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The Mobile Frontier with Ken Banks – Ep011

Play

This episode is part of a podcast series called “Entrepreneurs & Economic Development” talking to entrepreneurs using business and technology to solve problems at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Listen to the interview by clicking play above. 

iTunes      Stitcher

Subscribe with iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher for Android.

Today’s Guest

Ken Banks is an emerging market mobile technology evangelist, conceptualizing and building FrontlineSMS a product that is used to deliver information to millions of people. Recently Ken wrote “The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator” and has a new project Means of Exchange.

Contest Information

As mentioned during the podcast Ken has graciously offered 3 electronic copies of his book The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator to listeners of Entrepreneurs and Economic Development. The contest runs from now until Wednesday May 6, 2015. Winners will be contacted and announced on an upcoming episode. To enter the contest:

1) Provide a review on iTunes or Stitcher (Click here for instructions) using your name or Twitter handle.

2) Sign up for Ryan Fetterly’s monthly newsletter ‘Inside Emerging Markets’

Bonus: Tweet a link to this episode and tag @Fetterly_BC along with @Kiwanja for an additional entry!

You will learn:

  • How Ken went from teaching himself how to program Commodore Pet computers to developing software that is in use in over 170 countries
  • The stories behind Ken’s 3 Major Achievements (FrontlineSMS, The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator and Means of Exchange)
  • How a social anthropological lens has helped Ken view problems and create solutions
  • How building a Ugandan School, a Nigerian Ape Sanctuary and a broken leg led to Ken becoming a global leader in emerging market mobile
  • How Ken convinced Stanford to accept FrontlineSMS after being initially rejected, a catalyst in his career

Great Quotes

40% of Kenya's #GDP transfers via #mobilemoney - @Kiwanja Click To Tweet #Entrepreneur Advice: Don't think about what you don't have - @Kiwanja Click To Tweet People were laughing when I started working with #Mobile phones in #development - @Kiwanja Click To Tweet How to start a #career in Social #Innovation? #1 Travel #2 Look at International Development… Click To Tweet @FrontlineSMS has become the #Outlook of SMS for many organizations - @Kiwanja Click To Tweet @MeansofExchange is using #technology to make more meaningful local connections - @Kiwanja Click To Tweet

Mentioned :

Contact information for Ken :

Feel Free to Comment or Connect

If you have any questions for Ryan, Ken or recommendations for future interviews please place them in the comments section. 

microensure

How to buy life insurance with a text message – MicroEnsure – Ep 007

Play

This episode is part of a podcast series called “Entrepreneurs & Economic Development” talking to entrepreneurs using business and technology to solve problems at the Bottom of the Pyramid. Listen to the interview by clicking play above. 

iTunes      Stitcher

Subscribe with iTunes for iPhone or Stitcher for Android.

Today’s Guest

Richard Leftley, CEO of MicroEnsure a company that provides various insurances products in emerging markets to the worlds poorest.

You will learn:

  • Texting to buy life insurance
  • Why insurance is critical for the world’s poorest
  • Different forms of insurance in emerging markets (Health, Crop, Livestock)
  • Leveraging Partnerships to Scale
  • Giving away insurance to increase customer loyalty
  • Building Sharia law compliant financial products

Great Quotes

Mentioned :

Contact Richard or MicroEnsure:

Feel Free to Comment or Connect

If you have any questions for Ryan, Richard or recommendations for future interviews please place them in the comments section. 

Why innovation in emerging markets trumps a social media dashboards and marketing automation…

Last August I returned to clear blue skies, warm weather and fresh air in Vancouver after 16 months of travel. Our city is consistently ranked on of the most livable in the world and provides amazing food from distant cultures. My goal was to find a technology company that tackles ‘real’ problems in emerging markets, international in scope but locally based.

A year later I now realize that our ‘international’ city is a tourist hub and most businesses with the exception of mining are domestic. Other than two early stage start-ups Arbutus Medical and TwoThirds Water most companies are tackling “1st World problems”, saving seconds on invoicing or integrating with another technology. I love amazing SAAS products, my MAC computer and Nexus 5 phone but after seeing how small technological shifts in East Africa change lives many western start-ups seem trivial. I religiously read about Heads Up Display (HUD) technology, self-driving cars and drone tech but feel my life’s work should be to help the billions of people that don’t have clean water, health care, food and a roof over their heads. It’s hard to develop products for sub-Saharan Africa when your biggest problem is deciding on which sushi restaurant.

Over the last year while working in Vancouver I’ve been trying to stay abreast on new BOP (Bottom of the Pyramid) innovations. One of the major expanding streams is Digital Finance Plus, essentially building cashless businesses around mobile money. In order to find emerging companies and stay up to speed I’ve relied on my network I developed while working and traveling in Africa and South Asia. Unfortunately there is no central media source for the growing BOP industry. Most of the companies listed below I’ve found through Skype calls, e-mails and researching impact investment portfolios. Personally I find a few industries particularly appealing as they are the building blocks for economic growth in the coming decades: Education, Energy, Health and Product Design.

I compiled this post to provide friends within Acumen+Vancouver, attendees of our UBC Start Up Weekend Social Ventures Edition and other individuals an idea of the amazing transformation going on in developing countries with regards to tech and economic development. I’ve provided links to all companies and if you have any questions or comments please post them below.

 

Education:

Bridge International Academies: Affordable education to Kenyan primary students ($7/month), expanding in 2015 to other emerging markets.

Spire: Filling the gap between University education and employer needs with skills upgrades and employee training for corporations. Providing market ready talent.

Awethu Project: A South Africa VC/Business Education program determining top talent by a series of testing, providing them with training funding, mentorship and investing in their new venture.

Energy: ( Solar)

Off.Grid:Electric: Founded in 2012, they are growing aggressively in Tanzania using a Solar-as-a-Service model, renting out equipment at a rate cheaper than Kerosene. I interned with OGE in 2012 and their management team is fantastic.

Fenix International: Fenix uses the solar lease model and is based in Uganda with technology development in San Francisco.

M-Kopa: Kenya’s largest player, they pioneered small home solar systems and recently began selling system to other ‘digital utilities’ growing the industry in new markets.

Angaza Designs: They are focusing on building the payment systems technology to be plugged into other devices and companies. Angaza is a platform that interacts with the mobile networks and is integrated into leased products.

There are several other companies including Persistent Energy Ghana, BBoxx, D.Light, Simpa Networks, and Azuri Technologies.

Health

Medic Mobile: They utilize cell phones to improve health both collecting and pushing information out to save lives.

Riders for Health: Helping manage fleets of vehicles or motorbikes for Health Departments or Large NGOs allowing the doctors or nurses to focus on their job rather than vehicle maintenance. Access to rural communities saves lives.

Living Goods: Education and Micro sales of health products in East Africa.

 

Design

D-Rev: A product design company focusing on the BOP market, their first main project was a affordable knee for amputees.

iDE : An American based organization that works in multiple countries consulting and designing for the BOP market.

Proximity Designs: A Myanmar based organization sells affordable income generating products focused primarily on Myanmar.