fabric for the African continent, and offering adjusted versions of standard European and US sizes. The venture will be started in Dakar, Senegal and will be introduced to Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria over a period of five years. To solve the issues consumers are facing with access to climatically- and culturally-appropriate clothing they are employing two overlapping strategies. They will hire local apprentices and designers to produce ready-to-wear clothes. They will also provide pre-cut Fula&Style design patterns that can then be used to custom-tailor clothing based on the tastes and choices of consumers.
Team: Skadar Retreat
Team Members: Slobodan Radoman, Vasco Miguel De Portugal Dias Rato, Gabriel Ochoa de Bedout, Caleb Harper, Srdja Markovic, and Rados Zuric
Geographic Focus: Albania
The Skadar Retreat project is located in Skadar Lake National Park, on the border between Montenegro and Albania. It is a tourism project that takes advantage of the beautiful yet economically challenged area around the Skadar Lake by developing an eco-resort project and thus improving the economic well-being of the local inhabitants. Simultaneously, it helps build an example of cultural exchange and collaboration in the ethnically and politically divided Balkan region. The project serves as an uplifting force for the local villages that have been deserted due to rural to urban migration. The business platform is built on a growing trend of tourism development in the region and an expanding market for eco-tourism. Besides its stimulus to the tourism economy, the project also utilizes cutting-edge fabrication technology to produce low-cost lodging units that respect traditional architecture and use locally sourced construction materials.
Team: SMART Coops
Team Members: Danny Castonguay, Leah Grace Capitan, Ariel Smoliar, Martim Vaz Pinto, Wittaya Job Reanchaipitak, Carlos Yeung, and Masatoshi Sugihara
Geographic Focus: Philippines
SMART (Sustainable Management of Agricultural Resources and Trade) Coops is a mobile payment and online marketplace that connects farmers to agricultural cooperatives, and in turn to banks, input suppliers, government agencies, and crop buyers who all benefit from increased information. The service will be free to the farmers, while charging a fee to crop buyers, input suppliers and lending institutions for access to the network of farmers. The business will provide cooperatives in the Philippines with information technology tools that will give them access to lower interest financing, better input supply economics and a larger marketplace to sell their produce. This summer, the team will be returning to the San Benito Multi-purpose Cooperative in Laguna, Philippines to pilot the deployment of their FrontlineSMS Credit and Ushahidi services and link them to mobile payment processors.
Team Members: Kali Xu, Jesika Haria, Mason Glidden, Vivian Liu, Felicia Hsu, Anisha Gururaj, Michelle Chen
Geographic Focus: Kenya
The Showergy team aims to address both sanitation and safety in slum areas of Nairobi by creating a cost-effective, scalable shower system. Our shower requires no water supply line or electricity grid connection, and its compact, portable nature will allow people to shower in the safety of their home and assemble and dissemble the shower at their convenience. Women will no longer need to fear assault or sexual harassment while bathing in the river or walking to distant communal showers. Their shower’s light footprint of 2.5‐by‐2.5 feet allows it to be installed inside every house in the slums, making access to hygiene and sanitation much more prevalent. The team are working with two community partners, Sanergy, a sanitation company that focuses on manufacturing and implementing latrines for Kenyan slums, and Amusha Youth Organization, a youth club led by enterprising locals from our first chosen area of impact, Kwa Njenga.
Team Members: Venkataraman Ramachandran, Bilikiss Adebiui, Alex Fallon, Lindsay Majno, Emily Boggs, Madeline Hickman, and Jonathan Kola
Geographic Focus: Nigeria
wecyclers is a crowd-sourced recycling platform that harnesses the power of urban communities to reclaim their neighborhoods from unmanaged waste. The team incentivize residents of urban slums to collect recyclable materials by providing social goods in exchange. Using their SMS-based rewards platform, their customers accrue points based on the volume and quality of recyclables that they bring to a network of micro-franchised kiosks run by local cooperatives of economically marginalized groups (women, former waste pickers, etc). Points are redeemable for valuable goods such as clean drinking water and cell phone minutes. To cover the costs of providing these benefits, wecyclers monetizes the aggregated sorted materials at scale by selling them to the local recycling industry. Their SMS points platform allows wecyclers to communicate with customers, analyze their recycling and point redemption behavior, and push “flash buy” promotions. wecyclers’ novel exchange system both empowers people to become part of a community-driven waste management solution and delivers valued necessities to low-income customers.
Team: Mumbai Biogas Dissemination
Team Members: Claire Markgraf, Anna Gross, Ciro Lorio, Libby McDonald, and Lucia Fernandez
Geographic Focus: India
The aim of the Mumbai Biogas Dissemination project is to improve livelihood security among a cooperative of women waste pickers in Mumbai, through assisting in the development and franchising of small biogas businesses. Institutions in Mumbai, such as schools or hotels, produce large amounts of organic waste, which can be converted into a nutrient-rich fertilizer and biogas through the use of a biodigester. Nisargruna biogas technology, a biodigester system that originated in India, produces high-quality methane that can be used either on-site as cooking fuel or converted to electricity. Using existing relationships and infrastructure, the installation, operation and maintenance of these biogas systems will be linked to the women waste pickers’ cooperative to secure sustainable jobs.
Team: Diagnostics for All
Team Members: Mauricio Camargo
Geographic Focus: Mexico
Diagnostics for All seeks to address the lack of affordable medical and diagnostic devices in Latin America. The team believes that the best way to improve overall healthcare in the region is by introducing efficiency-oriented healthcare models. The project will introduce point-of-care (POC) diagnostics that are portable, cheaper, and faster than the old model, even if they come at the expense of lower specificity and sensitivity. Starting with Mexico, the team’s goal is to understand the stakeholder landscape and the implementation barriers of an HIV/AIDS POC device for the middle of the pyramid.
Team: Cuerpos del Corazon Historico
Team Members: Paul DeManche, KC Hardin
Geographic Focus: Panama
Cuerpos del Corazon Histórico, based in the Panama City neighborhood of San Felipe, is a program that will help at-risk youth and members of gangs change their lives through an intensive program that will focus on instilling in them positive values and life skills. Cuerops will also be setting up for-profit enterprises as part of the program to serve two purposes. First, these enterprises will provide initial employment opportunities for those participants who face the highest barriers to entering the formal workforce due to their personal histories and skill-sets. Second, these businesses will provide steady funding for the rehabilitation program and ensure a measure of financial sustainability. The program and related businesses will be based on other successful models of gang rehabilitation from the US and Latin America that focus on personal development, job training and entrepreneurship.
Team: Green Grease Project
Team Members: Janet Li, Angela Hojnacki, Rajiv, Rao, Marta Marello, Devin Gladden, Walter Volpini, Aline Neves-Azevedo
Geographic Focus: Brazil
In Brazil, 85% of all waste vegetable oil (WVO) produced is dumped down drains or tossed into lakes and streams. To support WVO collection in São Paulo, the Green Grease Project has designed a low-cost waste vegetable oil filtration system in partnership with the local union of waste pickers, Rede CataSampa. The system was piloted at one Rede CataSampa recycling cooperative last year, and after only two months, they were able to double their earnings from sales of WVO. In partnership with Rede CataSampa, the Green Grease Project will be launching a centralized business comprised of a network of ten cooperatives that filter WVO, consolidating their oil sources and allowing them to negotiate for higher prices. This summer, the Green Grease Project will be focusing on two interrelated components—a workshop, comprised of three MIT learning hubs to develop the technology at D-Lab, business model at Sloan, and media strategy at Media Lab, and the expansion of the project into a total of ten Rede CataSampa waste picking cooperatives in São Paulo
Team Members: Charles Hsu, Anna Young, Ben Eck, Mario Aleman, Devorah Tien, Samantha Darryanto, Jose Gomez,-Marquez
Geographic Focus: Nicaragua
The Solarclave project seeks to provide rural clinics in the developing world with a reliable and sustainable source of medical-instrument sterilization through the commercial distribution of the Solarclave device, developed by students at MIT and the University of Dayton. The Solarclave is designed to be constructed using materials and tools that are available in developing countries like Nicaragua, and implements the human design factor to allow for the technology to integrate into the working habits of rural healthcare providers. The Solarclave project has been developed in collaboration with workers in Nicaragua and will be launched as a commercial product in the year to come.
Team: Workforce Housing
Team Members: Lam My
Geographic Focus: Costa Rica
Workforce Housing seeks to address the growing needs of Latin America’s expanding economies, as the demand for high-quality affordable housing continues to increase. Specifically, the project aims to create a profitable financial model for private developers to build multi-family housing for low and middle-income families in Costa Rica. The team will be examining the different development scenarios that could provide incentives for developers to consider building multi-family units near the major urban center of San Jose.
Team: Nicaragua Bluefields
Team Members: Ling Kai Teo
Geographic Focus: Nicaragua
Nicaragua Bluefields seeks to create a common recycling route in the Southern Autonomous Region (RAAS) of Nicaragua to reduce waste-transportation costs for three municipalities—Corn Island, Bluefields and El Rama). Located on the Atlantic Coast, RAAS is plagued with the most severe poverty in the country and has very little infrastructure, including systems for the removal and treatment of solid waste. Through a partnership with waste pickers, scrap metal collectors, BlueEnergy (a local NGO) and municipal governments, the team will develop a network of economically feasible recycling enterprises, simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions, creating income for marginalized families and providing social services