Author Archives: Young World Inventors

About Young World Inventors

Young World Inventors is an international webisode and multimedia series: up-close serial videos of high and low tech startups trying to make it in a digital world. Will offer videos, funding resources, interactive blog (with funding) using new partners for distribution and broadcast of stories in four countries. YWI's first dozen stories profile girl power in East Africa -- as startups learn to survive, thrive and inspire change.

Young World Inventor Profiled on PBS Newshour!

Jodie Wu to Appear on “Agents for Change”

If you have been following Young World Inventors, you’re probably familiar with Jodie Wu, founder of Global Cycle Solutions (see video below!). Thus, we couldn’t be happier at camp YWI that the entrepreneur we’ve gotten to know so well over the past two years will soon appear on “Agents for Change,” a series to be broadcast on PBS NewsHour. “Agents for Change” traces the stories of motivated individuals who respond to entrenched social challenges like poverty, food security and access to basic amenities. These entrepreneurs come up with innovative solutions that go beyond short-term fixes to create sustainable solutions that change the system, improve the local economy and impact people’s daily lives.

Jodie, winner of the prestigious Echoing Green fellowship, is no stranger to tackling the social challenges of the developing world. At GCS, she’s gotten to know the struggles and successes of running her own social enterprise in Tanzania. What started as an idea at MIT’s D-Lab has quickly developed into a company that produces simple and effective products to make life easier for folks in Tanzania and beyond. “We are creating technologies that help smallholder farmers take their first step out of poverty, without any dependency on electricity or fuel,” noted Wu in a recent interview. In fact, items in the GCS inventory include adapters for bicycles that can be used to thresh corn, bike adapters that charge phones and solar-powered lanterns and chargers. Adds Wu, “Working in Tanzania and watching people’s faces light up at village (product) demonstrations only motivates me to spread the work of Global Cycle Solutions across the globe.”

[Read the full interview with Jodie here]

We’d like to congratulate Jodie on her profile on PBS and are excited to watch where she takes her ideas next!

 

Return to East Africa: Kenya Stove

Looking Ahead: Returning to Africa

This year, Diane will return for her fourth trip to East Africa to profile new startups, develop partnerships and report on how young innovations grow to scale up. In the coming weeks, we’ll be introducing some of the teams she’ll be spending time with. Got any leads? Tweet us @ynginventors or send us an email!

Profile: Kenya Stove

Diane talked to Payan ole-MoiYoi in Portland, OR in September and was impressed. Payan is half Maasai, grew up in Kenya and studied at Princeton. As an engineer he set out to solve a huge problem in East Africa – deforestation and disease from cooking fires. These fires trap women and children in toxic fumes at a rate comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day! Thus, Payan set out to launch Kenya Stove. He is building a stove to “improve health, reduce environmental impact, and save families money.”

It’s hard getting started, even with some funds. Erin Engelson, Payan’s partner, said this week, “Things are moving, albeit pole-pole (Swahili: slowly). We have done some cookstove testing with Kenyan cooks to get feedback on our design [and] made some partnerships here in Kenya that will help us get our ideas off the ground.”

Payan’s great Kickstarter page tells it all, and Diane hopes to document the thrills and headaches of starting up Kenya Stove in Nairobi!

YWI Update

Continuing thanks to all our KS supporters for making the first YWI webisodes possible! Find your names at our revised youngworldinventors.com. Demo DVDs loaded with ten videos went out to interested backers as I left for Nairobi.

We loaded new videos on YWI’s YouTube channel, and a dozen videos live on our Vimeo page, but we are seeking subscribers now. My vision of posting quick videos as I traveled last July was unrealistic: my apologies. If you want to see all videos, please send email.

We focused on three start-ups founded by young women: M-Farm in Nairobi, Kenya; HeHe, Ltd. in Rwanda and Global Cycle Solutions in Tanzania.  Collaboration is central to this project, and you are early supporters.  Would you consider:

⇒ Sending links to YWI’s YouTube channel and youngworldinventors.com to contacts?

⇒ Building audience for YWI Facebook and Twitter ⇒ ask for LIKES?

⇒ Suggesting sites for videos and donors we can pitch?


News in brief:

  • Diane is in East Africa (Mar 15-Apr 28) — to shoot with the teams, gather new stories, increase partnerships, explore radio, cell app, and TV repurposing.
  • Diane is collaborating with Peter Murimi, a Kenyan freelance journalist for Al Jazeera, Canadian TV and others. We are pitching a story to Chinese TV on Monday.
  • Dan Sonnett has signed on for creating our interactive web platform. His company is doing the new “Half the Sky” campaign, a global effort based on Nick Kristof’s book.
  • Vin Liota, Knight Fellow/MIT, producer/camera for NOVA/PBS and animator, is consulting for us.
  • A January posting at AITI.mit.edu/blog has an update from HeHe, Ltd. in Rwanda.
  • We are contacting 40+ websites, asking them to host YWI videos and subscribe.


More:  

  • The enterprisers at iHub in Nairobi are moving as fast as Japanese high speed trains. The teams are feeding each other with ideas, benchmarks, scaling up goals. M-Farm has outreach to 8000 farmers now. Investors are here at last.
  • 40 MIT MBA Sloan students came to iHub two days ago, and yesterday the Akirachix told me another MIT/Sloan student wants to come to work with those “girl geeks” for awhile.
  • I gave a DVD to Jim ChuChu of Just a Band (their songs are on our videos); the band is just back from SxSW playing and showing music vids.
  • Will Mworia, founder of Afrinnovator.com is embedding video and revising new pages for YWI– as soon as ocean fiber optic cables, damaged by a ship’s anchor hours away, are repaired.


Deep thanks for your support and ideas!
Diane for the YWI team

Final Kickstarter Campaign Day

We’re coming up to the close of our Kickstarter campaign. So far we’ve raised 80% of the $8000 we need to be able to pay for transcripts, editing and music. For all those who backed us on Kickstarter, we greatly appreciate all your support. One YWI backer says:

“I have no connection to this project, other than I think it is very cool and the goals are near to my heart. I pledged $125, did a favor for someone and they pledged $100; posted it on Facebook and said this is what I wanted for my birthday and people pledged various amounts. My birthday wish was to be a funding “angel” and I hope you’ll join me….every little bit helps….money not charged if goal not reached.”

Thanks again for all your support! We still have 24 hours left on our Kickstarter campaign, so if you haven’t please give us a hand and help us keep the project going. If we don’t raise the entire $8,000, we lose it all!

Left to right: Amiri, Diane, Clarisse and Richard

On the Ground: Hard Lessons

I thought you might like to see the email I got recently from Clarisse, CEO of HeHe, Ltd, a company not yet a year old. I had asked her about the national conference where she was asked to speak.  The government has asked HeHe about a road trip around the country to speak to youth (we could show episodes on inflatable screens from Unicef) for discussions about hi tech enterprise in an emerging knowledge economy. She wrote between classes, prepping for exams, since they all graduate in December. As you see, already the team has had some challenges –that’s what I mean by “insider stories.” All four HeHe team members are smart, tough and ambitious.

Hey Diane,

So the Rwanda Entrepreneurship Week was organized by Cambridge university.

It will run from July 25th. HeHe will he leading a session on team work;

Teamwork workshop:

  • Do I need a team?
  • How do I build the right team and where/how do I find cofounders and employees?
  • How do I create open communication channels with my teammates, and help them create the same communication channels with each other?
  • How do I make decisions with my team?
  • How can I recognize one of my teammates for his/her accomplishments?
  • What do I do if one of my teammates is causing difficulties?
  • How do I remove someone from my team?
  • What are steps I can take to improve my team dynamics?

We will be discussing some of these points.

Thanks, Clarisse

Left to right: Amiri, Diane, Clarisse and Richard

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On the Ground: A Hunger to Learn

Time is short, stories need telling, and could I ask you to tweet, FB and email friends with our link, please?  Once we publish the first ten episodes, I plan to find, film and help fund more innovators to inspire and continue the cycle. Stories change lives, says the Rwandan agency who wants to help us.

One of the teachers of the AITI course in July’s KIST boot camp (Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, see http://AITI.mit.edu) says that 4-5 teams are ready to launch new enterprises already. There’s a hunger to learn new technolgy which is changing the game in East Africa. Our HeHe team CEO Clarisse was invited to speak to a national gathering of students about the hardwon lessons of teamwork she’s learned in just nine months of operation. She’s going to Uganda in September after winning another pitch competition.

In Kenya I met with a large newspaper editor who will assign a writer to tell some of the stories I’m following — for general readers and for the diplomatic scene. Telling these stories in print and video, for web, phone and live audiences, will get their news into the hands of potential funders and build new enterprises.

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On the Ground: Back in Kenya

I’m back in Nairobi, the iHub of mobile tech world in East Africa, after traveling by bus across most of Tanzania — gorgeous mountains for hours across Maasai land heading for Kilimanjaro. I wish I could go on one of the safaris I heard about from an Australian couple in the airport, who were transported by two weeks in the bush!

Sadly, Tanzania is seeing bigtime power shortages, since hydropower from rivers and lakes is half normal after two years of drought. (Tanzania is 30% bigger than Texas, and Dar Es Saalam has 5M, nearly the population of Rwanda.)  We had a fascinating shoot with Global Cycle Solutions. [Jodie Wu CEO is a new TED global fellow, and just back from a talk in Scotland.] Diane shot video and pix of GCS inventor Bernard Kiwia on his roof with his homemade solar water heater that gives hot water to a family of six. He makes a point of using only scrappers, so the poorest villagers could make one.  His goal to to teach workshops for those who have ideas but no tools. Now due to the water shortage, Bernard is working on a drip irrigation system for fun. Photocard and instructions come to all $10 donors! I also ordered cell phone chargers for donors, for bike and motorcycle.

I followed Jodie in training her new saleswoman, Maggie in Morogoro (3 hrs No of Dar), who outsold four other sellers combined in her first month at GCS.  She was delivering a corn sheller to a new customer who heard about them from a GCS T-shirt and bought one right away! Here’s Maggie carrying the machine in the usual way, with both Jodie and she doing business on their cells.

I have another chapter with Jodie making a deal with a PhD farm tools distributor who has advice for young entrepreneurs.  I will blog about the African way to do business, which involves careful socializing to test trustworthiness and amazing hospitality if you pass the test. We did and he’s going to be a big asset for GCS.

 

 

 

Before I shot scenes and interviews of GCS in Tanzania and with HeHe in Rwanda I had a long meeting with Open University of NL – also doing social enterprise stories in Nairobi. We could have a worldwide platform for young innnovator videos! We introduced them to iHub and MIT to inspire more young innovators.  More on this later.

These stories must be edited soon. The Agency in Rwanda who wants to help us tell one of the stories believes that one story there can inspire lots of youth in what is possible in this new mobile tech environment, and the HeHe, Ltd is a rockstar team there. We hope to show episodes on inflatable screens in the hills and made a deal with a local shooter.

Please send our link to ten friends to expand our donor community? Networking is everything, and it’s already paying off!

On the Ground: Updates from Rwanda & Tanzania

I just left Kigali after a busy time videotaping HeHe Ltd, a mobile phone app provider team that started business just  nine months ago.  They told me about challenges like losing a major client and losing a team member.  They’ve been asked to talk about teamwork challenges to an international student group in Kigali organized by Cambridge University, U.K. They have riveting insights about how a team stays creative and bonded.

I also got to talk with a government agency in Kigali who are eager to take story episodes of this young HeHe team to inspire others in rural areas to start their own enterprises in high tech projects!  We will do some planning via Skpe in August and think about radio, web and live events to tell insider story segments about Clarisse, Amiri, Diane and Richard who competed at the Pivot25 mobile developer conference in June and had more twitter traffic than any of the other teams. It was Richard’s first trip out of Rwanda and he plans to be first in the next competition.

I also got to meet a Frenchman at the airport who’s doing development work in Sudan.  He thinks stories of young innovators should be easy to fund and wants to help!

Tomorrow I will follow Jodie Wu around Dar Es Salaam in meetings about funding, websites and advice for Global Cycle Solutions. Then we travel by bus to Morogoro to talk to sales reps for GCS.

Jodie is eager to get into the field to see how products are being received and she’s developing another side business in Arusha to provide affordable housing to visitors like me and the fellow who’s coming from the US to shoot a story about what makes an enterpreneur tick — for an ebook written by an educator at harvard. I’ll meet with him in August to learn more.