Sunday, October 12, 2008

Good news

As I wrote in the earlier post today, there are lots of problems out there. But are there enough problems to get an "unrepentant optimist" down? Nope. There are some very cool things happening out in the world. Here are a few:

1) Today, China indicated that it was going to allow peasants to buy and sell land. The NY Times wrote a good piece on this yesterday. As Fareed Zakaria recently wrote, "if you want to free your country, first liberate its land." On NPR today, one commentator stated that this change was driven in part by China's concerns about flagging exports to the West during the financial crises. As my bleeps know, I am a big fan of Hernando DeSoto and ILD, who have pushed for private property rights for the poor for years. It is exciting to see progress on this front in a country the size of China.

2) In Business Week's "Green Design" issue, Humdinger Wind was highlighted. I have had the privilege of getting to know the founders of this exciting new company. Cool technology and a great vision for innovative approaches to underserved energy markets. A global, virtual Innovation Factory for this century. Thomas Friedman writes in "Hot, Flat and Crowded" that the cure for energy poverty is a village "ecosystem of energy plus education plus connectivity plus investment." Technologies, such as wind belts and small scale solar PV, when coupled with energy efficient devices, could drive dramatic change in the energy equation for the developing world.

3) Another company founded by young entrepreneurs, Husk Power, is also on its way. This UVA based start up has already installed two systems in rural India and hopes to get funding to keep growing. They have already hit the business plan competitions and raised $100k.

4) Envirofit is now selling thousands of improved cookstoves in India. Customer feedback has been strong, and we quickly sold out after launching a few months ago. I often suggest that start up teams figure out where they will sell their first, tenth, hundredth and thousandth product. This gets them to think about distribution early and often. Well, Envirofit has exceeded 10,000 stoves in just a few months, and hopes to have sold 25,000 by year end. We still have a long way to go, but we are making a meaningful difference for thousands of households. It is a testament to the team that they have been able to rapidly build a team in India, develop distribution networks, and design and manufacture a really "hot" product.

5) SoCap08 kicks off on Monday. I am really looking forward to it. Even with all the doom and gloom, they sold out an expanded conference focusing on bringing together "hundreds of leading social entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to accelerat[e] the flow of capital to good." I am looking forward to being on Tuesday's panel "Design for the Developing World" with Paul Polak, Tim Brown and Kristin Peterson. And on Friday, Mitesh, Joseph and I will be presenting a paper in Portland on a framework to integrate sustainable design approaches (cradle to cradle and biomimicry) into BOP product design. Hope to see you at these events.

How can you not be optimistic? You gotta problem or something?

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