I was, and still am, the dew-ew eyed young boy, who immediately - on seeing a problem that other's are facing, thinks of fixing it. Since I understood technology, I always thought the best way to do it would be the next big invention. A 10-year-old version of myself stayed in the school labs making ridiculous monstrosities such as a bio-brick, made up of plastic at its core, and then a mud covering. By no means was I prodigious, just merely someone who did a lot of experiments.
As I grew up, I realised it was important to take these things out into the real word, if I ever wanted to do any good, and thereby started my entrepreneurial journey. I've had varying levels of success, and in this essay, I wish to present you with some tips, I wish I knew when I started out.
I suppose the one biggest question that people ask, is how do you finance the changes you want to bring about in society. Most MBA schools and beginner economic courses will talk about the wealth locked up at the base of the pyramid with a smile on their face, broader than the morning sun.
Prahalad and Hart initially created this radical idea, almost 20 years ago, where they said that 4 billion poor around the world, form a vibrant consumer market that could be tapped by for-profit business models, and these same consumers could be partners in the process. When this idea came about in the very beginning, it challenged a few too many notions about how the world worked, hence was subject to healthy amounts of criticism. With their follow up books with case studies, it caught the fancy of the development sector and many large conglomerates, that this could actually be done. Unlike a lot of business philosophy which gets passed around, and eventually dies out, this concept still inspires vibrant conversation.
Since then, a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of extreme poverty across the globe has resulted in entrepreneurial solutions to many social problems. This has also narrowed the gap between the developed and bottom of the pyramid markets. On combining this with the wealth of technological advancement and the democratization of mobile phones, we have a significantly lower cost of communication and learning, that allows existing companies to create and scale important solutions such as bank payments, as well as mobile phones.
With the emergence of Mohammed Yunus' ideas of social business, and a bunch of more interesting success stories, the industry and society, in general, began to accept the idea of innovation as an antidote to poverty. These are still quite difficult problems, yet we now know that with a healthy amount of experimentation we can create sustainable businesses that improve the quality of life.
For the sake of this essay, I will assume that you are at the top of your field's innovation, and have the product covered. How you build stuff inside the lab, is up to you. Bringing this outside involves actually analyzing the pros and cons of each approach intricately.
Infrastructure and the need for Capital
You will be working in areas where the infrastructure support is despicable, and the government has failed to be able to provide for the needs of the people. This requires basic infrastructure to be set up, before your innovation can actually make it to the hands of the target population. One of the quickest ways of raising capital to create this infrastructure is private equity and venture capital, provided you can make the case for a viable business, and have the necessary network.
The means of production of your innovation will be restricted in private hands, yet you can channel the want of the target population for better economic mobility, to create great distribution channels. (read microfinance business models) . This also allows you to run your initiative efficiently, effectively reducing bureaucracy, and allowing your users the ability to choose your innovation for themselves. This will allow you, and your team, to most importantly work towards eliminating excesses and draw a decent enough salary to support their families.