Posts Tagged ‘Social Entrepreneurship’

Report: Sharing is the New Buying, Winning in the Collaborative Economy

March 4th, 2014

SOCAP13 Video: Seth Goldman – Mission in a Bottle

September 5th, 2013


Seth Goldman is President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, the company he co-founded out of his home in 1998 with Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. Today, Honest Tea is the nation’s top selling organic bottled tea, and is carried in more than 100,000 outlets. In March 2011, Honest Tea was acquired by The Coca-Cola Company, helping to further the reach and impact of Honest Tea’s mission.

The company continues to deepen its relationship with Fair Trade USA, expanding its support of suppliers in India, China, and South Africa. Honest Tea has initiated creative marketing partnerships with TerraCycle, Arbor Day Foundation and IndoSole, and was ranked by The Huffington Post as one of the leading “8 Revolutionary Socially Responsible Companies.”

Seth serves on the boards of the American Beverage Association, Bethesda Green, Beyond Meat, Happy Baby, and Repair the World, and sits on the Advisory Board of Net Impact. In 2011, Seth was appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley to the Maryland Economic Development Commission. Seth and Barry are writing Mission in a Bottle, to be published by the Crown Business division of Random House on September, 3, 2013.

Shrimp and Sea Cucumber Farms Offer Models for Aquaculture Investments

August 9th, 2013

From shrimp in Mexico to sea cucumbers in Madagascar, pioneering NGOs are testing new approaches to open ocean aquaculture that emphasize environmental stewardship and increasing local wealth — and lay the foundation for financially investable models.

In the Gulf of California, Olazul, or “blue wave,” is prototyping small-scale, pod-like shrimp farming enclosures to grow local shrimp species on native feeds, like seaweed. That addresses some of the main causes of environmental degradation associated with aquaculture: introduction of non-native species (which can escape and compete with or pass diseases to native populations), the use of forage fish in pellet feed, and the effluent from intensive-feeding.

In Madagascar, Blue Ventures has partnered with a local company to expand the use of patented sea cucumber hatchery technologies developed by universities and foundations. Blue Ventures trains coastal Malagasy community ventures — largely run by women — to buy juvenile cucumbers, farm them to a size of 40 cm or larger, and then sell them back for processing and export.

Such organizations are “hacking” aquaculture systems to redesign them for the poor, Olazul’s executive director, Beau Perry, said at an early July kickoff event for 2013 SOCAP: Oceans at the HUB in San Francisco. “Fishing communities need livelihoods to escape the [natural] resources death spiral.”

Their new model is “community-based aquaculture” — low-impact, open-ocean aquaculture projects, developed with local ecosystems and communities in mind. It is intended to help poor fishing communities develop viable livelihood alternatives for themselves, in the face of the uncertainties and environmental perils of fishing marine resources that are under increasing pressure.

Both organizations focus on animals low on the food chain, with high demand in the global marketplace. Harnessing their social capital in local communities, both Olazul and Blue Ventures act as third-party “R&D departments,” technical assistants, and brokers to help develop social and environmentally-responsible farming ventures.

Raising Low-Impact Shrimp and Livelihoods in Mexico

Shrimp is among the most popular seafoods in the U.S., but most of the supply comes from unsustainable wild harvest or aquaculture methods.

Olazul’s pilot shrimp pod project last year near La Paz in Baja California Sur grew native brown shrimp in submerged, open ocean water cages. Inside the cages, Olazul’s team cultivated mini-ecosystems of microalgae and seaweed which attracted small sea creatures (such as amphipods) and provided the shrimp with a regular diet. The shrimp refuse was less in volume and less nitrogen-heavy (a big source of damaging pollution) than conventional shrimp farming.

La Paz chefs have reported that Olazul’s shrimp look and taste better than conventionally-farmed shrimp. Olazul believes that their shrimp contain high amounts of fatty-acids and anti-oxidants as a result of their diet, and is currently raising money to test that assertion.

Olazul’s community-centric approach is key for buy-in, innovative contributions from local practitioners, and sustainability of projects, said Jos Hill, Olazul’s Director of Asia Pacific Programs. “We’ll fly in the experts to get their ideas. But then, we want to ask local fishermen to see what they think is possible and gain their involvement in shaping the projects…We want to incentivize them to protect their own resources…”

Olazul is currently exploring similar prototypes for small aquarium fish in Indonesia. The organization eventually hopes to develop a for-profit business model that addresses the needs of these small-scale farmers, through product aggregation, certification, or umbrella services like insurance.

“The important thing is to get the [farming] model right,” Hill said. “Traditional aquaculture rushes to profitability at the expense of the environment and without regard to local communities. We’ll come up with profitable business models down the line, once the R&D is done.”

Farming Sea Cucumbers in Malagasy Villages

Blue Ventures’ project builds on research by the Universities of Brussels and Mons, in a partnership with the Malagasy University of Toliara’s Institute of Fisheries and Marine Science, which have developed a patented method of sea cucumber hatchery reproduction.

In 2009, these universities worked with a couple of local Malagasy entrepreneurs to develop a pilot sea cucumber-production business named Madagascar Holothurie SA (MHSA).

To increase the social impact of their business model and increase production capability, MHSA partnered with Blue Ventures, which identifies suitable farming locations and trains coastal Malagasy communities to raise sea cucumber juveniles from MHSA’s hatchery. Based on the success of the model and the potential for positive social and environmental impact, MHSA’s entrepreneurs secured funding from a French venture capital fund Investisseurs & Partenaires (I&P) and the Netherlands’ Private Sector Investment program—in addition to bank loans and personal capital—to launch a larger commercial sea-cucumber farming venture named Indian Ocean Trepang (IOT).

Demand for sea cucumbers in Asia, where the delicacy is believed to have medicinal qualities, means the product can retail for hundreds, even thousands of dollars per kilogram. I&P was also attracted by the 150 jobs the new business will create in the Malagasy factory headquarters alone—not including the jobs created in the local villages Blue Ventures works with, said Elodie Nocquet, an I&P Financial and Environmental Social and Governance officer. She added that IOT’s business plan does not tax existing environmental resources and even contributes to the repopulation of sea cucumbers in the wild.

I&P is taking a long view with its combined equity-loan investment of €600,000 (just under $800,000) of the €2 Million (approximately $2.66 Million) project. The fund plans to sell their equity to the Malagasy entrepreneurs after a flexible term of investment. The exit is anticipated to be between 2017 and 2019, depending on the business’ progress.

Meanwhile, the universities and Blue Ventures are piloting red seaweed farming for the production of carageenan, which is used widely for texturing in the food and cosmetic industries.

The village farms Blue Ventures works with are not quite breaking even, but they’re on track to achieve profitability within at least four years, says Blue Ventures’ Mariculture Development Coordinator Antoine Rougier.

As an NGO, Blue Ventures is interested in helping the poorest and most remote communities, which is more risky and initially capital-intensive. Once a community demonstrates sufficient ecological-support and management capabilities, Blue Ventures can help negotiate terms and deals between the small farmers and the commercial ventures.

“The goal of these programs is to increase wealth for these impoverished communities,” says Rougier. “We don’t want these programs to collapse after 3-4 years and we don’t want to become a seafood processor, exporter. This is a symbiotic relationship between ventures, our non-profit, and the communities we work with.”

(This article is part of a series on Oceans and Sustainable Fisheries, in association with SOCAP 13, the Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco, Sept. 3-6.)



Oceans: Open For Business – August 28 at 6pm

August 9th, 2013

Alloysius Attah, Founder and CEO, Farmerline
Kevin Jones, Founder, Good Capital; Convener, SOCAP
Monica Jain, Founder, Fish 2.0; Executive Director, Manta Consulting
Jeff Leifer, CEO, Circadian Media Lab – Moderator

Science and policy are not the only tools to improve ocean sustainability – entrepreneurs and investors are coming together to fashion solutions that empower coastal communities and preserve biodiversity. Using the SOCAP model of impact investing, these opportunities will be brought to life through a Ghanaian tech entrepreneur working with tilapia farmers, as well as the investor perspective which provides a framework for evaluating these complex market-based approaches to sustainability.

MLF: Business & Leadership
Location: SF Club Office
Time: 5:30 p.m. networking reception, 6 p.m. program
Cost: $20 non-members, $8 members, students free (with valid ID)
Program Organizer: Kevin O’Malley
Also know: Sponsored by Ernst & Young and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

Learn more and Register Here!

Two Worlds and Times Convene for Sustainable Systemic Change

May 17th, 2013

This article is one in a series of guest contributions by Alloysius Attah, co-founder of Farmerline.


According to legend, the ancient Olympic Games were founded by Heracles, a son of Zeus (Greek god). The first Olympic Games for which were held in 776 BCE (though it is generally believed that the Games had been going on for many years already). The ancient Olympic Games grew and continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years. In 393 CE, the Roman emperor Theodosius I, abolished the Games because of their pagan influences.

Approximately 1500 years later, a young Frenchmen named Pierre de Coubertin began the revival of the Olympic Games. Coubertin’s attempt to get France interested in sports was not met with enthusiasm but he believed that, the experiment to revive the Olympics Games was worth it no matter the end results. He was willing to leave his blood and sweat on the field doing it. In 1890, he organized and founded a sports organization and in two years, Coubertin first pitched his idea to revive the Olympic Games. Though Coubertin was not the first to propose the revival of the Olympic Games, he was the most “unreasonable” and persistent of them of all. Two years later, he organized a meeting 79 delegates from nine countries to arouse their interest by speaking about the revival of the Olympics Games. The delegate voted unanimously for the Olympics Games and they decided to form the first the International Olympic Committee (IOC; Comité Internationale Olympique) in 1894.

Two years later, the first Olympic Games (Athletics, Cycling, Wrestling, Shooting, Tennis, Fencing, Swimming, Gymnastics and Weightlifting) was held in Athens. The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th and 21st centuries has resulted in several changes to the Olympic Games. Some of these adjustments include the creation of the Winter Games for ice and winter sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with a disability, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. Now when we think of the Olympics, we think about the Gold Medals, Cal Lewis, and Usain Bolt record as the fastest man in the competition. In Ghana, we usually hope and pray that our athletes come home with just any medal to make us proud.

But what really define the Olympics for me are those inspirational moments that dramatize the power and resilience of the human spirit. Pierre de Coubertin persisted despite facing many hurdles; he succeeded in reviving the Olympics Games. That’s the true power of human spirit. He is national symbol of France and he reminds us of the capacity of the human race to overcome any obstacle.

Many scientist, environmentalist, social entrepreneurs and funders in time past have made tremendous strides in revitalizing our increasingly fatigued world. One person who deserves a gold medal is Myshkin Inqwale, inventor of ToucHB. ToucHB is a portable, mobile phone-sized device to diagnose and monitor anemia non-invasively i.e. without needles. The technology works on an optical principle and gives out results instantly. He succeeded in building it after 32 attempts.

Mohamed Yunus, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient also revolutionized the finance sector by starting microfinance for the poor. The microfinance industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry by extending financial services to the world’s poor because sufficient data was made available to investors to discover a way to understand risk and opportunity.

During a Facebook chat with Kevin Jones, convener of SOCAP, we discussed how we (social entrepreneurs and funders) can make a more conscious effort in incorporating the interest of the planet in our solutions. He shared with me the SOCAP 2013 conference track for ocean health and long term interest of attracting investment to bio-cultural resilience and the idea of building a bio-cultural resilience tool (oh yes, it was confusing at first).

The principles from the resilience shown in reviving the Olympic Games and the possibility of collecting and translating sufficient data to revolutionize the microfinance industry can be borrowed to preserve global oceans. Our quality of life today and the sustainability of our planet for the future depend on the ocean as our largest natural resource, as a habitat for countless species, and as a source of food and livelihoods.

To get entrepreneurs to understand the nature of the opportunity in revitalizing the oceans and to get impact investors to look at the ocean as a market opportunity, we need the bio-cultural resilience tool to collect and transmit data that can easily be consumed by various stakeholders. The bio-cultural resilience tool is the “International Olympic Committee” for the ocean and its “delegates” will be the socially and environmentally focused funders and entrepreneurs. It is a platform where both environmentally and socially focused funders are linked into a better and more complete deals than either could do on their own. This tool is a ‘Big Game’ with so many moving parts like lightweight messaging tool, due diligence tool and storytelling tool.

What this means is that Farmerline is willing to explore being the messaging backbone in the bio-cultural resilience tool. It’s an opportunity to enter new markets and also scale quickly. This experiment is worth undertaking because of the diversity and experience in the team behind it, a group of young Ghanaian technology entrepreneurs and a more experienced network of American Impact Investors. Happy Birthday to myself and Kevin Jones. Let’s see how the story unfolds…

About the Author

Alloysius Attah co-founded Farmerline, a mobile venture offering improved information access and communication pathways for smallholder farmers and agricultural stakeholders. He is passionate scaling technology to smallholder farmers across Africa. Alloysius brings to his peers, colleagues and community a sense of possibility and renewed enthusiasm. He is TEDxAccra speaker and an Echoing Green Fellowship 2013 semi-finalist. He studied Fisheries at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana and also has experience in using mobile and web technologies for development