A friend forwarded me a link to a pitch session yesterday morning and as I’m in networking mode, trying to find an amazing job, I signed up and attended. I didn’t know much about the event before I arrived and the first thing that struck me was that all of the folks pitching had startups that did good things, that aimed to make the world a better place by increasing what Project Heha calls “Super Happiness.”
I’ve been to quite a few pitch sessions and this was by far the most inspirations pitch session I’ve ever been to. I was brought to the point of tears many times over the course of the afternoon. To see so many people trying to do good in the world in one place was humbling and quite inspirational.
The Super Happiness Challenge was an international competition that started accepting applications in May 2017. There were two tracks, an Idea Track and a Startup track. Five finalists from as far away as Iceland and Africa presented. The event was hosted by GSV Labs, great people and an amazaing space.
From my perspective, the winners in both categories were obvious choices, and the judges had a hard time deciding, especially between the grand prize and runner up prizes.
All one needed to enter in the idea track: “The idea track is open to individuals who have an
innovative, creative solution that promotes happiness.” Most of the idea track entries were pretty far along, many had apps or had significant achievements. The winner, Smart Garbage Medical Insurance, created a micro-insurance system where slum residents in Tanzania collect plastic refuse, which widely pollutes the slum, it’s collected monthly, turned into plastic timber which is sold to make things like decks and fences. The proceeds go to buying insurance. So far, they have insured 75 families! It’s a triple win, people most at risk, get insurance, the environment is improved and a new building material that is much more resilient than wood is created. What an innovation!
To enter the startup track one need to, have a startup along the same lines. All of the startup entries were impressive, not just from their ability to do good, but also for their viability. The winner, WeFarm.org, blew the top of my head off! They have created the world’s largest farmer to famer digital network. They have over 420,000 farmers connected in Kenya, all via SMS. Farmers are rated and there is AI between them used to connect folks who have questions to those who can answer them. We are talking about folks who have, until now, no access to the internet, no way to communicate outside their personal networks. WeFarm is also using this service to sell supplies like seeds as well as insurance and plans on a peer to peer market soon.
For those of you who don't understand how big a deal this is, 80% of the folks in Africa have cell phones and only 30% of the population has internet, similar numbers exist for other developing regions. This is the demographic that represents the biggest opportunity for service providers, ecommerce and social media in the world. It’s a nearly untapped market and luckily the very smart folks at WeFarm are using their foresight for good.
I’d take a job at any of the companies that presented at whatever they could pay me. They were that good and got me that fired up.
All of this is the brain child of Project Heha, started by Sammy Lee. Sammy took the idea of propagating sustainable happiness to new levels and in the course of doing so has created a multinational, multibillion dollar company. The phrase, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” was never truer.
We need more of this in the world!