While there are hundreds of organisations across the world working to solve girls' challenges, the social entrepreneurs who participated in the Girl Effect Accelerator represent a new shift in global development: they're for-profit startups working in some of the world's fastest growing markets.
The Nike Foundation partnered with the Unreasonable Group to bring ten innovative ventures from across the globe to travel to the Bay Area and participate in an intensive two-week programme. In addition to strategic financing and access to a global network of support, the accelerator aims to rapidly increase the positive impact these ventures are already having for girls living in poverty.
"It's been incredible to watch these entrepreneurs not only flourish over these past two weeks, but really start to think hard about how they're going to have greater impact on girls' lives," said Mara Abrams, the Nike Foundation's Global Partnerships Manager, who also helped drive the strategic vision for the accelerator.
"I'm excited for these startups to show the world that it is possible to build a successful company that is both profitable and able to impact girls' lives on a massive scale."
THE "BLACK SWANS" OF OUR TIME
These are not your typical Silicon Valley startups.
The social entrepreneurs who participated in the accelerator operate in over 30 countries and averaged $2.2 million in revenue last year from customers living on less than $2 a day. These are the true "black swans" of our time: startups that have significant market traction, are working in the world's fastest emerging markets, and are positioned to measurably benefit millions of girls in poverty.
They range from one of the fastest growing mobile banking platforms in the world to the fastest growing mobile education application in Africa.
As part of the programme, the entrepreneurs were paired with world-class mentors who are experienced taking ideas to scale. The lengthy list includes some of business' most renowned innovators, ranging from iconic social insights blogger Seth Godin to the former experience lead at Google X, Tom Chi. Others include Nike Inc.'s Vice President of Innovation & Sustainability, Hannah Jones; co-founder of Stanford University's d.school, George Kembel; and co-founder of Kiva.org, Jessica Jackley.
But, the real stars of the today's show are the ventures.
- Bridge International Academies: Educating over 100,000 children for an average of $6 a month, this is the world's largest and fastest growing chain of schools.
- Jayashree Industries: Making radically affordable sanitary pads to prevent health complications and school dropouts amongst girls. There are already over 1500 women-owned franchises.
- Paga: The number one mobile payments service in Nigeria, bringing un-banked and under-banked Nigerians into the formal sector. Over 1.8M users.
- Off Grid - Electric: Using mobile phones for a pay as you go service to solar electricity for families in extreme poverty. Electrifying over 1,000 homes with solar each month.
- Embrace: Empowering mothers who are not able to access traditional healthcare. First product is the world's most affordable "infant warmer." Already prevented thousands of deaths.
- Eneza: Fastest growing mobile education application on the African continent.
- Eco Fuel Africa: Converting agricultural waste into clean, inexpensive cooking fuel. Supporting over 500 women entrepreneurs and ensuring thousands of girls stay in school.
- Greenlight Planet: Has sold over 2 million solar home lights to off-grid families… and they are just getting started.
- Zoona: Fastest growing and #1 mobile money operator in Zambia with a mission to help businesses grow.
- Soko: Giving disadvantages women and girl artisans in Africa the ability to sell directly to international customers through their mobile phones.
EXPERIENCE SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT ITS BEST
If you're located near San Francisco, join us at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre from 3pm to 7pm PST for the TED-style event.
Follow #GirlEffectAccelerator all afternoon for highlights.