It’s easy to forget that innovative, successful startups aren’t just born in the western world.
It always pays dividends to lift your vision, and part of this in the global age means checking out what founders are up to in the developing world too. Here are just a few of the most interesting trends in emerging nations’ startups right now.
Social entrepreneurs are having a big impact
Latin America has long been ignored by startup investors and accelerator programmes. It was as though the region didn’t exist. Then in 2011, funders started to wake up to the opportunities and the potential. Since then things have got a whole lot brighter for entrepreneurs, especially those looking to create positive social or environmental change.
In 2017 over 50 million Brazilians were living in poverty and according to a survey by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IGBE), more than 15 million were living in extreme poverty in 2018. Many in poverty survive as subsistence farmers growing crops such as maize or coffee beans, others struggle to grow livestock farming businesses.
One tech startup in Sao Paolo has recognised this struggle and developed a tool for farmers that helps them collect and analyse data on the health, wellbeing and production of their cows to increase meat and milk quality. BovControl enables farmers to input data about each individual cow and AI does the rest, alerting farmers when milk production drops or other issues arise.
This kind of agricultural tech is helping to transform lives and prospects not just in Latin America but in Asia too. Here, one startup in Malaysia, Cityfarm, is helping to alleviate food poverty in the urban centre using innovative hydroponics technology to enable city-dwellers to farm without the need for any soil.
Fintech is growing fast
Fintech is set to explode in Africa over the next five years. The reason is very simple – the majority of Africans do not have a bank account, and that means they are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to accessing and paying for the kind of basic services that we take for granted, things like water, electricity and healthcare. It also means because it’s still largely a paper-money society, that they’re at much greater personal risk from attack by gangs or thieves looking to rob them.
Kenyan-based M-Pesa is the most well-known social fintech, but there are many others springing up across the continent including some larger companies such as South Africa-based Crossfin Technology, which looks set to become Africa’s largest fintech group.
It’s a similar picture in India where more than 60% of the population live in rural areas and find banking just as difficult to access. Rural Indians are keen to test out every innovation that will make their lives easier, and this is mirrored in the figures, with some rather optimistic-sounding estimates putting the Indian fintech market worth at as much as $31 billion by 2020. But even if it’s only half that figure it’s still a huge market for startups.
In any discussion of emerging markets, it’s easy to focus just on social and fintech startups; companies that are tackling the really big challenges like energy access, food security and climate change. But in all areas of the developing world, the middle classes are starting to boom and this represents a very big opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs.
The on-demand economy is spawning a whole raft of exciting new businesses. One of them is SafeMotos in Rwanda. Based on the Uber model, it’s a ride-hailing app with a difference. Rather than a taxi cab, you get a motorcycle and driver. Ride-hailing is very big business right now in Africa, with competing startups breaking through in every big city on the continent.
Another big on-demand trend is food delivery, and one of the biggest right now, is Indian-based Swiggy, a delivery service that hit the headlines when it secured a whopping $1bn in a recent funding round. Swiggy works with 50,000 restaurants in more than 50 cities and looks like it might just have cornered the market.
Finally, there’s the quirky and wonderful Cairo-based Bredfast, a startup founded in 2017 that delivers fresh bread and other breakfast products direct to your door every day. Bredfast has just been accepted for the prestigious Y Combinator (YC) acceler