epAward 2019 Shortlisted Solutions are Highly Impactful and Scalable
Determining the business potential of smart innovations is no easy task! After the evaluation of the technical functionality of empowering people. Award 2019 entries, Intellecap came on board to examine the 26 long-listed projects on their ability to sustain over the long run. Intellecap is engaged to foster and grow enterprises that have the potential to transform lives across Asia and Africa. They work towards making the emerging markets equitable and inclusive by mobilizing capital. We spoke to Martin Kiilu, the Lead for Intellecap Impact Investment Network, about the rigorous assessment rounds to narrow down to the best social enterprises for the award.
Can you give us a sense of the assessment team that evaluated the entries of empowering people. Award? Why did you decide to have several people assessing the long-list?
There were two levels of evaluation. For the long-list, mostly a team of three Intellecap employees was created. The team collectively have over ten plus years of working with social enterprises and early stage businesses across East Africa and India. Their backgrounds are in enterprise coaching as well as youth assessment facilitation helping raise capital and everything in between that deals with the execution and optimization of businesses. For us, the priority was that the team had exposure in looking at business models and examine if these models are scalable. From our experience, we have always found that bringing different experts with their skilled viewpoint gives any applicant a fairer assessment against having an individual who may bring in bias. Moreover, multiple people bring their diverse knowledge in looking into business models and a couple of sector approaches which might not be harnessed if you have one individual.
At what scale is the impact: only in a village or across multiple countries and geographies? Then to measure the sustainability behind the business. As a for-profit does the business model make sense? Have they explored the market and the distribution channels to get to the end-customer or beneficiary? Are their growth plans aligned with building a sustainable business? Whether they are generating enough revenues more than relying on grant funding or donor support. Lastly, we assessed the team composition, their commercial backgrounds and experience to scale the business.
What are the general challenges in assessing the current or future sustainability of a social enterprise?
It is very hard to validate the assumptions businesses make! Given that the shortlisted enterprises operate in developing economies that lack background data which could not be used to confirm their claims. So, a lot of assumption went into the business plan they submitted, which are future looking and didn’t have historical bases to back. Secondly, it was difficult to certify whether the market actually exists or the end-users are willing to pay the price listed by the enterprise as they had not really tested the commercial aspects. To determine the sustainability of any business it is important to factor in the role of future innovations or disruptions that may bring better products into the market. The applicants seemed to assume that the market will remain the same.
Something that ran across all entries was that they require assistance to improve their technologies and refine it to get to the next level to meet customer demands. Majority of the issues arose around their markets’ identification and to corroborate that the markets actually exist. A number of them were either in the pilot or post-pilot stage and are now getting into commercialization. None have been doing this for a long time to be able to speak as an authority. They all need financial support to actually execute their plans along with scaling up their teams.
What were some interesting features that you observed among the entries?
There were a lot of effective tech companies looking at problems dealing with physical disabilities, be it speech, motor cognitive, or visual, that was very interesting to see! Quite a number of the solutions are tackling challenges that are global but they are designed to be affordable and relevant in their local contexts.