Late last week, the SPRING accelerator just announced its 2015 participants. SPRING, if you are not familiar, is one of the most unique accelerators in operation, for a number of different reasons. Firstly, the accelerator is 100% focused on “ventures whose products and services improve the lives of adolescent girls.”1 The accelerator is also unique in that it has given itself a lifespan. The SPRING program will last a total of five years, and will include 3 different cohorts, across 7 African and Asian countries. For the first cohort, covered in more detail below, the companies must be located in, or have a significant presence in Kenya, Uganda and/or Rwanda; Tanzania and/or Ethiopia for cohort two; Pakistan and/or Nepal for cohort three.
Perhaps the most significant feature of SPRING is the investment structure:
It’s important to note that not all ventures in SPRING receive grants or investment, but we have the capacity to provide each entrepreneur in our accelerator up to $80,000 in SPRING funding for which we take no equity in return. Let us repeat: We take no direct equity stake in each venture in return for our grants.2
Well, without any further ado, here is a look at the 18 teams that makeup the first SPRING accelerator cohort, via SPRINGaccelerator.org:
BanaPads is a social enterprise that produces a low cost, comfortable sanitary pad from natural agricultural waste materials. The product has the potential to empower girls who miss school each month because they lack access to feminine hygiene products. Women in local communities manufacture BanaPads from banana biowaste, and the company trains young female entrepreneurs to market and distribute the product door-to-door.
EarthEnable are an affordable flooring company opening up a high-growth market for home improvement in Rwanda. Dirt floors are breeding grounds for disease and pose a health threat to women and girls who are tasked with cleaning them. EarthEnable educates and employs local masons to build safe, earthen flooring solutions that are 75% cheaper than concrete equivalents.
Ensibuuko is a mobile banking solution that allows savings and credit co-operatives to expand their reach to unbanked and under-served populations. Ugandan farmers, many of them adolescent girls and young women, need funding to be able to serve local markets and expand their agribusinesses. Ensibuuko connects them to the right credit co-op via mobile phones, saving them travel time and money.
Finance Trust Bank is a microfinance bank built by women, for women. It empowers entrepreneurs across sectors with personalised loans to help scale their businesses. Girls in Uganda need safe and easily accessible places to keep their money, plus education on how to make that money grow. Finance Trust Bank delivers an array of options, from a Girls Choice saving account to Junior Savers loans.
Green Credit is a microfinance lending institution providing finance for women and adolescent girls to launch businesses. A lack of easy access to capital cripples many girls’ startups, from roadside stands to agribusinesses, and precludes others from ever getting started. Green Credit offers a range of customised loan options to fit its customers’ needs and help their startups thrive.
Haute Baso is an innovative fashion boutique servicing the global market with jewelry, bags, and apparel drawn from Rwanda’s vibrant culture and history. Haute Baso incorporates female artisans into its growing workforce, providing them access to skills and entry-level jobs that are otherwise hard to come by.
Jibu provides a water purification and distribution model that entrepreneurs can implement across East Africa. Safe, affordable drinking water is a scarcity in underserved urban areas, and fetching it costs adolescent girls hours of their time each week. Jibu provides seed franchising to deliver a high quality, easily replicable purification model. Its franchise system also incentivises entrepreneurs to create local jobs.
KadAfrica has an innovative model for unlocking earning potential from agribusinesses. Ugandan schoolgirls are often tasked with farming but lack the access to modern techniques and adequate land to make it profitable. KadAfrica teaches and trains girls in farming best practice and provides land and seedlings for them to launch their own passion fruit farms.
Kidogo is an affordable early childhood development (ECD) service with the potential to serve a huge market of working mothers in high-density urban populations. The burden of childcare often restricts young working mothers from reaching their full potential and forces girls out of school to care for younger siblings. Kidogo relieves this burden by providing access to low cost, high quality childcare and education.
Khenz is a software company pioneering an e-ticketing solutions and developing other electronic systems for public transportation in Rwanda. Carrying cash can be dangerous for girls, and most e-ticketing solutions require users to have a bank account. Khenz’s extended sales channels for transport operators allows users to purchase tickets electronically through mobile phones or the next shop while increasing safety and mobility for girls.
Sanivation is an innovative waste collection service that brings better hygiene, dignity and eco-efficiency to the sanitation sector. The lack of sanitary toilets in homes creates health risks for girls and their families. For ~$7 a month, Sanivation clients receive a toilet and bi-weekly servicing. Better yet: the waste product gets processed to produce fuel briquettes that are cheaper than charcoal, providing an inventive fuel solution.
Sare Millers are a one-stop shop for livestock and poultry farmers that address Kenya’s growing need for protein-rich, affordable animal feeds. In addition to its feeds, Sare Millers educates adolescent girls about the economic opportunity and best practices of poultry farming. The end result: more financial security for girls, more nutritious food for the community.
Shekina Enterprise is an agro-processing company that specialises in dry goods. They are a pioneer firm in the dried cassava leaves market, with the potential to turn the leaves into an international household product. Drought-resistant cassava leaves are an African staple and a centrepiece for many girls’ crops in Rwanda. Shekina has increased demand and price for the plant, plus, its collection centres cut down on travel for farmers and employ young women for sorting.
The International Clinic
The International Clinic is a medical clinic expanding the reach of high-quality medical care in Kenya to underserved women and girls. Health promotion and disease prevention often arrive too late for adolescent girls, or miss them completely. The International Clinic arms its patients with knowledge and medicine when needed so they can lead healthy, informed lives.
Totohealth is a free pregnancy and early childhood text-message service with a pioneering funding model for the health sector. In too many cases, young mothers lack the information they need to keep their children healthy. Toto Health helps to reduce maternal and child mortality by sending appointment reminders, surveys and announcements to parents to ensure they get the medical intervention they need, when they need it.
Tiny Totos is a social enterprise that works in informal settlements to provide affordable and safe childcare services to preschool children. Working in partnership with existing daycare ventures, they set standards for the centres by providing training, investment and grants to entrepreneurs living in these settlements. The opportunities and impact on adolescent girls are twofold: affordable, high quality childcare for young mothers, and business opportunities for adolescent females living in informal settlements.
Village Energy provides solar repair services to homes across East Africa. In rural communities, families lack access to energy sources and resort to potentially harmful and expensive kerosene products to get by. Where families do have access to solar, product repairs can take anything from 4-6 weeks, costing valuable time to women and girls who most often rely on energy to help with household duties. Village Energy significantly reduces the repair time for solar products through its network of franchised technicians.
For more info on the SPRING accelerator, head over to SPRINGAccelerator.org