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The joys of sharing PDF Print E-mail

Snake and LizardI'm a big fan of shareable.net, whose lively blog shows how many ways we can improve our lives by sharing.

During my recent trip to India I discovered a new angle on it. While riding an electric scooter down a track barely wide enough for the bike, a guy steps into the road brandishing a wickedly sharp looking knife. I might have been scared except that no self-respecting bandit would have been wearing a large nappy like dhoti, and the ancient toothless grin looked friendly. We had no language in common but it seemed he just wanted a ride, and I guess waving his knife and grinning worked pretty well at getting me to stop!

I wish I'd had my camera, but later that week I snapped this different way of sharing - a lizard and a mildly venomous snake both trying to invite the other for dinner.

 
Humanitarian License PDF Print E-mail

The first public draft of Natural Innovation's "Humanitarian License" is now available on the web site. Both a plain English and a legalese version are available. Written by Mitra & San Francisco based Intellectual Property (IP) attorney Inder Comar.

The license is intended to help facilitate technology being made available to non-profits for humanitarian purposes, for example for developing country applications where the IP owner has little intention of doing business.

At this time we would be grateful for feedback, especially from any potential users of the license (IP owners, or licensees or attorneys) so that the license can be adapted into an even more useful set of templates.

 
New project - MinVayu - small wind for the underserved PDF Print E-mail

MinVayu class and turbine

The highlight of the last few months has been working with MinVayu. MinVayu's founder, Jorge Ayarza is an US/Ecuadorian wind expert, based in Auroville India who has come up with an interesting analysis.

Jorge believes that by designing a small (350W-1kW) turbine for the low-winds of India, and by training local mechanics that he has a scalable, affordable, solution to providing wind power to under-served rural communities. I spent a month with Jorge, helping to refine his business model and in particular to integrate the learnings from the pilot run of the training workshops.

A rural community education center in nearby village is now powered by a turbine constructed during the workshop, and is performing well. However we believe that by thinking about the whole system rather than just the turbine we can make some substantial improvements and drop the overall system cost another 35% which would make wind cheaper than solar in many even low wind locations.

The opportunity presented by a system that is cheaper than current Solar Home Systems is substantial with the potential to create a business that meets the magic target of being both highly profitable and having a high impact.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 11:04
 
The funding gap PDF Print E-mail

As part of Natural Innovation's mission to improve the climate for technology innovation, Mitra has been trying to get the message out that the Social Entrepreneurship / Impact Investment space needs to address the serious gap between the mostly late-stage, risk averse, investors with high minimum amounts and the mostly early stage entrepreneurs, needing small amounts of money and lots of help.

This gap is particularly evident when an entrepreneur is in a developing country, where US$200,000 will fund a team of 10 for a year, and all the prototyping and development. But to US based investors, $200k is too small to be worth the cost of the due-diligence! At the recent SoCap conference, this gap was finally being recognised and talked about by investors, while incubators like Natural Innovation met with entrepreneurs and those few funders who understand to explore possible solutions.

SoCap has rapidly become the conference to pay attention to for the sector we work in. I found both Investors Circle and Cleantech Open interesting and valuable, however Investors Circle is in practice only available to US entrepreneurs and we also heard from two companies that the venture capital investors they met throught their pitches at Cleantech Open had tried to get them to drop their social missions and just focus on profitable western markets.

 
New Project - Wherever the Need PDF Print E-mail

Wherever the Need toiletOver 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, more than twice the number lacking power or water.

While in the UK in June I was introduced to David Crosweller of Wherever The Need (WTN) who filled me in on their project to create a viable business model for sanitation so that micro-enterprises could run slum toilets in areas that neither municipalities nor Aid dollars are likedly to reach for a long time.

David explained that in India, poor people will not spend money to use a toilet so the models adopted by Sanergy in Kenya are less likely to work. Instead WTN is looking to generate sufficient revenue from the sale of compost and fertilizer to cover the construction and operating costs of slum toilets.

In August I visited Paramasivan who runs the indian office of WTN and spent a day touring their trials in the slums of Cuddalore. The cultural challenges, from poverty, cast, unclear land ownership etc are huge, and often lead to sub-optimum solutions such as individual stalls spaced out around an area rather than a single block.

Natural Innovation hopes to help WTN through it's collaboration with ReAllocate to source mechanical engineering talent to solve specific challenges of safe waste handling, and chemical engineers to improve the cost effectiveness of turning liquid waste into fertilizer. WTN are also looking for an engineer to work with them to reduce the construction costs.

 
Wherever The Need PDF Print E-mail

Wherever the Need toiletOver 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, more than twice the number lacking power or water. Wherever The Need is looking for commercially viable models for slum sanitation. Natural Innovation is exploring ways to help reduce the cost and increase the safety in their materials safety.

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 September 2011 12:35
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