February News

by | Feb 10, 2021 | News

Today you will read about our funding breakthrough that allows us to digitise our model, new additions to the team that strengthen our tech capacities, and new ventures on the horizon that see us “go West”.

Funding breakthrough from German government
Last year ended with a big bang when BMZ (the German development ministry) confirmed funding of half a million Euros to create a digital scale-up platform for our ventures. This had been a long time in the making, and finally went through just before Christmas. There is a familiar concept in the start-up world: the valley of death. It’s where most young companies fail – unless they find an angel investor. Well, we have crossed the valley of death and we came through: thanks to BMZ and their executing partner, GIZ. They shared our vision that green jobs create opportunities, that local small and medium enterprises are great job engines, and that they need intuitive, locally adapted technical solutions to help them grow and replicate more effectively and faster. Think “one-stop shop” for budding franchisees of our franchise businesses who get provided everything they need to build a franchise from scratch. With the help of BMZ, we can now staff a team and get to work to create a working version of such a scale-up platform this year. Thank you, German government, for putting faith in our young organisation. It means a lot, not only financially but also psychologically.

The team is getting stronger and stronger
Regular readers will recall how we welcomed first Anne Lawi from Nairobi and then Stephanie Naumann from Hamburg to our team. Now we are lucky to welcome Martin Stadler from Berlin as Chief Technology Officer. Martin was Lead Engineer at Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures, the corporate venture builder. An engineer in media technology, he has co-founded tech companies, and been a front-end programmer and web designer. He organized and ran Hackathons in Africa and is co-founder and coach at OpenTechSchool, the free tech education community. He came across Impacc when we applied for BCG DV’s social venture program and decided to join us before we even got selected. Clearly, he likes taking risks. We are fortunate to have him, and he is currently busy building a tech team in Africa and helping us all become more agile in how we operate.

New ventures on the horizon
2021 is the year to add new ventures to our portfolio. We are especially excited about WashKing, the maker of biodigester toilets for slums in Ghana. You may recall that Jochen joined their supervisory board last summer to find out more about their business model and its potential. We are now convinced that WashKing is the right fit for our portfolio. Driven by a passionate entrepreneur, Dieudonné Kwame Agudah, they address a real problem with an ingeniously simple solution: many slum dwellings don’t have toilets, there is no canalisation, and people defer to open defecation which is undignified and risky and leads to disease. Pit toilets need to be emptied every year or else they overflow, especially in the rainy season (and they often do). WashKing’s solution: simple pit toilets that come with an enzyme mix that eats faeces, thereby reducing volume and thus the need to empty to once every ten years. Because people can’t afford the one-off payment, WashKing has developed an innovative pay-per-use model that works with access cards that we know from some hotels to open rooms. Single use is affordable to poor households at a few cents, but the sum pays off the toilet over a couple of years. WashKing is strong in Accra but, with our help, wants to grow further in Ghana and expand to Sierra Leone where we have a good network. We will seek to raise funding of about 200k€ over the next year or so and then join Dieudonné and WashKing and jointly make it big in West Africa.

What’s next?
We are busy building a training centre for our clay gasifiers in Ethiopia and hope to be able to share first impressions in the next newsletter. We are also building our team in Africa and are looking to hire technical and business experts in Ethiopia and Uganda. Stay tuned to get to know the growing team.
Until then, stay safe! Till

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