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>A video speaks a thousand words…
>As any rising field or approach, the social enterprise one struggles to find a good definition for its essence. Academics and leaders in the field try to substitute the “I know it when I see it” approach of practitioners by crafting categories and distilling the enormous variety in the actual world. It is a worthwhile effort that tries to preserve the substance in the name, which risks erosion and fluffiness if everyone and anyone uses it.
Recently in a Columbia business school class, a student in the audience asked what made Frogtek a social enterprise. I answered that there are two broad types of entrepreneurial start-ups, those who have a solution and are looking for a problem, and those who know of a problem and are looking for a solution to it.
I believe social entrepreneurs specialize in a particular type of problem: those that have unjust social or environmental consequences. They start with a complex ill and labor hard and long to develop a solution, hopefully one that could scale to a meaningful level.
In Frogtek’s case, we are puzzled by the sad irony within the poverty penalty: why do poor people have to pay more money than the rich for the exact same product?
There’s no simple answer but the main reason is that the distribution channels that serve the poor are more expensive. In the case of food and basic household goods, a key culprit is the inefficient operation of the corner shopkeeper. Herself a low-income entrepreneur, the shopkeeper has no clear idea or right tool to run her business in a more efficient way. In the end, she earns less money and has to charge higher prices…
Now, back to working hard so our technology can help shopkeepers and their communities!
>This last friday the Lean Startup movement had its inaugural conference in San Francisco. Called Startup Lessons Learned, it gathered an impressive roster of practitioners and proponents of this leaner way of launching ventures, using less capital and focused sharply on the customer.
The movement is gathering steam and has grown tremendously since Steve Blank started teaching his Customer Development methodology out of his Four Steps to Epiphany book. A mentee of his, Eric Ries, coined the term Lean Startup and has blogged repeatedly about the techniques to apply it to software companies. Today the New York Times wrote about it, marking a decided step into the mainstream of tech businesses.
At Frogtek we have been avid readers of their wise articles and fully appreciate the clarity the methodology brings to our social startup endeavor. Focusing on the customer and spending lots of time “outside of the lab” talking to shopkeepers is crucial for us. All product developers need to understand their customer. But since we are working with customers at the BOP but were not raised in it, we have to make an extra effort to get in their shoes and see the world from their point of view.
So we are very grateful for this pioneering work that shines light on the right metrics and approaches as we move forward. We believe the methodology also applies to non-technological scenarios where the problems are poorly understood and the solutions unknown. This very much applies to all social enterprises!
>Frogtek Enters Ashoka Changemaker’s Competition: Building Women’s Opportunities & Economic Power through Technology
>Ashoka’s Changemakers, ExxonMobil, and The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) announced a competition aimed at boosting innovations which enable women to access and use the power of tools and technology to expand their opportunities for economic advancement.
We have submitted an entry to this challenge to present VentaTek, our mobile application that allows door-to-door saleswomen to make use of cutting-edge technology to manage their sales, clients and inventory.
You can read more about this entry here:
VentaTek, Bringing business tools to door-to-door saleswomen on mobile phones
Looking forward to your comments about the competition entry and VentaTek!
Frogtek finally had a meeting with all the great people working on this adventure (we missed Kristel though…). It was a really fun time getting to know better all those voices in the skype calls. And we also worked hard to draft the strategy of the company for the next year.
We talked about the different offices and about the way the engineering team works, with its kanban board and other agile techniques. And we discusses usability testing and its related design techniques that we’re working hard to implement.
It was re-energizing to get together and appreciate the shared enthusiasm for Frogtek’s mission. Now it’s time to turn that motivation into steps forward by reaching more and more shopkeepers!
You can see here the complete set of pictures taken by Jose.