M:lab East Africa awarded impact economy innovations grant

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m:lab East Africa is among the seven companies that won the Rockefeller Foundation and the Tony Elumelu Foundation‘s Africa Impact Economy Innovations Fund (IEIF). The other six companies include Investisseurs & Partenaires (Senegal) Renew LLC (Ethiopia), the Policy and Economic Research Council (Tanzania) Doreo Partners (Nigeria), GIMPA Centre for Impact Investing (Ghana) and SliceBiz (Ghana).

Impact Economy Innovations Fund (IEIF) is a fund which is administered by the Global Impact Investing Network. It provides grant capital for entrepreneurs with projects that create jobs in underserved sectors, and supports proposals geared toward enabling capital solutions, fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems and promoting impact investing industry infrastructure.
According to John Kieti from m:lab East Africa, the IEIF grant will assist the m:lab to augment our portfolio of services with improved interventions for social enterprises and enable us increase the potential for success for start-ups that go through our incubation program.

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With the grant, the m:lab will host a new program in 2014 that will identify, nurture and support mobile focused social and impact enterprise teams. Social enterprises apply commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, besides maximising profits for external shareholders. Likewise, impact enterprises are those that intentionally seek to grow in sustaining financial viability, realizing increasing social impact, and influencing the broader system in which they operate. At the m:lab, we define mobile impact entreprise as social or impact entreprises using mobile technology to amplify their impact.

Startup teams committed to solving social and economic problems of people at the base of the pyramid are invited to apply for a new program at the m:lab. The program is aimed at helping to build and scale mobile impact entreprises. To begin with, the focus impact areas under the program will be :-
● Agriculture
● Health and Water
● Education

The first cohort will be admitted in march 2014. Startup teams of two or three individuals are eligible. One of the team members must be a Tech Co-founder with an orientation to mobile software development. A second team member with working experience in education, agriculture, health or water will be an added advantage. An entrepreneurial instinct or experience running a business venture among the founders will also be an added advantage.

The program entails 3 months of contact with customers, coaches, mentors, trainers and domain experts. The m:lab will be requiring Tech entrepreneurs in the program to “Get out of the building” and interact with real people as potential users, customers or partners for insights. As such, participants will be required to spend much time gathering customer insights in the field and undertaking experiments to validate their business models. Participating teams will also undergo trainings on mobile solutions development and building successful enterprises with social missions. The trainings will be complemented by a coaching and mentorship program customised for advancement of business goals of the startups.

To improve chances of social enterprises in the program growing and scaling up, participants will be trained and coached on accessing growth capital. Pitching events will be organised to involve a combination of impact and angel investors. The m:lab will provide an initial seed investment of $5,000 each to the most progressive startups for traction proof. Beyond the three month contact period , the program will together with the startups pursue growth capital among impact funds and angel investors.

Eligibility criteria for this program will include one person having a business background, a product that caters for the market and solves a problem, experience one had when pursuing a start up or a business venture and life or work experience on any of the sectors the programme will be concentrating on. Applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the design thinking process used at Stanford Design School – eg. http://dschool.stanford.edu/dgift/. Interested individuals can apply for the program here.

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