Nicholas Fusso

The D-Prize Winners: 7 new social enterprises distributing proven poverty solutions

Earlier this year, a handful of successful entrepreneurs and impact investors banded together to launch a new organization named D-Prize. D-Prize asked social entrepreneurs around the world one question: If you had $20,000 in seed capital, how would you fight poverty?

Today, D-Prize is announcing seven winners who will answer that challenge. These winners will travel to a developing country and use every ounce of skill and tenacity they have to pilot new poverty-fighting ventures. Here they are:

Katie Wood from Atlanta, Georgia has a mission to provide education for promising students who cannot afford school. She will launch Watch Me Go, a crowd-sourced funding platform to provide education scholarships for girls in Kenya. “A D-Prize award has enabled me to directly impact the lives of children living in poverty on a large scale, a dream I have been working toward for almost ten years after visiting my first developing country on a trip around the world after undergrad,” Wood notes. Within three months, Watch Me Go will raise funds for 100 girls to attend school.

Arvind Nagarajan from Cambridge, Massachusetts will launch a new approach for improving education in resource-limited settings. Nagarajan will rely on tablet-based digital student assessments to inform low-income parents of education quality and empower them to drive improvements in school systems. He will pilot a tablet-based assessment in Mumbai.

Olivia Nava from Oakland, California launched Juabar to offer energy solutions in Tanzania. Juabar kiosks use solar power to charge mobile phones and distribute solar lamps in rural areas. Kiosks are run by “jua-preneurs” – entrepreneurs who serve their local communities. With support from D-Prize, Juabar will further a current pilot program to support 15 local jua-preneurs and aim sell 400 solar lamps in three months. Juabar looks scale to 32,000 products and 150 Juabar kiosks in just two years.

Katerina Kimmorley from Sydney, Australia launched Pollinate Energy to provide clean energy to slum areas in India. Their early-stage model also sparks economic opportunities in emerging markets by relying on local salesmen. Their work eradicates energy poverty by replacing dangerous kerosene lamps with solar solutions. Kimmorley plans to sell more than 5,000 solar solutions in two years.

Jackie Stenson and Diana Jue from Cambridge, Massachusetts together launched Essmart to connect local retailers in India with manufacturers of solar lamps, home lighting systems, water filters and other essential products. They plan to grow their early-phase program to support local entrepreneurs and supply households with poverty solutions by reaching over 5,000 retailers and distributing more than 500,000 products within two years.

Maria Springer from Los Angeles, California will launch SmartSana to distribute clean-burning cook stoves as replacements for dangerous and environmentally damaging alternatives. She will also provide economic opportunities for local salesmen. By 2015, Springer hopes to reach 4 million residents in Nairobi slums who currently burn firewood, waste and charcoal for cooking. Springer previously launched Lively Hoods, a nonprofit that operates in Nairobi.

An Essmart representative demonstrates products for shop owners in India. (Image: Essmart)

These winners were among more than 300 applicants who designed innovative distribution models to expand access to poverty solutions. Applicant demographics were wide ranging, with proposals from MBA students at top schools, International Development and Global Health students, Peace Corps volunteers, and entrepreneurs looking for their next big idea. The strongest proposals combined a solid business plan with a big vision. D-Prize ventures set out to impact enormous numbers of people – not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands.

Why did the D-Prize focus on proven solutions, instead of inventing new ones? “As a human society, we invented the solutions to eradicate extreme poverty decades ago,” said Andrew Youn, co-founder of D-Prize and executive director of One Acre Fund, an organization that has supported over 130,000 farmers in East Africa. “But in practice, these solutions have yet to be distributed to more than a billion people. For many of the world’s poor, the distribution of proven interventions would result directly in the achievement of human development.”

D-Prize is on track to award $150,000 to launch new distribution-focused ventures this year alone.

Are you a social entrepreneur who can distribute effective solutions to that last mile? The next D-Prize competition will launch this fall, and entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply by Nov. 30, 2013. Find out more information at

poverty alleviation