Hydrobee co-founder and President, Burt Hamner, gave a talk at TEDxBellevue on Harvesting Nature’s Power for USB. He describes how the Hydrobee USB hydropower battery and the Streambee charger for streams and rivers were invented and how they have potential to help hundreds of millions of people have free clean energy for phones and LED lights. He also talks about potential applications of micro-hydropower for irrigated agriculture and for water conservation in urban residential apartments – the “last floor” in urban water conservation.
“The Business Solution to Poverty“ is a new book by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick. Both are very experienced in international development. Paul was one of the main proponents and implementors of treadle pumps for irrigation, which have increased the incomes of millions of farmers. He has also pioneered micro-drip-irrigation technologies and profitable value chains.
Paul and Mal came to Seattle today and had lunch with us at ImpactHub Seattle. They presented the key points of their book, which are really pretty brutal:
- There are over 2 billion people now living in serious poverty, earning less than $2 per day. Any serious effort to affect poverty has to have potential to reach at least 100 million people, or it’s really not going to make a significant difference.
- Any product for the poorest people that should increase their earnings has to pay for itself at least 3 times over in the first year or they probably won’t buy it.
- Anyone who wants to make a difference with products for the poorest people must be ready to dedicate 5 to 10 years of life and commit to creating a profitable multi-national corporation that creates profit for every person in the value chain as well as the company.
And that’s just some highlights of the challenges they present. They believe, and show, that only massively-scaled profitable companies can enable the poorest to make more money.
For Hydrobee SPC this is a huge challenge. We know that there are more than 100 million poor people living very close to streams and rivers and the coast (fishermen with small sailboats) who need our USB hydropower battery. But technology is only a small part of the solution. Distribution and pricing and a robust value chain is much more important. And you can’t design it at a desk in Seattle, it will take form in the field with lots of patient work.
I bought the book and read it before our lunch and I recommend it to anyone involved with international development and poverty. For many it has bad news: Giving money to charities to help the poor has very little significant lasting effect. If that’s what you have been doing, read this book and think about it. For charities, re-think your own business model. The book has great detail what is necessary for profit-driven sustainability for the poorest 2 billion.
Please buy, read and promote The Business Solution to Poverty. It’s brief, blunt and will open your mind.