TIECON Social Enterprise Track Provides New Perspective

For the first time TIECON EAST – TiE Boston’s annual conference on entrepreneurship and innovation – had a dedicated track on Social Enterprise. The three panels in the track – ‘Healthcare Innovation in a Global Village’, ‘IT & Communications for the Developing World’ and ‘Feeding 9 Billion people’ – were all well attended and engaged the attentive audience with the incisive discussions. Here are some excerpts from an article I wrote for Lokvani about the sessions.

  • After the Cambodian massacre less than 50 doctors were left in Cambodia.
  • Operation Village health used basic technology to connect Cambodian doctors in villages to Harvard doctors who serve as consultants.
  • As a result they reduced the time to deal with chronic issues from 32 months to 8 months.
  • Surprisingly the most common diseases were not tropical diseases but diabetes and hypertension.
  • 1 billion people have mobile phones but no access to financial services. There is a tremendous potential for providing mobile based financial services to this sector.
  • In Kenya there are 6 million cell phones which is more that the number of bank accounts.
  • Microfinance grew to around 150 million customers in 30 years; mobile banking has the potential to grow to 150 million accounts in 10.
  • TaraHaat, franchises rural e-kiosks to local entrepreneurs in India; it has over 180 kiosks and plans to grow to 800 kiosks all over India.
  • Development Alternatives is the parent non-proft that generates ideas. TaraHaat and other for profit sister companies provide a revenue based model for idea dissemination.
  • The challenge for such organizations is that the business model confuses people when they try to raise funds. Grantors cannot support the for profit side of the business and the returns on the for-profit side are too low for traditional investors.
  • A new breed of social investor is required that is willing to take a lower return on their investment in return for the widespread social impact such scalable organizations can make.
  • While the valuation of risk for a social business should be the same as any for profit, the acceptance of risk should be different. The tradeoff of risk versus benefits should take into account the social impact also. Social businesses do not have to be non-profits. The real question is what is a fair rate of return for a social business.
  • Of the $500 Billion or so in charitable giving from foundations, less than 2% goes to the farm sector or farm related issues, and in particular small farms.
  • 92% of the farms in the US are classified as small farms. In addition over 75% of the methane produced comes from farm related activities like manure.  There is an opportunity to capture this on farms and provide a reduction in greenhouse gases while also providing an income stream to small farms.
  • Farm trucks generally return empty from delivering produce to the cities. There is a supply chain opportunity in increasing the utilization of such trucks.
  • You can view a detailed post on the Food Panel by Ahseen Phansey, moderator for the panel.

You can read the full article “TIECON Social Enterprise Track Provides New Perspective”   here.

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