How a Dumb Bucket Becomes a Thriving Business

Posted by on October 24th, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post By Maura Dilley

Watch Michael Lindenmayer of the Toilet Board Coalition and Garima Sahai of Svadha talk toilets, sanitation, and untapped opportunities in emerging markets on stage at SOCAP16.


Get Excited About Toilets!

2.4 billion people live without reliable access to a toilet. The Toilet Board Coalition wants those with and without toilets to wonder what might happen if we all started seeing this problem as a possibility.


Delivering sanitation at scale requires innovation, and sustainable and resilient solutions. So how can we best address the market? The Toilet Board is working to support sanitation entrepreneurs creating business solutions for universal access to sustainable sanitation.

Enter Michael Lindenmayer, a toilet hacker leading the Toilet Board Accelerator. This group looks at how to accelerate sanitation business models and entrepreneurs with prospect for scale and it also invests in new solutions. The Accelerator takes a strategic look at opportunities together with other essential base-of-pyramid services, avoiding redundancy and drawing a crowd.

In many parts of the world, toilets are just a dumb bucket.

What if your toilet was a smart bucket? Linking mobile technology to toilets could provide health data for individual or public health monitoring. Reliable sanitation is paramount to community health in impoverished communities. Instant and passive analysis of stool samples through micro sensors could detect early warning signs of heart disease or stroke weeks in advance of an incident. Forewarning which could save lives around the world, for toilet users in all socioeconomic strata. This would require a source of power for these tech-enabled toilets, but the potential wealth of information may be worth the investment.

Since there ought to be a toilet for every few people in the world, there also ought to be toilet stalls, with roofs, everywhere. That roof space could be useful real estate for a cooperative need like mobile networks. In India, there are three cell phones for every one toilet. But rolling blackouts and down networks impair other development initiatives like mobile banking, health and education. The Toilet Board thinks that bundling together bathroom real estate with another need like cell towers might create sustainable synergy.

New sanitation solutions are already providing innovative ways to dispose of and repurpose waste. Much power in the developing world comes from coal or peat briquettes, which are environmentally destructive and pollute the air. As an alternative, Andrew Foote’s sanitation enterprise, Sanivation, is exploring briquettes made of human waste and baked with solar thermal. Instead of dumping the waste, Sanivation transforms it into a clean burning alternative to charcoal.


Toilet Waterfall by artist Shu Yong in Foshan, China

Talking about toilets means challenging the status quo of poverty, taboos around sanitation and seeing toilets as potential solutions to more than that one age-old problem. For a robust conversation on the future of smart cities, the Internet of Things and community development, toilets and sanitation entrepreneurs ought to have a place at the table equal to their value of the daily necessity they serve. 


Maura Dilley
is a systems-change strategist, writer and designer working at the intersection of ocean health and social enterprise. She is program director at Impact Alpha’s Financing Fish. 

Watch: SOCAP16 Entrepreneur Pitches

Posted by on October 19th, 2016

The Entrepreneur Pitch Sessions at SOCAP were designed to showcase the work of some of the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world to our community of impact investors and potential partners. If you missed the Entrepreneur Pitch Sessions live at SOCAP16, you have not missed out on the chance to hear the inspiring stories of these entrepreneurs and their ventures.


To give our global SOCAP audience the opportunity to hear the pitches, we recorded these sessions. Here are videos of all three pitch sessions, which were divided up by sectors, followed by the names of the presenting entrepreneurs and their ventures:

Community Development and Health

Community Development

Bruno Lima,

Gabriela Rocha, Laboratoria

Brendon Brewster, Veerhouse Voda

Samuel Pressler, Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP)

Jessica Mayberry, Video Volunteers


Carolina Salamanca, Baby Faves Organics

Josue Daniel Nuñez Valdivieso, Nutrishake Andino

Catherine Flatley, Develop Link

Brittany Dejean, AbleThrive

Asher Hasan, Naya Jeevan

Sunny Williams, Tiny Docs

Energy and Environment


Joaquin Alejandro Viquez Arias, Viogaz

Arine de Bordes, Purasol Vida Natural

Morgan Babbs, Colibri

Jessica De Clerck, Potential Energy


Sebastian Sajoux, Arq Lite

Sarah Toumi, Acacias for All

Pedro Delgado, Aguainc

Patricia Griffin, Inagape Limited

Yvette Ondachi, Ojay Greene

Education and Technology


Julio Alvarez, Promesa

Afzal Habib, Kidogo

John Roberts, InvestED

Cecilia Foxworthy, Torus Teens


Rosario Monteverde, GPSGAY

Marcelo Wilkorwsky, Oincs

Andres Luongo, allGreenup

Xiaoyuan Ren, MyH2O

Bessie Schwarz, Cloud to Street


Watch other great sessions from the 2016 Social Capital Markets Conference on the SOCAP YouTube Channel.

Building the Skills of our Social Entrepreneurs

Posted by on October 13th, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post By: Bea Hart and Mark Horoszowski of MovingWorlds

talent, not capital is the key factor linking innovation, competitiveness and growth in the 21st century” – World Economic Forum

At SOCAP16 there was a lot of talk about building the skills and talents of social entrepreneurs. Beyond access to financial capital, social change leaders need the skills, know-how, and connections to scale their enterprises – and industry leaders are taking notice.

SOCAP16 speakers talked about holistic approaches to development and leveraging experienced talent. Conference attendees clustered in hallways and spoke about the need to focus more on addressing the “skills gap” of social entrepreneurs, but these conversations about capacity building were not unique.

The last few ANDE reports have all highlighted the importance of addressing talent shortages, the new UN Sustainable Development Goals (specifically #17) call for targeted capacity building, and nearly every social enterprise accelerator – like Agora Partnerships, Village Capital, Unreasonable Institute, and Fledge – are quick to emphasize the skills transfer that occurs in their programs. A new report from the INGO Impact Investing Network specifically recommends “Providing capacity development services for social entrepreneurs, impact investors, or other NGOs”.

All these organizations are focusing on talent building for a good reason.  As the 2014 ANDE report points out, the “capacity gap” is the leading barrier to progress in some countries. In many others it is second to “access to capital” as the the biggest stumbling block for changemakers. In fact, according  to The International Finance Corporation (IFC)  ”Capacity building is one of the least understood yet most important aspects of development work.

But talking about building talent and actually doing it are two very different things. The Harvard Business Review has highlighted that there is a lack of capacity in this sector, and no one is investing in building it.

So at SOCAP I took some time to talk with partners about ways to build talent and found that there are a variety of cost-effective and innovative ways that social entrepreneurs can build their own talent, and the institutions investing in them can help.

5 Cost-Effective Ways to Build the Capacity of Social Entrepreneurs


1. Get Feedback to Learn Priority Development Areas

Entrepreneurs are not great at identifying their development areas. Most leaders aren’t. Just like corporations use comprehensive 360 feedback reviews and holistic assessment to prioritize growth areas of their employees, social change leaders should do the same.

Village Capital, Fledge, and Agora Partnerships – all accelerators for social enterprises – use mentor sessions and/or peer-based networking to help evaluate gaps and share expertise.

Social Entrepreneurs:

  1. Kolabo staff work with a client to select the elements for his business' first website.Seek feedback from teammates, partners, vendors, and mentors about you and your team’s development areas.
  2. Be persistent in getting feedback from accelerators or investors (selected or not) about the skill shortages flagged for your team.
  3. Ask your partners, beneficiaries, vendors, and other stakeholders for feedback as to how you can grow as a leader to better support and partner with them.

Investors & Accelerators:

  1. During application phases, capture and share feedback about the skills and experience the review team feels the social entrepreneur(s) needs to develop.
  2. Work to connect applicants to skill-specific mentors (as opposed to general mentoring around a business model).
  3. Aggregate collected data about the talent needs of all applicants to your programs/funds, and work with partners to host and deliver skill development workshops.


2. Build Learning Circles

Learning doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s hard to do it alone.

Groups like ImpactHub and iHUB are known for curating events for changemakers to get together so they can learn. Here is a sample iHUB event co-sponsored by ANDE in Nairobi.

moving-worldsSocial Entrepreneurs:

  1. Creating or joining a group, formal or informal, will make you more accountable and garner more wisdom from the crowd.
  2. If you work at an accelerator, co-working space, or in a hub with other activity, create opportunities to be in the same space and talk about learning areas; similar to how companies host learning brown bag lunches.

Investors & Accelerators:

  1. Ensure individuals that are accepted into programs take an audit of their learning needs, and then connect with others that are developing and embody those skills.
  2. Connect the leaders that are NOT accepted and encourage them to get  together to share their growth areas.


3. Make Time for Free, Online Learning

There are a variety of resources to help people learn. Online learning programs (i.e. Coursera, LastMileLearning, or TechChange), certificate programs (most universities), and of course, more content than you can ever consume for free via online publications: (i.e. SSIR or HBR), blogs, videos, forums, and more.

When we started MovingWorlds, we had weekly “Accountability-buddy” sessions by convening some peers together at a local cafe to each take time to invest in our own learning.

experteering-in-tikotSocial Entrepreneurs:

  1. After working with mentors, investors, and peer-based groups to determine which skills need development, find the right online tool to develop it.
  2. Provide budget for yourself and team members for one skill development opportunity per quarter.
  3. Look to the +Acumen community, a great place to learn skills and techniques if you don’t have your own network.

Investors & Accelerators:

  1. Set aside time for “learning labs” where people can convene and each take their own online courses, using the in-person accountability to ensure completion
  2. Conduct research for the types of in-person and online events that are most relevant to the organizations in your cohort, and work to arrange group deals for them to attend them together.


4. Connect to Skilled Professionals for Mentoring, Coaching, and Skilled Support

There are vast networks of skilled professionals eager to volunteer their expertises, in-person and/or virtually. These professionals can lead trainings, conduct consulting assignments, or even join your team for a short-period to help reach a deliverable.

Siemens Stiftung Empowering People Network has a program with MovingWorlds to find Experteering professionals eager to travel and volunteer their expertise.

Social Entrepreneurs:

  1. Look to engage skills-based volunteers (aka Experteers) to lead training on specific skills and support your organization on skills-based challenges.
  2. Tap into virtual mentoring networks (MicroMentor or Taproot+ can help).

Investors & Accelerators:

  1. Set aside extra budget for learning opportunities.
  2. Build partnerships with corporate and professional networks so your organizations can access specific skills and connections with groups like SOCAP


5. Use Informal Coaching & Peer-Based Feedback from Your Team and Peers

More than any other method, people learn the most through their experiences, provided they engage in deliberate practice: Meaning they set goals, practice, reflect on their experience, think forward to what they’ll do better next time, try again, reflect, and so on.

Village Capital uses an innovative and proven model for having its entrepreneurs engaged in peer feedback.

Social Entrepreneurs:

  1. Set goals for your learning activities (and yes, writing down your goals helps you achieve them).
  2. Reflect on your experience and continue to work at improving it, use your mentors and peers to help you think through your goals
  3. Become a coach to your peers using the easy to follow GROW model (use this introductory video, see it in action, and read this article).

Investors & Accelerators:

  1. Hold social enterprise leaders accountable in quarterly and/or yearly reviews on the skills they are working on, and the methods they are using to develop them.
  2. Provide extra connections and budget to make sure your leaders have a coach – networks like MovingWorlds and accelerator networks are organizations that enable you to tap into large professional networks to access expertise for your field organizations.


As this report from Venture Philanthropy Partners – in partnership with McKinsey Consulting – points out:

Prudent leaders…will recognize the importance of building organizational capacity from the very start and make it the hallmark of their tenure. They do not wait for a crisis before addressing capacity gaps; rather, they will aggressively seek out those gaps and take measures to fill them. Capacity building does matter, and it does make a difference… and the sooner funders increase their support for capacity building efforts, the better off [changemakers] – and society as a whole – will be.

If you’re interested in improving the talent building industry, let us know – we’re looking for partners to help improve the way social enterprises identify their biggest talent gaps, and the way industry partners support them in addressing those gaps.

This post was authored by Bea Hart and Mark Horoszowski of A global platform that helps social enterprises access professionals that are looking to travel and volunteer their real skills to support social good, either on their own or through corporate sponsored programs.

mark-socap-headshot-1       bea-hart

Learn about Experteering on Twitter (@Experteering), Facebook, online, or contact for more information.

Press Highlights from SOCAP16

Posted by on October 11th, 2016

Over 100 members of the press attended SOCAP16, from all around the world. They came to document this community in action, and to uncover the brightest new ideas and deepest insights from on, and off, the SOCAP stage.


SOCAP is filled with thought leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and new entrants to the fields of social enterprise and impact investing, and is where many impact organizations share leading news and breakthrough ideas. Each year in San Francisco it is our privilege to convene the most compelling voices and stories from the impact economy, which produces a treasure trove of material for any journalist or blogger interested in the growing marketplace at the intersection of money and meaning.

SOCAP16 is three weeks behind us, and we’re still tallying the results. At the time of this post, SOCAP16 has been mentioned in over 200 articles. And while we don’t have the space to list all of the coverage received, we hope you’ll enjoy some of these press highlights from SOCAP16.

“Social Entrepreneurs Say They Face Tough Hurdles but Making Headway,” via Thomson Reuters Foundation News

“Introducing SOCAP Goes Local #Localize,” via Real Leaders

“The Passion of Impact Investing,” via Huffington Post

“This New Accelerator Is Funding Projects That Fix The Systemic Issues Of Our Cities,” via Fast Company

“Oincs App Connects Citizens Sharing Updates About Potholes, Garbage And Traffic Cops,” via Forbes

“SOCAP16 – Views From a Reformed Conference Cynic,” via LinkedIn Pulse

“SOCAP16: Changing the World Through Impact Investing,” via Huffington Post

“Can Financial Products Improve the Lives of Poor People?” via Fortune

“Revisiting SOCAP-More Momentum and a Higher Bar,” Alliance Magazine

“Success for Women Entrepreneurs in Poor Countries Means Enlisting Men – Activists,” via Thomson Reuters Foundation News

“SOCAP16 and the Continued Evolution of Impact Investing” via Nonprofit Quarterly

“Reaching Your Potential Through Partnerships: Lessons Learned from SOCAP 2016,” via Huffington Post

“SOCAP 2016: A New Chapter,” via Case Foundation  

“SOCAP: Hub of Impact,” via Huffington Post  

“Hippies vs. Capitalists at SOCAP, Data (and Honors) for Social Entrepreneurs and a ‘What’ for WHO,” via Next Billion

“Burn Your Dollar: Taking Impact Investing to Burning Man and Bringing the Playa to SOCAP,” via Impact Alpha

Smart Sustainability for Superior Returns

Posted by on October 3rd, 2016

By Arjanna van der Plas

It’s a common dilemma for investors of all sorts: in their heart they want to choose for sustainable investing, but their brain tells them it’s wiser to go for financial gains. And even if the heart wins and they start looking into sustainable investments, they may worry that“fossil-free” and “low-carbon” funds still hold negative impact companies, such as tobacco, weapons, and other concerns.

SOCAP’s panel discussion “Capital in Transition: Scaling Climate Solutions across Private and Public Markets” brought a more optimistic perspective. In a lively discussion, Catha Groot (Radicle Impact), Ian Monroe (Etho Capital and Stanford University), Katie Hoffman (Resilience Collaborative), Kristin Hull (Nia Global Solutions) and Brenden Millstein (Carbon Lighthouse) shared how we can solve pressing climate challenges by making smart investments that lead to financial growth.

Ian Monroe: “A lot of the risk conversation is flipping the situation on its head. If you are not taking climate change into account in your investment decisions, you are actually introducing a substantial risk, not in the far future, but right now. Climate conscious companies are already outperforming their peers. Carbon Lighthouse is a great example of that.”

The Tesla of Investments

Carbon Lighthouse provides an ongoing service that cuts energy use in commercial, industrial, and educational buildings 10x more cost-effectively than traditional energy efficiency firms. They guarantee all financial gains for customers, and for any shortfall they cannot correct Carbon Lighthouse writes customers a check to cover the difference.

Brenden Millstein, CEO of Carbon Lighthouse: “From a business perspective, one of the best ways to tackle climate change is through the energy market. It is a huge market, with a lot of competition and complex regulations.  Currently, utility providers are supposed to provide their clients with energy efficiency programs. Obviously, that doesn’t work so well, as that isn’t in the best interest of the utility provider itself. At Carbon Lighthouse, we basically take money away from the power plant and divide that between us and the customer. We don’t really advertise that we are a climate change company. Rather, we show that we offer a service that is going to make the lives of our customers easier and cheaper.”

Monroe: “We do something similar with Etho Capital. I’ve always been a sustainability geek, I grew up on a farm in Mendocino county and I have seen thousands of neighbors lose their homes to wildfires linked to our worsening drought cycles. Climate change is a real thing, and we have to scale up sustainable solutions in a way that is profitable. However, when talking about our Etho Capital funds, we focus on what’s in it for the investors. We show them that we have a more thorough risk analysis and better screening than our competitors. Because we dive really deep into both scientific metrics and supply chains, we feel we have a better picture of which companies are really the most sustainable, efficient and well-managed, with these leaders positioned to stay ahead of their competition. We want to be the Tesla of investments by offering a better overall experience that delivers both higher financial returns and real sustainability.”

Kristin Hull, President of Nia Global Solutions: “It’s our mission to invest in companies that are successful from a financial, sustainable and social point of view. One of the things we learned is that diversity in leadership correlates with success, as well as having the communities that you invest in on board. That is also something that is easy to explain for ‘old fashioned’ clients: we’ve seen in the past that companies with strong leadership and good partners are more reliable, so it makes a lot of sense to them to invest in the companies in our portfolio.”

All Hands On Deck

Catha Groot, director at Radicle Impact: “We should note that although these discussions are often focused on VC’s, we need all types of investors to come on board. We need government dollars for pre-commercialization development gaps. Then you will get more institutional investors. It would be a dream for me to see good climate funds available in our 401K. It’s critical to pair the right stage company with the right type of capital. Carbon Lighthouse is a wonderful example of a company that was already profitable before the venture capital came in. But there are also multinationals working on sustainable solutions, and they require a different kind of capital.”

The Voice of the Shareholders

Kristin Hull: “What we also shouldn’t forget is that being a shareholder is not purely a financial role. If you are a shareholder of a company that is not prepared for the new sustainable economy, make sure to let your voice be heard. Proxy voting is one of the most underutilized tools if you ask me. And of course, you can have a dialogue with the management of the company.”

If there is one take-away from this lively SOCAP panel discussion, it is that it is absolutely feasible to seek financial gain, as well as to help provide innovative solutions for people and the planet.

Want to learn more? Check out the websites of the panelists’ companies:

About the author

arjanna-at-lowlandsArjanna van der Plas is a social impact focused author, yoga teacher and workshop facilitator. She currently spends most of her time in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, teaching yoga and meditation at the Healing Well, and writing a book and blog series called Stories Behind The Fog together with the Free Range Puppies. With Stories Behind The Fog she wants to challenge the single-minded view of homelessness by rendering its entire spectrum, one story at a time.

Before Arjanna moved to San Francisco, she was communications manager for the Amsterdam based sustainability startup Circle Economy. Prior to that, she was a lecturer at the TU Delft, innovator at TNO (the largest independent research organization in the Netherlands) and freelance science journalist. Arjanna holds two MSc. degrees from the TU Delft, one in Industrial Design Engineering and one in Science Communications. Follow her on Medium, Linkedin, and Twitter.