A few years before I joined KingsCrowd, I led a study on the startup ecosystem of Malawi. Most startup founders I met were solving pressing issues, such as access to food, water, and energy. They were actively working to reduce inequalities and develop the country sustainably. This experience made me decide to work in impact investing. But since I’ve started researching impactful startups raising online in this article, I have not been finding as many startups from sub-saharan Africa as I would like. And the few companies I do find are focusing on online banking, a very competitive industry.
It’s too bad. Because investing in sub-saharan African companies is not only a way to help reduce poverty, but it’s also an opportunity to get good returns. When I was at San Francisco’s impact investing convention a few weeks ago, I had the chance to attend a pitch session from Miller Center’s African entrepreneurs. The startups were raising $1 million to $2 million in debt or equity to grow their businesses. They were selling water filters, drying fruits out of waste, or helping small farmers increase sales. Most solutions were low-tech, low-cost, and impactful. Unfortunately, none of them were raising online.
But I didn’t run out of luck. I met with Andi Kleissner, co-CEO of Amped Innovation, a California-based startup raising on Republic that’s building solar and battery systems for emerging countries. The company has 16 local distribution channels in 23 African and Southeast Asian countries. The startup sells its kits with lights and TVs and soon will include fridges. There are three things that I love about this startup. First, it is focusing on cost leadership to make sure its products can be affordable. Second, it is not trying to impose a Western product in emerging markets. Amped Innovation relies on local distributors and makes sure to listen to customer feedback to fit local needs, down to creating an ant-resistant glue. Third, it is designing products that are long lasting, and this is what both customers and the planet need.
Whether it is Amped Innovation or local startups, businesses are an engine of growth in emerging countries, as long as products are made either locally or with the end customer in mind. Businesses that provide low-cost and long-lasting solutions to emerging markets are durable. They can bring sustainable economic growth to lower-income countries and reduce their reliance on nonprofits and donations, a model that is not sustainable.
To continue having an impact, you can keep reading and dive into the 21 impactful startups that started raising in October.
Recent statistics show that around 50% of Africans are connected to the grid. The rest of the population lives either without electricity or with fuel generators. Unfortunately, fuel generators are pollutive, noisy, and expensive in the long term. Enter Amped Innovation. Amped Innovation creates solar and battery kits tailored to emerging countries’ needs. Its WOWsolar Hub is a rechargeable lithium-phosphate battery bank that can power homes and businesses. The machine is heat-proof, splash-proof, and dust-proof and is designed for daily use. Amped Innovation has sold more than 130,000 products in Africa and Asia.
World Tree is not a typical equity crowdfunding investment opportunity. The company uses investor funds to plant batches of fast-growing timber. After 10 years, it harvests the trees, sells them, and shares its profits with farmers and investors. World Tree sells the timber to high-end markets, including furniture, window blinds, veneers, musical instruments, and surfboards. It offers investors the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint while expecting a good financial return.
The increasing consumption of electronics has negative side effects. Electronics require the use of rare metals, which are mostly mined in environmentally harmful and unethical conditions around the globe. And after an electronic device’s life is spent, it is complicated to sort and recycle the various metals packed together. Phuc Labs’s modern approach to recycling e-waste both reduces the need for new materials and decreases pollution. Its technology, Vision Valve, uses computer vision and robotics to identify and recover resources like useful metals from waste with high accuracy and low energy.
Health & Medicine
Aura is a marketplace for mental health services. Aura lets mental health coaches and therapists work digitally, and individuals can access personalized mental wellness content, coaching, and community services.
Psyonic has leveraged its proprietary bionic technology to develop the Ability Hand, a highly functional prosthetic that replicates touch for amputees. Psyonic’s Ability Hand is 20% lighter than a human hand and has a 200-millisecond closing speed to provide the high performance people deserve.
Choix’s platform expands access to high-quality and affordable abortion care through telehealth services. It plans to become an end-to-end solution with a complementary product called Choix Travel, offering support every step of the way.
Eli Electric Vehicles has designed an advanced, affordable, and efficient electric vehicle (EV) called Eli ZERO that is half the size of a conventional car. Eli ZERO is already in production, and more than 100 units have been built and shipped to Italy, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands.
EV Solar Kits makes rooftop and extendable solar panel kits for electric automobiles. The solar panel kits boost charging accessibility for electric vehicles, especially during long-haul trips, increasing the range and decreasing the vehicle operating costs.
Popwheels aims to build and maintain the first network of light electric vehicle battery swap stations in New York City. Popwheels subscribers will have access to thousands of swap lockers across the city where they can exchange depleted batteries for fully charged ones.
Food and Agriculture
Royal Caridea is a shrimp farming company focused on commercializing its transformative and sustainable shrimp farming technology. The business will use its technology to build its first patented, stacked raceway production system. Royal Caridea has the capacity to produce Pacific whiteleg shrimp on a continuous and predictable basis.
Eva’s Wild weaves together the best in food, storytelling, and impactful experiences from California to Alaska. It sources wild salmon from indigenous suppliers and brings them to customers and restaurants. Eva’s Wild also supports sustainable fisheries and carbon mitigation, and it has created award-winning documentaries about protecting wild spaces.
Trace Femcare makes tampons using hemp fiber and climate-beneficial cotton. Trace Femcare’s products are toxin-free, biodegradable, and traceable to the farm level.
Simple Switch is an online shopping platform that sells sustainable and ethical products, boasting a proven social and environmental impact. Simple Switch is also called “Amazon with a heart’” and makes conscious consumption simple for customers.
Finn & Emma makes organic and sustainable baby and toddler apparel, gear, and toys. The products come in sophisticated, whimsical designs and are free of toxic chemicals.
Amai makes edible and compostable cups as alternatives to single-use cups. Amai’s cups are thermal resistant, moisture resistant, earth-friendly, healthy, and made with upcycled foods.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Pocstock is a global stock photo and video platform focused exclusively on people of color. Its global business model helps it influence the visual narratives of representation and inclusion for underrepresented cultures.
Both& Apparel makes non-binary apparel and is starting with the transmasculine market. The company recognizes that the needs of trans and non-binary people are different from those of cisgender people and aims to meet that demand.
Gophr App is a delivery technology platform that offers same-day delivery and expedited shipping for local marketplaces. The app supports local merchants by offering affordable nationwide delivery solutions.
KMX Technologies’ proprietary technology provides next-generation water treatment that separates and secures lithium and critical minerals. Recovering rare minerals and lithium is a more sustainable alternative to harmful mining practices.
Whooshh Innovations helps fish and hydropower coexist with fish passages that sort out invasive species. Whooshh Innovations’ sustainable fish passage solutions save fish and restore native populations.
Harmony Turbines is developing safe, quiet, and affordable wind turbines for small-scale power generation. Harmony Turbines’ patented technology is designed to protect turbines in high winds and produce power in low winds.