Anti-poverty business contest pivots toward experienced entrepreneurs

Africa is home to six of the ten fastest growing economies, meaning there are vast opportunities for businesses willing to tackle markets there.

March 3, 2015 20:39
1 minute read.
THE TEL AVIV skyline; the area around the city is home to many Israeli start-ups

THE TEL AVIV skyline. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Pears Challenge, a competition to spur innovation in business-driven ideas to help developing nations, has taken on a new approach focusing on experienced entrepreneurs in its second year, which launches next week at Bank Leumi.

Whereas the first iteration of the competition asked applicants to submit ideas, which they then developed through a four-month accelerator program, the new format will seek experienced people and focus its process on developing viable ideas.

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"It was very successful in terms of the numbers, but we ended up feeling we could do better," said Dr. Aliza Inbal, Director of the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University. Of the ten start-up ideas that went through last year's process, she says, six are still functional and four have developed enough to become full-time jobs for the people running them.

In the new iteration, the program will run experienced people through a three-month course to help them focus their ideas, which will center around food security and small-holder farmers in Kenya.

"What Israel has to bring that makes us so valuable is that there's so much experience in this country in terms of what it means to launch a successful start-up," said Inbal. "We're looking for people with skills and experience and a desire to do good in the world. People saying 'I would love it if my next start-up is something that can do good in the world.'"

Once the ideas are properly developed, the 10 entrepreneurs will travel to Kenya, where they will pitch their ideas to members of the Kenyan agri-tech community, and seek ways to cooperate.

"We want to bring the Kenyan and Israeli ecosystems together, and the reason we chose Kenya is because they have the most exciting incubator ecosystem in Africa," said Inbal. Recipients of the fellowship will also receive mentorship and training.

The premise of the program is that for-profit businesses focused on the developing world can help create markets that actually lift people out of poverty. According to Pears, the 3.7 billion people living on less than $3 a day represent a global market with $5 trillion in purchasing power.

Africa is home to six of the ten fastest growing economies, meaning there are vast opportunities for businesses willing to tackle the markets there.

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