Wondering what our previous winners are up to these days? We caught up with them recently to hear about their successes, challenges, and fresh ambitions.
Spero Analytics won the 2018 Social Innovation Challenge with a technology that could measure and record soil moisture data on farms. The idea was tested in Nepal, and the original business model was to sell the soil moisture data directly to farmers to help them make better irrigation decisions. Farmers, though, while they loved the idea, were a hard sell—most weren’t able to justify the extra expense, and there were problems with the technology, which relied on weak Nepalese radio frequencies. Spero realized that there were other agricultural organizations would pay for the data and are now focused on improving their technology and selling data to those.
EmpowerEQ, the 2017 people’s choice winner of the Social Innovation Challenge, creates electric generators that attach onto everyday items used in rural parts of sub-Saharan Africa, like wheelbarrows, carts, bikes, and water-collection devices. Now, EmpowerEQ is spending more time in the field, particularly in Malawi. Observing the applications of its generators in real-life conditions has put EmpowerEQ on a path of tweaking its product design and business model to fit the local context.
In 2017, Lumbrick won the Social Innovation Challenge with an idea to turn corn waste into bricks that could be burned for cooking fuel. The team kept the project going for two years, visiting Cameroon and Kenya, improving the machine, working on the business model, and entering other accelerator competitions. In September 2018, the team members chose to pursue their own projects; one team member is pursuing graduate study in international relations, another is at a tech startup in Paris, and a third is working in Dubai.