Today on the Reuters Digital Vision Program we had the opportunity to mock pitch to three Venture Capitalist (VC) firms from Silicon Valley. As my fellow Fellows honed their pitches and made final tweaks to their presentations, I was ‘absent with leave’. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the opportunity, it’s just that I don’t have a business model for what I do. I barely make enough money for myself, let alone give someone else a good return on theirs (or any return, come to that).
Instead, I’m in search of the pure social investor.
Who would this be? What would they ‘look’ like? Well, by definition, a pure social investor would see the value of kiwanja.net and realise that a solid sustainable business model, with a monetary return, is an unfair ask. They would instead want a strong social return based on a continuing service to non-profits and disenfranchised individuals and communities – grassroots organisations that need FrontlineSMS, or some crucial technical input into their project, or students and researchers wanting to understand the impact of technology in developing countries. kiwanja.net is all about bringing down barriers. Asking for money for many of these services would simply put up another.
There are many grand schemes out there, people trying to develop multi-million dollar solutions to hundred-thousand dollar problems. Subsidised or not, many seek a financial return for their investors. Schmoozing with politicians and large multinational donor organisations takes time – some projects take years to come to fruition, let alone begin to deliver, and then large percentages of the grants get siphoned off to cover a multitude of overheads. So, while people are busy working on their “big picture”, kiwanja will happily keep working on the smaller one, chipping away at the problems, and provide tools, inspiration and support for dedicated organisations and individuals out in the ‘real’ world. It’s not that this helps me sleep better at night. Quite simply, it’s where I see the greatest need.
And the greatest impact.