Entrepreneurs Battling Global Poverty Get a Silicon Valley Boost

Media Mention, Press Release

13th Annual Gathering at Santa Clara University’’s Miller Center Includes a Well-Attended Investor Showcase

Deborah Lohse

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Aug. 6, 2015 — In India, Anoop Rao’s company has built water centers that have secured safe, affordable water for 500,000 villagers. By 2018, he wants to serve 4.5 million people. In Haiti, Eric Sorenson is converting agricultural waste biomass to produce renewable charcoal cooking briquettes, saving over a kiloton of tree wood. In the next two years, he wants to triple his production. And in four countries, from South Africa to Bangladesh to Nigeria, Kirsten Gagnaire’s company has helped over two million women get life-saving, maternal-health messages by phone. Now she wants to expand into six countries to reach over 10 million women and their families.

These three social entrepreneurs and 12 others are coming to Santa Clara University’s campus from August 12 to 21 to participate in the 13th annual Global Social Benefit Institute (GSBI®) Accelerator. The event is the highlight of 10 months of training and mentoring for seasoned entrepreneurs seeking to reach exponentially greater numbers of customers and beneficiaries. The GSBI is part of Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which has been training social entrepreneurs online and in-person since 2003. The Miller Center has trained nearly 400 social entrepreneurs in 63 countries.

Over 55 Silicon Valley mentors, who have been working online with the global entrepreneurs weekly since early this year, will spend eight days with the social entrepreneurs in intensive sessions on such subjects as business strategy and impact metrics. Most of the mentors – current or former CEOs; venture capitalists; finance, distribution and supply chain experts; specialists in solar or other forms of clean, renewable energy; and other successful start-up veterans — will be meeting their mentees in person for the first time on campus.

“We GSBI mentors look forward immensely every year to meeting these amazing and talented social entrepreneurs, whose businesses face challenges unheard of in Silicon Valley,” said mentor Brian Haas, vice president of semiconductor company KLA Tencor. “This year we’ve got five women and 10 men passionately tackling everything from access to clean energy and water, to healthcare in urban slums, as well as entrepreneurs operating in countries in great distress, such as Nepal and Bangladesh. It’s both exhilarating and humbling to work side by side with these entrepreneurs to identify and solve their business challenges.”  

Mentors will also assist the entrepreneurs in honing the pitches that they will give to an audience of potential investors at the “2015 Investor Showcase,” which is annually attended by 300 Valley investors, industry experts, and individual philanthropists interested in impact investing. Eighty-five percent of last year’s class received funding within six months of the 2014 showcase.

This year’s Investor Showcase will take place at Santa Clara University’s Recital Hall on Thursday, August 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The showcase is not open to the general public but some invitation-only seats are available. Investors interested in attending should visit scu.edu/investorshowcase, email gsbi@scu.edu or call (408) 551–3053. The event will also be live-streamed at www.scu.edu/investorshowcase.

Social entrepreneurs are those who use nonprofit or for-profit businesses — sometimes known as social ventures — to help solve major social problems, such as unsanitary water conditions, lack of employment or business opportunities, youth unemployment, and maternal healthcare.

Among the social ventures coming this year are a South Africa-based producer of efficient biomass cookstoves; an India-based installer of bio-toilets to treat human waste with bacteria; a Nepalese solar-energy sales training program for women; and an affordable healthcare insurance provider operating in Pakistan.

Reporters interested in interviewing any of the entrepreneurs or mentors while they are in town, or attending the Investor Showcase, may contact Deborah Lohse of SCU Media Relations, dlohse@scu.edu or 408-554-5121.

Sponsors of the GSBI Accelerator program include: eBay Foundation, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Testarossa Winery, and the GSBI Endowment Fund supported by Jeff and Karen Miller and Howard and Alida Charney.

A complete list of this year’s entrepreneurs, their locations, and their impact is on the GSBI Accelerator website.

About the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Founded in 1997, the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Distinction at Santa Clara University. The Miller Center accelerates global, innovation-based entrepreneurship in service to humanity. Its strategic focus is on poverty eradication through its three areas of work: The Global Social Benefit Institute, Impact Capital, and Education and Action Research. To learn more about the Center or any of its social entrepreneurship programs, please visit www.scu.edu/MillerCenter.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its more than 9,000 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering; master’s degrees in business, education, counseling psychology, pastoral ministry, and theology; and law degrees and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. master’s universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see www.scu.edu

Media Contacts
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | dlohse@scu.edu |  408-554-5121
Pat Haines |  Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship Marketing Manager | phaines@scu.edu | 408-551-7118