17 Mar The road ahead
We recognise that building a successful business is an ongoing learning experience. We need to invest in the ideas beyond our competition to make sure they make it past the initial hurdles that come with doing a start-up. To prepare them for that next stage of growth and to get ready for an accelerator or incubator programme. The big-picture goal is to deepen impact and strengthen green entrepreneurial ecosystems. We need successful green businesses to ensure a green future, create green jobs and amplify a green ripple effect with green social implications.
Solid ideas in need of a little extra push
After months of intense training, participating teams reach the end of the ClimateLaunchpad competition. For many, that means a hard stop to the much-needed support to ensure their progress and success. The ideas are solid, but in the process of going from ideation to enterprise some teams need some additional guidance in getting their financials right, get started with prototyping, attract funding or figuring out the legal stuff. Or they need a little help with successful branding and marketing, solid bookkeeping or effective human resources. Sometimes all they need is mentoring and coaching. The benefit of experience. To be connected with a thriving community. Or to feel supported by an evolving cleantech ecosystem.
Our local partners know the teams and their struggles. They also know national and regional circumstances. Instead of a centralised approach, we asked a number of them to experiment and roll out local initiatives to help these teams on their road ahead.
Mozambique, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Vietnam, South-Africa and Tanzania participated in pilot projects following the 2020 ClimateLaunchpad competition, made possible by funding from Irish Aid. This is a compilation of their initiatives, the results and the lessons learnt.
Expert group sessions and local mentoring
Our partners KCIC (Kenya), NCIC (Nigeria) and Anza (Tanzania) approached the challenge by offering additional training. They identified the most promising ideas and teams from their 2020 cohort that were struggling to bridge the gap from ideation to business. They prioritized the most pressing needs and offered post-competition sessions on those subjects, offered as online group workshops. Tanzania also connected the teams to local mentors and experts in cleantech to provide technical support.
Feedback gathered from all teams show that they now have a better understanding of their road ahead and how to reach their goals. Tanzania’s survey for instance shows a 33% increase in the awareness of the importance of setting goals, mission, and vision. And a 50% increase in the skills to develop their value proposition and pitch their business. The Kenyan teams expressed that they are now better prepared to join an incubator programme. The countries also identified areas where additional support is needed: access to capital and machinery, link to markets, fundraising activities and measuring climate impact.
Individual support and prototyping
Our national lead REBi in Uganda selected two viable ideas from their 2020 competition and delivered customised, hands-on support and mentoring. WE Cooler is a solar-powered milk cooling system for dairy farmers and Bana Bags aims to produce biodegradable paper bags from banana stems to reduce the use of plastic bags.
REBi chose to help the teams tackle the technical challenge of prototyping. Both teams were guided through their prototyping and fabrication process to test and validate their ideas. Bana Bags was supported in the purchase of materials needed to create the product and are now on their way to market their bags. They will continue to reduce the pollution caused by plastic bags.
WE Cooler was introduced to farmers and assisted in the purchase of solar panels, batteries and other components. They received guidance on how to tell and sell their idea and the entire system was installed and tested at one farm. The results are very promising as their solution is climate-friendly and a lot cheaper and offers a locally-produced alternative to the conventional milk cooling system imported from Germany.
“Entrepreneurs are not born, but acquire knowledge and learn from others.” – Grace Nalugwa, Founder of Bana Bags
Raising awareness, increasing visibility and developing the ecosystem
The Centre for Creativity and Sustainability (our partner in Vietnam) and our partners in South Africa (run as a partnership between Indalo Inclusive, Water Financial and Behold SA) both focused on building strong alliances and increasing visibility for the ClimateLaunchpad programme and its alumni. Developing the local cleantech ecosystems was a primary driver for both countries.
Vietnam initiated a collaboration with VTV (national broadcaster) to host a live stream of a talk show about green entrepreneurship. The lively interaction with the audience made them decide to prolong the stream by an hour. Social media attention for the show was extensive. The result is an increased interest from the general audience, corporates, and early-stage start-ups. Vietnam expects a significant increase in the number of applications in 2021.
South Africa is increasing awareness of the opportunities of cleantech. Their twofold approach exists of pre-exposure workshops and creating relevant networks in the cleantech space. The workshops aim to interest new participants, attract potential sponsors within the government and private sector and to increase the visibility of alumni by presenting their success stories. To create thriving networks South Africa is mapping the existing cleantech ecosystem and connects alumni to relevant parties.
A broad approach
IdeiaLab, our local partner in Mozambique, named their pilot MozGreen. It consists of individual support for 3 selected female-led start-ups from the 2019 cohort, developing the green business ecosystem and networking events. Additionally, they created a monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) framework to track the impact of the pilot, comparing the three supported entrepreneurs with the other 2019 participants.
The goal for the 3 start-ups was to ensure market-readiness and long-term sustainability. During 5 months these entrepreneurs received one-on-one business support (four sessions per entrepreneur). Topics covered were (re)defining the business value proposition, improving organizational processes, using finance tools and coordination between business partners.
The pilot also included four group sessions on topics like financial management and marketing. One of the start-ups was given a € 2,000 grant to develop a prototype, ensuring a minimum viable product.
The stories of two supported entrepreneurs were documented and promoted in a social media campaign to create a buzz.
“We learned a lot about business from the creation of a proposal, to financial management, communication and marketing. It was very important for our positioning today and certainly in the future.” – Lutea Helena, Mentes Sustentáveis co-founder
To help develop the local green business ecosystem, IdeiaLab came up with a networking event. Their goal is to enable partnerships and create visibility for green business pioneers by bringing together relevant stakeholders with green business entrepreneurs. Due to COVID-19, the live event became a series of webinars. They also produced a brochure to showcase Mozambican green businesses and entrepreneurs.
The beauty of the MozGreen pilot was that everything was monitored and evaluated with the MEL framework. The 3 selected start-ups show higher levels of confidence, as entrepreneurs, and in their skills development. Compared to the other 2019 alumni, they show a greater ability to see the pandemic as an opportunity by reviewing their business, introducing new services or products and improving their presence on digital platforms. Every MozGreen beneficiary made sales in the first semester of 2020, while only 50% of the other 2019 alumni made sales.
Additional support can give early-stage start-ups that little extra push to get from ideation to the next level. What these pilots show is that local, hands-on solutions can make a difference in getting ready to accelerate. Training, mentoring and developing skills boost confidence and being connected to the local green business ecosystems creates opportunities for growth.
Want to feature or get in contact with any of these projects or national lead organisations? Contact us.