Why Africa?

Why is so much of my work with entrepreneurs in Africa? Two main reasons:

There are fewer quality business accelerators in Africa than in other regions of the world, and thus Fledge receive more quality applicants from Africa
The opportunities in Africa are enormous. It’s the last place on Earth with 1 billion people growing from poverty to middle class.

The realities of startup life (in Ghana)

All startups are difficult… and they don’t get easier when your startup is in a foreign country… selling a service that no one there has seen before.  Few books due the startup journey justice.  Bright Lights, No City is one of the rare exceptions, telling the story of Burro in Ghana, a company founded by Whit Alexander, creator of Cranium, as told through the eyes and talented...

Where inequality leads?

From The Wealth of Nations to The Divide, I’ve spent months with my nose in a book looking for answers to income and wealth inequality.  Meanwhile, down on a trip to Lima in Peru, simply walking around answered one key question that keeps going unanswered by the writers, “Where does inequality lead us to?“ When that question comes up in my circle of friends, the conversation...

4 Million Years of Experience

Bouncing down an unpaved road in a far western Kenya (1 2 3 4 5 6), in the Rift Valley, I had a profound thought… There have been people living here for over four million years! That is an incredibly long history. An unfathomable depth of experience living off that land. In comparison, the Puget Sound region where I live wasn’t seen by human beings until about 6,000 years ago, when the last ice...

Native or Imported Entrepreneurs?

An ongoing discussion during the Investors Circle trip to Nairobi was about the tradeoffs between the companies founded by Africans and those founded by Americans, Europeans, and Indians. We met a few of both, and thus had a first-hand look to make (anecdotal) comparisons. Overall, the consensus was that natives like GreenChar and Totohealth had the advantage of deeply understanding their market...

SunCulture: drip-irrigation for Kenyan farmers

The last site visit for Investors Circle in Nairobi was SunCulture, seller of solar-powered pumps and drop-irrigation systems for small farms across Kenya. Speaking of culture, one learning on this trip about East Africa was the blended nature of the populace. Not only are there dozens of tribes within Kenya alone, but added to that are the 100+ year old history of Europeans and Indians living in...

BURN Manufacturing, a cookstove success story

The other highlight of the Investors Circle visit to Nairobi was the visit to the factory where BURN Manufacturing builds its cookstoves.  Charcoal cookstoves, as charcoal is the most popular fuel used for cooking by urban and peri-urban Kenya. Factory, as in a fully-modern manufacturing facility, little different from those found in the U.S., Europe, Japan, or China.  One large building filled...

Three African startups tackling global health

Continuing my visit to impactful African startups, yesterday my fellow Investors Circle members met with three (very different) startups tackling global health. First was MicroEnsure, an established, multi-country startup that is working in a very difficult space, selling insurance to the bottom of the pyramid.  The key learnings from the meeting were the successful channels for reaching that...

Afya Research Africa Clinics

Continuing on the Investors Circle trip was a day trip to western Kenya to visit two of the eleven Afya Research Africa clinics.  First, the Afya Ubuntu Ruma Clinic. The clinic is on the grounds of the Ruma Women’s Center, a nonprofit run by a local church which provides services to women and orphans.  The picture above provides no understanding on the remoteness of this location.  We flew...

Jibu: safe, clean, affordable drinking water

After visiting GreenChar, the next stop was another slum across Nairobi to meet Jibu, a multi-national for-profit startup tackling the problem of safe, clean, affordable drinking water in Africa. This has been a very difficult problem area for for-profits to tackle, do to competition with free, but unsafe water, along with the low purchasing power of the people who most need better sources of...


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