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Serbian YouthBelgrade is Serbia’s capital, with a population of over 1.7 million people. With a 40% youth unemployment rate, large numbers of Serbs were forced to leave the country and search for work elsewhere. Unemployment in Serbia is significantly higher than the European average and one of the country’s significant economic challenges is the need for private-sector job creation. In the last 12 months, Serbia has had 62 startups with $0 in total funding. More than ever, the country is in need of a program like Impact Hub to help Serbian youth.

Impact Hub

Impact Hub was founded in London in 2005 and now has over 7,000 members in more than 60 locations, one of which is Belgrade. The program is funded by USAID and assists young innovators in accessing the tools they need to connect with investors because unsuccessful funding is the biggest obstacle for startups. On Impact Hub’s website, online visitors can become “Impact Angels” and invest in a startup in minutes.

Impact Hub assists in the development of new products and business models. The program focuses on technological innovators and entrepreneurs and the future of their businesses. The organization provides collaborative workspaces, program support, an inspirational environment and diversity.

Impact Hub Belgrade offers young entrepreneurs resources such as acceleration and connections to grow their business. It is both a community center and a business incubator. The program encourages the sharing and building of a community and the space in which the project operates is used to organize events, from arts and culture to entrepreneurship.

Guiding Young Entrepreneurs

Impact Hub founders believe talent allows for growth and production. Since many young people know how to code, design and create innovative solutions, Impact Hub aims at helping  Serbian youth grow their startups. The program secures investments and teaches young people about using money in competitive markets. Impact Hub wants to get young entrepreneurs out of their comfort zone to expand their network. There are two different paths that Impact Hub employees guide entrepreneurs through. The first is “Core Competence for Market Validation,” in which individuals learn how to get the first buyer, expand their customers and make financial projections. The second is “Growth Readiness” and focuses on profiling a buyer, expanding traction and creating revenue models.

Impact Hub Belgrade implemented an initiative called We Founders, in which startup teams, founders, leaders and business developers can connect and work to improve their businesses. Impact Hub helps form partnerships to allow people to share the risks and prepare together for possible losses.

Impact Hub is Positively Impacting

Participants of Impact Hub raised $230,000 in investments from the Serbian public sector and private investors, not including a $100,000 investment from Dubai’s Innovation Impact Grant Program.

Alongside USAID, Impact Hub Belgrade gives Serbian youth the chance to see their innovations and ideas come to life. Outside of Belgrade, Impact Hub is available worldwide to allow individuals the opportunity to receive education regarding the tools and skills necessary for creating a business.

– Rachel Durling
Photo: Flickr

App for the Illiterate and DeafApproximately 5.3 percent of the world’s population lives with hearing loss. That amounts to 360 million people across the globe. The disability is more prevalent in developing countries, where most of the deaf population is also illiterate. MindRocket, a startup company in Jordan, seeks to improve the deaf community’s engagement in society by developing an app for the illiterate and deaf.

In developing nations, most deaf and hearing-impaired children rarely receive formal schooling. Those who do usually don’t advance past third or fourth grade level and struggle with reading. This lack of schooling paired with communication struggles creates a gap between the deaf and hearing communities. This resulted in a high unemployment rate among the deaf. A higher percent of those with hearing loss work low-grade jobs compared to those in the hearing workforce.

There are some resources that translate spoken word into written word instantly, yet these apps do not help the deaf that cannot read. MindRocket’s founder, Mahmood Darawsheh, noticed this unfair disadvantage and felt compelled to help. He started his company aiming to create technologies to assist the deaf. Their first product, Mimix 3D, is a mobile app that translates written or spoken English into American Sign Language acted out by an avatar. The app is available for both iOS and Android.

The company also developed an Arabic version for Android called Turjuman, which has reached 10,000 users. This app was more challenging to develop due many different dialects spoken in the Middle East and North Africa. It currently understands the Gulf countries and the Levant dialects.

The app allows for a hearing-enabled person to speak or write a message that the avatar will immediately act out. The deaf participant can reply through a sign language keyboard that will translate the symbols into written text. MindRocket plans to develop a web plug-in where website content can be translated through avatar hand symbols appearing on screen. They are looking doing the same for movies as well.

Darawsheh believes that his app for the illiterate and deaf should be free for those who require its assistance as well as those who wish to learn sign language. He hopes that products will help integrate deaf communities into the public and private sector,as well as improve their engagement and independence in society.

Hannah Kaiser
Photo: Flickr

Innovative and Ecofriendly Startups
This year’s UN High-Level Political Forum came with more than just talks. Some of the most innovative and ecofriendly startups of the year gained recognition and further development opportunities. The theme for 2017 was “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” The SWITCH Africa Green-SEED partnership granted the awards.

SEED itself is a byproduct of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. It works to promote social and environmental entrepreneurship at the local level for sustainable development and poverty reduction.

SWITCH Africa Green is a multi-country project, working in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and Uganda. They push for sustainable development through a greener economy in the private sector. SEED’s national project partners alongside the United Nations put these plans to action, and the EU funds them.

A jury of independent international experts select the SWITCH Africa Green-SEED award winners. Additionally, they must operate within agriculture, manufacturing, tourism or waste management as innovative and eco-friendly startups. 2017’s winners are as follows:

Burkina Faso

Coopérative Sahel Vert, of the Sahel region, is the first enterprise to construct efficient biodigesters that release biogas and organic fertilizer from human and animal excrement. This allows households to gain additional income.

Lagazel produces and markets two types of sustainable solar lamps of robust and high-quality nature for urban and rural regions with no electricity. Its production strategy allows local employment. In addition, the lamps address climate change mitigation and encourage eco-friendly lifestyles.

TECO2 develops resistant school benches made from plastic waste and other locally sourced inputs. They also mitigate deforestation and environmental pollution in substituting the use of wood as a raw material.

Ghana

Recfam creates biodegradable and affordable self-titled PRIDE pads out of banana and plantain fibers for schoolgirls and women without access to proper menstrual hygiene products. Women are included in the manufacturing process and personal health education for young girls is provided.

WASHKing supplies and installs biodigester toilets, built locally using available materials, for low-income urban households. It incorporates a biodegradable powder developed in India, and the system is able to separate effluent and turn it into nontoxic water for agriculture or landscaping.

Kenya

Horizons Business Ventures Limited processes essential oils from local seeds and leaves. They employ women in collection groups and creating biodiverse commercial products from existing natural resources. By-products are redeveloped into animal feed and organic pesticides.

ICOSEED Enterprises found an alternative for costly sisal in leftover banana stem fibers from harvests and integrates them into fabrics for marketable items. Farmers gain additional income for the fibers and stitching, and slurry returns from fiber extraction go to manure or biogas usage.

Kencoco Limited produces long-lasting and high heat reaching charcoal briquettes made of coconut shells and husks. Targeting rural Kenya, it saves households money long-term compared to alternative fuels that damage the environment, and makes use of coconut waste and charcoal dust.

Mauritius

Walali Company Limited, located on Rodrigues Island, fashions an agro-processing chain that utilizes retort pouch technology to package native octopus and red beans. The goods are perishable and add value to these culturally significant and organic products. Contracts granted to individual suppliers ensure warranted prices and a secure market.

South Africa

Ekasi Energy manufactures natural biomass pellets from compressed wood waste, alongside clean cooking appliances, for homes with little or no grid power. The product further reduces health threats caused by burning wood or other energy sources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

iThemba Phakama allows voluntary waste pickers no-cost lease agreements to use specialty manufactured tricycles equipped for waste transport. Salvaged waste can then be recycled and sold by members, and the enterprise is financed through advertisements put on the tricycles’ sides.

Umgibe Farming Organics and Training Institute supports more than 41 local farmer cooperatives with a sustainable and organic food growing system. Umgibe allows small-scale or urban farmers to build up capacity and earn more income to become commercial businesses.

Uganda

Brent Technologies transforms sourced motor oil waste into diesel fuel or fresh motor oil. Wastes from the process create roofing asphalt shingles, forming an eco-friendly supply chain.

Gorilla Conservation Coffee prevents small-holder farmers bordering Bwindi National Park from damaging the forest with poaching or wood chopping. It buys premium coffee and processes it to sell as a branded roasted coffee. This benefits the farmers, and the organization donates funds upon purchase to the protection mountain gorillas in the region.

Masupa Enterprises is the last of these innovative and eco-friendly startups. It offers affordable briquettes made from dry leaves, peels, paper and other wastes, sold in conjunction with cooking stoves. Women are employed in production and marketing. Otherwise necessary negative health and environmental effects are avoided.

These 15 innovative and eco-friendly startups have come to accomplish much in terms of sustainable development, reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in their locales, and stand as global examples for all other entrepreneurs and those in the fight against poverty.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

mapillaryIn spite of modern digital services like Google Street View, many locations in developing countries, such as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, remain inaccessible to much of the world.

Swedish startup Mapillary and the World Bank have teamed up to solve this problem. Mapillary enables individuals to map their own streets by collecting street level photos simply by using their smartphones.

Such maps can help cities anticipate and recover from natural disasters, track traffic congestion, distribute resources to the impoverished communities that need them and build public transportation systems.

Mapillary CEO Jan Erik Solem told NPR News, “Dar es Salaam has really poor map data. The reason is that the mapping companies need people on the ground or in the local area to create the actual map.”

Maps that detail roads, homes, rivers and terrain may help kickstart city planning.

“In order for it to flourish into the metropolitan city [Dar es Salaam] has the potential to become, we began a community-based mapping project called Dar Ramani Huria (Swahili for “Dar Open Map”),” states a blog post from the World Bank, “to bring disaster prevention and response to previously unmapped areas, training the local community to create highly-accurate maps by the residents who know their city best.”

25 wards have been charted so far in Dar es Salaam with Mapillary. The task was accomplished by attaching a camera to a local Tanzanian rickshaw and by using photos taken by a motorist. These photos were then uploaded to Mapillary and constructed in 3D. A blog post by the World Bank on Mapillary’s website says that this information allows them to “pinpoint troubled areas” and to map out the routes locals often use.

As these maps are developed, they are run through software that develops natural disaster scenarios to help citizens improve planning and preventive efforts.

NPR reports that more than 260 citizens have volunteered to take photos for the mapping project. Locals have taken around 23,000 photos, which will map 300 miles of road.

“Sparking the community’s interest in mapping has the potential to truly transform Dar es Salaam into a prosperous city with the infrastructure to prevent floods, bring awareness to the need for flood prevention and risk reduction, and arm its citizens with the right tools and skills to build a better city,” states the same blog post.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: NPR, Mapillary, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Startups
As successful businesses began springing out of Silicon Valley like a garden first introduced to fertilizer, entrepreneurs started to wonder how they could profit from filling the holes in market demands.

According to Business Dictionary, a startup is the “early stage in the life cycle of an enterprise where the entrepreneur moves from the idea stage to securing financing, laying down the basic structure of the business, and initiating operations or trading.”

But what do startups have to do with global poverty? While many businesses, including most startups, are looking to meet the demand of customers who will shell out enough cash to generate their owners and employees increasing incomes, some ventures are looking to fulfill a different demand.

Below are three for-profit startups that are using their business plans in one way or another to help alleviate poverty. These companies differ from nonprofits because they function as a business instead of an organization. While both work towards bettering the lives of others, they do so in distinctly different ways.

Nuru

Nuru provides training-based poverty solutions for local leaders in poor communities. Their leadership programs are intended to create profitable businesses owned and run by local entrepreneurs.

Nuru staff train and equip their counterpart local teams and in return part of that business’s profit is returned to Nuru where it is distributed to shareholders and reinvested in other development projects.

Instead of reaching into markets with foreign goods or services, Nuru allows locals to provide their own communities with desired and necessary products in a self-sustaining manner. Once Nuru implements their programs they withdraw their staff and allow local leaders to become self-reliant and continue making their own difference.

BioLite

BioLite was created by two camping enthusiasts and sells portable, clean energy stoves, kettles and LED lights. The profits made from their western markets help offset the costs required to make their other product. In addition to camping equipment, BioLite produces a cheaper stove to sell in developing nations.

Since most people living in poverty use open fires for cooking and heating purposes, the demand for inexpensive and safe stoves is high.

This company offers a desired product to untapped markets in developing countries for an affordable price due to their other successful profit earning products. Their business plan is sustainable because they do not rely on donations to continue their work.

Good Cloth

An online clothing store that sells exclusively ethically crafted goods. They’ve divided their products into several categories including recycled, sustainable, organic, made in the U.S. and one titled “Trade Not Aid.”

Good Cloth helps companies who design and create goods without exploiting workers, sell their products. Good Cloth and the brands they sell work to eradicate poverty by pushing against the norm of cheap labor.

They want to help companies who treat their employees fairly and pay them a just wage be successful.

Nuru, BioLite and Good Cloth are only three examples of for-profit business models that are working towards alleviating poverty. While nonprofits play an undeniably imperative role in the fight on global poverty, there is also a place for solutions that include profits.

Businesses have a high interest and investment in their success; in order to eradicate global poverty there needs to be a high interest and investment in finding successful solutions. If incorporating business models and profit as a motivation will lead to poverty reduction, why would we not use it?

Brittney Dimond

Sources: Business Dictionary, The Good Trade, MIC, Nuru International

Photo: Pixabay

upstart
CNNMoney launched its Upstart 30 Project in late June. It profiles 30 young innovative startups and their respective founding entrepreneurs and investors.

The list is broken down into five categories: the idealists, the funders, the simplifiers, the playmakers and the futurists. All of which comprise individuals from a variety of fields.

To take part, startups must be established in the United States, be no younger than five-years-old, and harness technology in hopes of making the world a better place. After a series of tests, the Upstart 30 Project was formed. The list is diverse in geography, gender, race, and industries.

Whether it is a solution to the current archaic U.S. school system, an agricultural phenomenon in a box, or an ingenious medical tool, Upstart 30 spotlights visionaries that are making serious headway, all before the age of 40.

While many of the startups tackle commonplace inefficiencies, several address national and global issues, and have the potential of reducing global poverty in unlikely ways.

BioBots brings personalized medicine tools. According to its profile on CNNMoney, the startup’s first product was a 3D printer for building cells, tissues and organs. BioBots’ printer is uniquely small and inexpensive. It can fit on a desktop and is priced at around $5,000. For now, the bio printer is for research. CEO Danny Cabrera, 22, said that his two co-founders and him are hoping to broaden their client base to include pharmaceutical companies who could use their products for testing cancer drugs. BioBots has a bright future in the United States, but could do wonders internationally.

Freight Farms is a farm in a box. Founders, Brad McNamara and Jonathan Freidman, created the boxes out of old shipping containers. The insulated, camera-equipped devices use LED lights and advanced monitors to regulate weather conditions, nutrient intake and carbon dioxide levels, all without soil. The startup launched in 2011, and already made $5 million. At $76,000 apiece, restaurants, schools, and hotels have mainly bought the boxes. While this is very expensive, the payoffs are incredible: each container produces 4,000 to 6,000 plants a week according to Shawn Cooney, a small business owner testing the Freight Farm. This is nearly 80 times more than Cooney would have gotten from a conventional farm space. The high cost keeps Freight Farms away from the developing world but, if ever brought down, Freight Farms could increase food security around the world.

uBiome scans a person’s body and micro biome. uBiome kits locate where diseases take root, and how they escalate. According to CNNMoney, uBiome completely changes the ways we examine anxiety, diabetes and heart disease. The $79 kits test bacteria, analyze results, and compare data to other profiles. This quick and cutting-edge device could easily help millions of people in developing nations.

Plangrid is a paper-saving blueprint alternative for construction engineers. By using a tablet to alter and share blueprints, Tracy
Young, Ryan Sutton-Gee, Ralph Gootee and Kenny Stone are making sure buildings are drawn from reliable sources. So far, Plangrid has been a success since it began only three years ago. The app helped build over 90,000 projects worldwide. Plangrid, however, has a long way to go until it can reach rural populations most in need of new buildings.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: PlanGrid, CNN
Photo: CNNMoney

access_to_clean_toilets

A new product, launched by a Delhi startup last year, gives women the ability to urinate while standing up.

The PeeBuddy is a single-use funnel created from paper that is both coated and waterproof. The funnel is seen as one possible solution to India’s lack of clean toilets.

The country is one of the worst in terms of access to clean toilets. A study released by the World Bank in 2013 showed that over 600 million people defecate without the use of a toilet. This figure corresponds to over 53% of households.

Even if women can find a public toilet to use, it is often dirty. As a result, it is common for them to drink less water, which can lead to health issues.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that dehydration was a primary factor in instigating headaches, loss of focus and fatigue.

By using the PeeBuddy and urinating while standing up, women in India are able to create a more hygienic atmosphere in an otherwise dirty bathroom. The startup’s website says the product is ideal for restaurants, nightclubs, public toilets and other popular destinations.

The idea for such a creation was born during a road trip consisting of four couples, according to Deep Bajaj, PeeBuddy’s founder.

During the trip from India’s capital territory to Jaipur, a city to the south in the Rajasthan state, Bajaj said the group made frequent stops to look for clean bathrooms, as only around one in five met the wives’ standards.

When one of the women on the trip commented how she wished she were in Europe so she could have access to a plastic device to use when encountering unsanitary toilets, Bajaj came up with the idea for the PeeBuddy.

The product is favored over others that have been produced because of the relatively cheap cost. A pack of 20 funnels costs 375 rupees (less than $6).

GoGirl, for example, is a reusable device made of silicone, but costs $9.99 each. Pee Pocket, also a disposable, coated-paper funnel, costs $24.99 for a 48-pack.

While some stores have been slow to put PeeBuddy on shelves, possibly because of the unusual product name, 20,000 packs had been sold through April of this year, due in large part to Amazon India.

The startup is also currently working with several corporations to help make the PeeBuddy more widely available.

Matt Austin Wotus

Sources: PeeBuddy, The Huffington Post 1, The Huffington Post 2, The Huffington Post 3, YourStory
Photo: My Choices

greek_startups
Young owners of Greek startups are finding their businesses launched onto the international market directly after conception.

With economic degradation and youth unemployment at 50 percent, many are faced with a choice: to join the brain drain and move to Western Europe or to stay home and fight to make a living amongst stagnant mainstay industries such as shipping, olive oil, cheese and tourism. Very few jobs in the traditional sectors are available, and the country has long been resistant to global competition and innovation. With a bailout and increased regulation looming, the Greek economy hardly seems like the ideal ground to plant a business.

And yet, in this backwards business environment, the young entrepreneurial class is making it work. They are calling on Greece’s ancient mercantile roots to foster a host of new companies that are taking the initiative to begin rebuilding the country’s faltering economy. These young workers have taken advantage of the end of regulations, protections, tax breaks and provisions that have sheltered Greek businesses for years and hindered competition and new ventures.

Investors, both Greek and international, have jumped on the bandwagon as well. The Hellenic Initiative, a nonprofit sponsored by Greeks abroad, funds business initiatives including a custom folding bicycle designer, cosmetic safety lab and online fuel auctioning website.

Such companies have received funding from investors in Europe, the U.S. and Australia. Other examples of growing companies are Taxibeat, an Uber-like driving service and Workable, an employment tool that is now used in small and medium-sized companies in 39 countries.

With a large population of well-educated young labor force eager to work and jump into a new sector, workers are relatively inexpensive to employ and exhibit more loyalty to start-ups.

“There is no shortage of really smart kids, driven kids, with a lot of zeal and a lot of drive, a lot of hunger, and a pretty good business plan,” said Jeremy Downward, an investor for Alpheus Advisors.

Although many start-ups remain small and employ fewer than 20 people and can not transform the Greek economy alone, workers stay positive.

“Talking about all the negative aspects of this huge economic depression in this country doesn’t help that much. It helps if you can start building something that makes sense, and makes sense both for business and for society,” said start-up founder, Dimitris G. Kalavros-Gousiou.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: New York Times, BRW
Photo: New York Times

usaid-start-up-initiatives
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently funded startup programs aiming to address global poverty at several universities. The agency hopes investments will promote innovative projects that will be economically sustainable once start-up dollars run dry.

“The old model was we need something built, we hire a contractor,” USAID head Rajiv Shah said. “The new model is solve these huge and challenging problems with innovators and entrepreneurs who can come together and create the kind of solutions that can scale up to reach tens of millions of households.”

Development labs at seven major universities so far have received funding from USAID. The labs are field-testing a variety of new products, ranging from hand-held medical diagnostic technology to sanitation devices.

While diverse, all products are consistently cheap enough to dispense broadly and efficiently, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Most recently, the agency granted Kansas State University $50 million towards their Feed the Future Initiative.

“With four Feed the Future Innovation Labs now hosted by the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension,” said dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University, John Floros. “USAID is making a nearly $100 million investment in Kansas State University’s ability to provide leadership to the global food systems research, teaching and extension efforts.”

Feed the Future works to promote research and innovation, expand proven workable technologies, and expand nutritional programs for global food producers and their families. Last year alone, the campaign expanded new technologies and management to more than 7 million farmers

Another project endorsed by USAID is Gram Power, an entrepreneurial firm considered a pioneer in off-grid renewable energy in India. This project was kickstarted by Yashraj Khaitan, a UC Berkeley student originally from India.

“I wanted to use technology to work on something high impact,” said Khaitan.

The firm’s model is projected to vastly expand electrical power to Indian homes, according to vice president of infrastructure at Google and guide to the Gram Power effort, Eric Brewer.

“We are looking for ways to find more Gram Power type projects,” said Ticora Jones, director of university-based projects for USAID. “We want to populate a pipeline of innovators.”

Gabrielle Sennett

Sources: USAID, LA Times
Photo: The Guardian,

cloud computing
As a whole, the African continent has one of the most rapidly growing economies in the world. The area averages a remarkable rate of 5 percent growth per year. And yet a host of problems that hover in the near future threaten to impede such progress. The African continent, as a result, must increasingly rely on the private sector to ensure growth does not stagnate.

One such problem is the worldwide urbanization boom that will experience a 3.5 billion urban population increase to 6.3 billion people. It is expected that Africa will mirror this growth, percentage wise. Additionally, for Africa to stay relevant as a hub for business, it will need to play an integral role in creating jobs for the 500 million who will enter the workforce by 2020.

Technology will always be a key to the future, and experts suggest that by harnessing the power of cloud-based computing, the African continent can grow steadily. Here are some of the reasons and ways in which cloud-based computing is a model for the future.

Easy for Startups

To put it simply, cloud computing systems offer a much cheaper way to get businesses off the ground. Old, stack-oriented servers required entrepreneurs to hire workers, rent an office space and market the company. Cloud-based systems require just a few dollars and mediocre broadband access.

Mobile Access

“Africa is a Disneyland for entrepreneurs!” said Derek Kudsee. The 600 million mobile users in Africa are great consumers. And what these consumers need is new apps, content and mobile services. Cloud technology provides this speed that old stack-based technology simply cannot.

Business Agility

Consider the influx of individuals coming into the cities. Studies have shown that cloud computing is excellent for business agility (which is the ability of the business to adapt rapidly and efficiently in response to changes in the business environment).

Helping Big Data

Managers across Africa are beginning to notice some of the fallout of the urban population influx—clogged roads, for example. Big data that is powered by cloud computing provides quick and cost-efficient analysis of this problem. By pairing these two together, individuals will be able to quickly improve African infrastructure.

While technology should not be the only solution we look to, it can certainly be helpful in guiding the way to the future.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: IT News Africa 1, IT News Africa 2, ITWeb Africa
Photo: Humanipo