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3p Weekend: These 10 Social Innovators Are Sure to Inspire


With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

The SAP Social Entrepreneur Fellowship program – created in collaboration with Acumen, a pioneer in impact investing – aims to help these entrepreneurs scale their businesses to find faster, more sustainable solutions to poverty in India and East Africa.

The 100-day fellowship kicked off with a 10-day leadership boot camp in Silicon Valley, where these socent CEOs addressed their primary growth challenges and learned from top tech entrepreneurs, business experts and impact investors.

After returning to their home countries, the entrepreneurs will continue to receive mentorship, assistance and support. The goal is for each entrepreneur to leave the fellowship with a clear plan of scaling up -- meaning the folks on this list may very well be the driving force for poverty solutions in India and East Africa.

The CEOs, selected by Acumen’s investees, represent social enterprises working in agriculture, education, energy, health care, and water and sanitation. This week we learned more about these innovative thought leaders. Read on to be inspired.

1. David Auerbach, Sanergy

This graduate of MIT Sloan and Yale University has made his career in the impact sector. He previously worked with the Ignia Fund in Mexico, the Clinton Global Initiative and Endeavor before co-founding Sanergy earlier this year. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, Sanergy designs low-cost, high-quality toilets to make hygienic sanitation affordable and accessible throughout the country.

In addition to providing the toilets, Sanergy picks up filled waste cartridges daily and transfers them to a centralized facility, where the waste is converted into useful byproducts such as organic fertilizer and renewable energy. The company sells organic fertilizer to several Kenyan farms, and 100 percent of the waste it receives is safely treated.

2. Mark Davies, Esoko

Mark Davies started his first Internet business, Metrobeat, in 1995 and merged with CitySearch a year later to develop guides for 70 cities. In 2006, he turned his focus to emerging entrepreneurs to create Esoko, a mobile platform changing how information is shared within rural farming communities.

With offices in Accra, Ghana, and Nairobi, Kenya, Esoko provides an innovative text messaging service that gives rural farmers information about the market value of their crops and helps them connect with buyers. The solution has reached 350,000 farmers in 10 countries so far, with an average 11 percent increase in revenue.

3. Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil

Ashifi Gogo, an expert in mobile authentication technologies, created Sproxil in 2009 to protect consumers from counterfeit medicine and bad products.

The company works directly with manufacturers to integrate Sproxil's product authentication service, so consumers have the tools to make smarter choices. The company has seven offices around the world, from Ghana and Nigeria to India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where it provides its solutions locally.

4. Manish Kumar, Standard of Excellence in Education Development (SEED)

Manish Kumar founded SEED in 2013 to transform low-cost K-10 eduction in India. The organization works with underperforming schools strapped for resources to institute a standardized curriculum, teacher training and other operational processes.

5. Damian Miller, Orb Energy

Damian Miller is putting his doctorate in solar technology in emerging markets from Cambridge to good use as CEO of Orb Energy. With 15 years of experience in solar photovoltaics, he has launched solar businesses in India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Indonesia and China.

His latest venture, Orb Energy, sells, installs and services solar photovoltaic and solar water-heating systems in India.

6. Willem Nolens, SolarNow

Willem Nolens has over 15 years of experience leading microfinance and solar energy companies in Africa. He has headed up SolarNow since 2008, a social enterprise that is increasing energy access in rural Uganda through its innovative distribution and financing model.

7. Peter Scott, Burn Manufacturing

Peter Scott has focused on cookstove design and innovation for nearly 20 years, first with GIZ and now as CEO of Burn Manufacturing.

Burn manufactures and sells high-efficiency clean cookstoves in Kenya, providing the business case for high-quality, locally-manufactured and unsubsidized charcoal cookstoves. Its solutions are advertised as "saving lives and forests," and we're inclined to agree.

8. Ajaita Shah, Frontier Markets

Ajaita Shah spent the past eight years working in microfinance and clean energy distribution in India. Born in Scarsdale, New York, to Indian parents, Shah now lives in India full time.

She founded Frontier Markets in 2010 to provide more than 300 rural Indian villages with access to clean energy products, as well as training and services for those products. In lieu of a grid that creates equitable power distribution, she’s promoting the benefits of solar energy and making it easily available to people.

9. Girish Singhania, Edubridge

Girish Singhania launched Edubridge in 2009 after working at Procter & Gamble and in investment banking in Mumbai. Edubridge provides skills training and job placement to India's rural youth to increase their opportunities to play a role in India's formal economy.

Much like the SAP program Singhania is taking part in now to scale his business, Edubridge puts Indian youth through three- to eight-week training programs to help them develop the skills required by corporate clients.

10. John Waibochi, Virtual City

John Waibochi has over 18 years of experience in Kenya's tech sector. Since 2000, he has led Virtual City, a mobile software firm that delivers streamlined, cost-effective solutions to the supply chain and agribusiness industry in Africa.

Based in Nairobi, Virtual City's app-based solutions help ensure rural farmers receive a fair price for their crops and allow small agribusinesses to bring their operations online.

Images courtesy of SAP

Mary Mazzoni headshotMary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Her recent work can be found in Conscious Company and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.

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