06 February 2008

MIT Developmental Entrepreneurship ~ Alum Ventures

Back in 2001, I co-created the Developmental Entrepreneurship seminar with MIT Media Lab Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland. This Institute-wide elective offering co-listed between MIT Sloan School of Management and the Media Arts & Sciences is an exploratory “entrepreneurship studio” on founding, financing, and building viable ventures in developing nations and emerging regions. We challenge our students to craft enduring and economically viable solutions to problems faced by at least One Billion people worldwide.

Since starting this class, we've taught it every Fall semester at MIT and stayed in touch with our alum former students. Upwards of a dozen have started actual ventures, including...
  • United Villages ~ Telcom operator of store-and-forward village messaging;
  • FirstMileSolutions ~ Supplier of drive-by WiFi messaging systems;
  • BlueEnergy ~ Nicaraguan Windpower
  • Dimagi ~ East African Health Informatics
  • WAY Systems ~ Mobile Point-of-Sales Payment System
  • WiderReach ~ Mobile Marketplace
  • CellBazaar ~ Bangladeshi EBay on Mobiles
  • GyanPad ~ Indian Kids Learning Tool
  • ApurayNet ~ Peruvian Financial Services
  • Howtoons ~ Educational “How To” Cartoons
  • RemesaTel ~ Mexican Mobile Phone Remittances
  • Explorist ~ Exploratory Participative Scientific Tourism
Furthermore, we have several emergent ventures from our most recent seminar in Fall 2007, including...
  • Click Diagnostics ~ Mobile phone-enabled village health diagnostics;
  • Essential Manpower ~ Middle East / South Asian employment service;
  • Assured Labor ~ Mobile phone-enabled job market;
  • Village Drug Store ~ Ghanaian pharmacy network;
  • CircleGiving ~ Indian microphilanthropy & microfinance network;
  • Rice-to-Riches ~ Liberian Rice Mills network;
  • Ghonsla ~ Pakistani / Central Asian building insulation from straw;
  • Silkmotel ~ Central Asian motel chain on the Silk Road;
Several of these teams my colleagues and I helped support with MIT IDRC-funded Developmental Entrepreneurship Seed Grants over IAP 2008!

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