Rob Katz

Pop!Tech Fellows Focus on Development Through Enterprise

PopTech logoAndrew Zolli is at it again.? On Tuesday, Zolli’s Pop!Tech announced its inaugural class of Social Innovation Fellows.? Biased as I am towards all things “base of the pyramid”, I immediately browsed through the list of Fellows with my BoP filter on.? By my count, 7 of the 16 fellows fall under the BoP umbrella, meaning that they use market-based approaches to solve the problems of poverty.? Nice!

I have a bit of a history with Pop!Tech, having been invited by Andrew and his team to live-blog the event last year.? If Pop!Tech puts even half as much effort into this Social Innovation Fellows program as it does the conference, then it’s bound to succeed.Already, the signs point to go – just look at the program’s (top-notch) advisors and faculty:

  • Paul Polak, design-for-the-poor guru and founder of International Development Enterprises
  • Jim Koch, Director of the Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University
  • Bunker Roy, Founder of the Barefoot College
  • Clare Miller, Founder and CEO of the Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • Ethan Zuckerman, Founder of Geekcorps and Global Voices and a Berkman Fellow at Harvard

The list goes on…but these are the highlights in my mind.? What social innovator WOULDN’T learn from this group?

Of course, the Fellows themselves are nothing to sneeze at.? They include folks we’ve talked about here on NextBillion, like Ken Banks of and Eric Hersman from Afrigadget and White African.? Other BoP-oriented fellows include:

  • Taylor Thompson and Nathan Sigworth, founders of PharmaSecure, a for-profit developing a cell phone-based authentication mechanism enabling healthcare professionals and consumers to easily confirm the validity of purchased drugs;
  • Chip Ransler and Manoj Shah, founders of Husk Power Systems, another for-profit that has created a proprietary technology to cost-effectively convert rice husks into electricity in India;
  • Melanie Edwards, who founded Mobile Metrix, which employs low-income demographers to collect critical market research data about the BoP.? As the co-author of a market research report myself, I think this is an amazingly cool and critical project;

The other Pop!Tech Fellows are doing great stuff, of course, but this is what falls into my development-through-enterprise bucket.? For more about the program, check out Andrew Revkin’s Dot Earth blog and the Pop!Tech site.

It doesn’t look like I’m going to make it to Camden this year, but if you are and would like to chime in about the conference or the Fellows program, drop me a note.? And enjoy Camden!? If you haven’t booked a hotel yet, do check out the Camden Riverhouse – the staff is fantastic, they have great rooms with WiFi and common areas to relax in post-conference.? They’ll also help you find the hiking trail up Mount Battie or Mount Megunticook – the perfect way to start your Pop!Tech day (seriously, I recommend the sunrise hike, it’s breathtaking.? Not for the faint of heart or the height-averse, however.)