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This year, SEID is introducing a second flagship program to financially support student teams that are developing social enterprises while at MIT.  With support from National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, we will select five MIT student teams to receive funding, ranging from $3,000 to $10,000, for the summer of 2013.  By accepting a SEID Seed Grant, these teams will commit to reporting on their project progress over the course of the summer, according to defined milestones, and they will utilize at least two resources found in MIT’s innovation ecosystem.


1)    To provide early-stage seed funding to MIT teams that are developing viable enterprises in emerging markets but have not received major funding from other related competitions.

2)    To match MIT teams with Sloan MBA advice and other MIT social enterprise resources as needed in their early stage development.

SEID Grant Eligibility Criteria

All MIT IDEAS Global Challenge finalists (<41 teams) and all 100K emerging markets applicants (<16 teams) will be considered for a SEID Seed Grant should they choose to opt into our review process.

Once the IDEAS and 100K winners are announced, SEID grantees will be selected from those that did not win first place in either competition (or in the case of the 100K, the Emerging Markets track). We will assess teams based on their applications submitted to the IDEAS Challenge or 100K; no additional information will be requested from teams unless explicitly requested during the review process.

SEID Grant Selection Criteria

Teams will be assessed using basic criteria from IDEAS and the 100K Emerging Markets track, with the following distinctions:

·      We will focus on ideas and teams that still need basic validation or to test one critical hypothesis in their business plan (e.g. how significant is the pain point; does the solution provide real value; is the solution scalable; is it compatible with local attitudes and norms).

·      All grantees should have a clear understanding of their business model, with a sustainable revenue stream and a primary focus on emerging markets.

·      Preference will be given to teams with members from across MIT programs.

The judges, comprised of SEID officers and MIT entrepreneurship faculty, will award funds, not to be below $3,000 or above $10,000, with the goal of enabling the team to validate the key assumption or answer the key question, however the team sees fit to do this.

Grantees will be announced during the third week in May. 

SEID Grant Reporting Requirements

·      Meet with SEID Seed Grants team to present summer plan with milestones

·      Provide a written mid-summer report

·      Deliver a post-summer case write-up and public presentation to SEID membership

·      Bi-monthly check-in’s with the Social Entrepreneurs In Residence at the Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship

·      Meet with at least two offices identified in SEID’s innovation ecosystem map of MIT.


SEID is not able to provide workspace for selected teams.

Developing a solar power boat transportation network in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of sitting in a 5-seater prop plane flying over the Amazon rainforest. As we looked below at the river and trees that extended as far as the eye could see, it really started to dawn on us that we were heading into the jungle.  While there were plenty of great experiences on our trip to Ecuador, there’s no doubt that our time in the Amazon rainforest was the highlight.













Our SEID team consisted of Howard Hong, Arvind Nagarajan, Javier Nieto, and Saurabh Sanghvi. We worked with Fundacion Pachamama, an Ecuadorian nonprofit focused on protecting the Amazon region and the tribes living there. Our team worked with them on a project to bring solar-powered boats to the Achuar region of the Amazon.  In coordination with an MIT engineering team focused on the boat design, our SEID team was responsible for putting together a business plan for the endeavor to ensure local ownership and sustainability for the project. To that end, our trip to Ecuador was designed to truly understand the current transportation methods within the Achuar region, income and travel opportunities, and potential implementation paths for solar-powered boats. Arvind, Javier, and Saurabh traveled to Ecuador for a total duration of three weeks, from December 29 to January 18, spending time in Quito, Puyo, and the Achuar region.


Initial Preparation

We spent our first week in Quito, putting together a plan for the trip and taking in the sights. On the work end, we coordinated with Oliver Utne, the project manager at Fundacion Pachamama, and Wain Collen, an independent consultant on the project. We reviewed the goals for the project, gained background information on the Achuar region, and presented the initial models and frameworks we had developed through the semester. We discussed the gaps remaining and the best way to address them, coming up with a detailed itinerary for our trip to the Amazon to fully flesh out the business model. In addition, we developed comprehensive interview guides for key individuals we hoped to interview during our trip and created exercises for focus groups to understand the existing travel habits of the Achuar people.

This work did not prevent us from our share of fun in Quito. While we stayed in a hostal in a quiet area in La Floresta, we were close to the action (read: parties) in the Marsical region. For New Year’s, we experienced Ecuadorian traditions: in what could only be described as a combination of a mini-riot and Halloween, tons of people dressed up in costumes, burned effigies (little dolls) on the streets, and then jumped over the large fires that resulted. From what we were told, these rituals were an attempt to rid yourself of the past year’s sins and start afresh for the new year.  With little hesitation, we got in the action:


After New Year’s Day, we had time to do some sightseeing during the day. Quito, at an elevation of ~2,800 meters nestled between mountain ranges, offers some spectacular views. From the top of Panecillo to the Teleferico, there are plenty of places where you can see all of Quito. Plus, we even rented scooters one day, which allowed us to experience driving in Ecuador first-hand and see most of the city. All in all, our time in Quito only got us more excited for what was to come.


The Jungle

We left for the jungle during the first week of January. First, we took a 5 hour bus ride to Puyo, a rural town on the edge of the rainforest. To get into the Achuar region, pretty much all chartered planes take off from Puyo. There, we met Pascual Collero, a member of the Achuar community that had been elected to serve as the coordinator for all economic development projects in the Achuar region. He was really excited about the potential of solar-powered boats and helped coordinate the logistics of our trip into the Achuar region.

After our 45-minute prop flight into the Amazon, we landed in Sharamentsa, an Achuar community with about 30 families and 150 people. A relatively sizable community within the Achuar region (where there are ~7,000 people), Sharamentsa was one of the few communities that was seeking to actively solicit tourism. They let us stay in their new tourist cabins, which were an absolute marvel in the midst of the jungle. Right on the Pastaza river, our cabins had hammocks, beds with mosquito nets, and running water for most of the day.

Using that as our home base, we proceeded to begin the most important part of our trip. Pascual introduced us to the entire community and outlined our objectives, and the community leader was very welcoming. We interviewed several community members using the interview guides we developed. In addition, we gathered the entire community for focus groups to get a sense of the travel habits of the community. The exercises we did with the community proved to be a major success: everyone was really engaged as we allowed them to put beans on the communities that they currently traveled to or wanted to travel to.


               After two days with the Sharamentsa community, we took a boat ride to another community to get a different perspective. We went to Charapacocha, a nearby community that had ~250 residents. On our ride there, we quickly saw the difficulties of navigating the rivers, as we went upstream and into some narrow waterways to get to our eventual destination.


               Though we spent less time in Charapacocha, we gained a lot of insights, especially through the focus groups. Hearing how the community members traveled and the limitation of gas-powered boats (namely, fuel and costs) were helpful as we thought about how to structure the solar-powered business.

Our time in the Amazon consisted of a lot of work, but we found time to enjoy our surroundings as well. Augustino, a member of the Sharamentsa community, took us on a hike to a nearby waterfall, giving us explanations of the sights and sounds of the forest as we went along. In addition, we spent a lot of time just interacting with the community – learning their customs and rituals and having fun. On our last day, they even threw a little party for us, putting on a skit to commemorate our trip. The trip was truly a once in a lifetime adventure.


Final Deliverables

After our return from the Amazon, we spent time working to coordinate our findings and put together our final deliverables. We went to a friend’s house outside of Quito on a 2-day retreat with Wain, Pascual and Oliver, putting together our insights from the trip and trying to determine next steps.


We determined that fundamentally, if the project were to succeed, it would have to dramatically change the travel habits of the community. Currently, travel options work on a “taxi” basis – when you need to travel, you commission a boat (which costs quite a lot) and go directly to your destination. On the solar-powered project, the goal is to create a “bus”-like system of public transport, with set routes happening on pre-determined timeframes.

Based on this, we presented an idea to pilot a new system – instead of waiting for the boats to arrive (which may not happen till mid-2014), they could test a “bus” system with gas-powered boats at low costs. This way, they could start to understand how community members would use such a system and refine the routes and prices in accordance. Additionally, this would provide greater insight into the economic feasibility of the project. The Fundacion Pachamama team loved this concept and has decided to present the idea to the Achuar community at an assembly in mid-February. Hopefully, the project will get off the ground and they can start gathering more robust data on the travels of the community and how the eventual solar-powered system will operate.

After our meeting, we spent our remaining time synthesizing our key findings into a Powerpoint deck and refining our model to incorporate the knowledge gained on the trip. In the end, we left them with a robust business model that will allow them to test the economics of the gas-powered pilot, the solar-powered boats, or any hybrid solution they may end up with.  As the boat designs are finalized, they now have a good grasp of how much they will have to charge in order to maintain and operate the boats, and how a business model should be run in terms of labor and operations.  We are optimistic that the project can have a tremendous impact in the Achuar community and serve as a model for sustainable technological development.


Overall, our trip was a tremendous success and amazingly enjoyable. We learned a great deal about the challenges of implementing new technology in developing countries and met some amazing people along the way. Without the support of the PSC and SEID, none of this would have been possible. We are deeply appreciative of the support and can’t wait to help out with next year’s SEID projects!

california lottery

I’ve been working for the summer in a very interesting project with Endeavor, a non-profit company that finds high-impact entrepreneurs (EEs) in developing countries and give them the tools (mentoring, contacts, eMBAs, etc.) necessary to grow and make significant impact in their countries and the world.It turns out that the venture capital (or growth capital) industry in these developing countries is either very small or non-existing. This presents a very serious problem for EEs that want to expand their businesses. On one hand, it is very difficult to find growth money. On the other, entrepreneurs aren’t normally prepared for the fundraising process (learning about term sheets, correctly pitching their businesses, etc.), unlike entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley or the Boston area. The Mentor Capital Program’s goal is to promote this industry in selected developing countries by training the EEs about the fundraising process and creating connections between US based VCs, local VCs, and EEs. This is where I come in.

Part of my project consists on creating investing environment “snapshots” of each selected country, evaluating both hard numbers and subjective comments from local experts and VCs. These snapshots will be targeted to US VCs and LPs (organizations that invest in VCs) to promote investments in these developing countries. As part of the snapshots, I’m creating a “where to invest” city ranking based on Village Ventures model. This special model takes into consideration variables that help predict where entrepreneurial activity may flourish, grow, and eventually consolidate.

It’s been very interesting getting to know local VC’s opinions and stories and compile them with research to help promote investing in developing countries such as Mexico, where I’m from!

SEID Helping Assured Labor

This past week, SEID members and collaborators Tiago Wright, MBA ’12, Rachel Chung, MBA ’12, Reka Horvath, MBA ’12; Kira Intrator, a Course 4 student; and Pallavi Chaube, significant other of Anand Dass, MBA ’12 were recognized for their contribution to Assured Labor.  The company “enables job seekers in emerging markets to find jobs using their cell phones”, as the article states.  The SEID team explored Assured Labor’s options for new country expansion.  David Reich, co-founder of Assured Labor, notes in the article (published on the MIT News site):

“The students presented their findings to David at the end of the fall semester. He commented, “Our SEID team was great. It was invigorating working with five highly driven people. Given the demands of the Core, I was impressed with the quality work they produced and their enthusiasm for our business. Our team will absolutely implement some of their ideas. The team’s work provided a great perspective on what we’re in for and how we should approach these new markets.”

The SEID team, adding value to Assured Labor and photos

The full article can be found here.

Olive oil tasting and learn about social entrepreneurship in the Middle East!

Come hear from two social entrepreneurs who have successfully started ventures in the Middle East region, followed by an olive oil tasting!

Mohammad Hanif Jhaveri set up Hera Capital, a social investment fund in the Middle East. The fund’s model included soliciting funds for projects in emerging Muslim Nations with the purpose of reducing incidence of poverty, extremism, and expanding economic opportunity for the lower-middle classes. Hanif is currently a joint-student MBA-MPA-ID at Stanford and Harvard Kennedy School. Prior to investing, he worked at McKinsey in a variety of public and private sector projects.

Olde City‘s founders, Ali Siam & Ena El-Hadidy, received as a wedding gift of a bottle of Palestinian olive oil in 2007. After remarking on the flavor and quality, they founded Olde City in 2008.  The business turned profitable in only 1 year, and achieved 5 figure sales in its first 6 months of operation, and doubled sales between 2008 and 2009.  Olde City currently carries exclusively fair trade products.

Location: E51-335

Time: 5:30-6:30pm

Date: November 3

Sponsored by the Middle East and North Africa Business Club, SEID, and the Entrepreneurship Club

Avoiding drug conterfeiting in Ghana – CEO of Spoxil

Growing up in Ghana, Ashifi Gogo was amazed that he could surf the Internet on his mobile phone from anywhere, but couldn’t always get clean tap water to drink. “The only state-of-the-art infrastructure we have is our cellphone network,” said Gogo, a 28-year-old Dartmouth College engineering graduate, who co-founded Sproxil Inc., a cell-phone based drug authentication service. Gogo said the decision by many African nations to privatize the mobile industry has inadvertently created tremendous opportunities to help solve widespread problems such as counterfeiting. Gogo hopes Sproxil will help end the “menace” of counterfeit drugs in Africa and other developing nations.

Room:  e62-250

Date: October 27

Time: 12pm – 1pm

Co-sponsored by SEID, Africa Business Club, and MoMIT

Mobile’s Role in Supporting Emerging Markets – Director of Nokia

Lior Nir leads the Global Strategy, Portfolio Management, and Business Development teams for Nokia’s Services Platform business unit. In this role, Lior sets the strategy and manages the portfolio of Nokia’s Cloud Computing and Data Core Services, which enable Nokia’s Services and mobile devices to serve 100s of millions of active users. Prior to this role, Lior was the General Manager of Nokia’s personal media sharing service, Ovi Share. He built and launched this Service in over 100 countries and managed the Services Social Media ecosystem. Before this, Lior was the Director of Global Product Marketing for Nokia Enterprise Mobility Solutions, responsible for the development and execution of the go-to-market strategy.

Room: E62 in room 223

Time: 12pm -1pm

Date: November 1

Cosponsored by SEID and MoMIT

Does Venture Capital help social enterprises in Latin America? Hear from CEO of IGNIA Fund

Come hear from the Co-founder and Managing Partner of IGNIA Partners , Álvaro Rodríguez Arregui, about his perspective in creating one of the most successful venture capital organizations to support social entrepreneurs in Latin America. Before IGNIA, Alvaro was Former Chairman of the Board of ACCION International (, a 50 year old US based non-for-profit and a global pioneer of microfinance and worldwide leading development organization in the field.

He also served as the Chief Financial Officer of Grupo Vitro, one of the largest glass manufacturers in the world. In 2005 was named Young Global Leader (YGL) by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Rodríguez holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.A. from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM).

IGNIA is a venture capital investment firm based in Mexico that supports the founding and expansion of high growth social enterprises that serve the base of the socio-economic pyramid in Latin America. IGNIA empowers entrepreneurship and generates social impact while creating attractive financial returns for its investors. IGNIA is raising an initial fund of approximately US$75 million.

Lunch will be served

Room: E62-223

Time: 12pm -1pm

Cosponsored by SEID, Latin American Club, and VCPE

Hear from the founder of Global Public Health at BCG

Co-sponsored by Sloan Entrepreneurs in International Development, Management Consulting Club, and Net Impact

Wendy Woods – Partner and Managing Director, BCG

Wendy Woods is a Partner and Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group. She founded and leads BCG’s work in global public health – working with foundations, partnerships and multilateral organizations to improve health across the developing world. Before joining BCG, Wendy worked for the OECD and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Lunch provided

Room: E62-262

Time: 12pm – 1pm

Lessons learned about microfinance – Hear from CEO of ACCION

Mr. Schlein, CEO of ACCION, brings 25 years of extensive international banking, management and public service experience to ACCION, whose mission is to help alleviate global poverty by providing „micro‟ loans, financial services and business training to the world‟s entrepreneurial poor. ACCION currently works with partner microfinance institutions in 23 countries, and last year helped reach over 3.7 million poor clients with small working-capital loans, savings accounts and other financial products.

As President of Citigroup‟s International Franchise Management unit, Mr. Schlein helped manage the bank‟s network of 100 Chief Country Officers, who were responsible for performance, regulatory relations, governance and reputational risk in their respective countries. Prior to his senior posts at Citi, Mr. Schlein served as Chief of Staff at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as Chief of Staff for the New York City Deputy Mayor for Finance and Economic Development.

Mr. Schlein holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1984.

ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil. ACCION International‟s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $50 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 28.5 million loans totaling $23.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid.

Lunch will be served

Room: E62-250

Time: 12pm – 1pm

Date: Oct 14

Sponsored by SEID