The BBC’s online site has been running a very optimistic and revelatory series entitled ‘Running a Business.’ Besides being an in-depth look at innovative new ideas, it is also a showcase for underdogs persevering in this current economic malaise. Never fear, small business owners might just be the answer to the stagnant economies of Europe, and better still, might help humanity as a whole. Case in point was a recent article about the new trend in startups that not only have profits in their sights, but also helping those in need.
Unsurprisingly, much of the current activity is happening in the rapidly changing countries of Africa. Whether new, affordable medical diagnostic tools are coming to the rescue, or investments in mobile phone technology, Africa is fertile ground for fresh ideas. Not content to just make money, people like Dr. Bill Rodriguez and his company Daktari Diagnostics in Boston have started businesses with the aim of helping others: “Dr Rodriguez, with the help of other academics, developed a prototype that can count the number of a certain immune cell in a patient’s blood – a good indication of their HIV state. The device, which can be used with very little training, provides results in about 10 minutes and costs $5-$10 (£3.20-£6.50) a test.” This is just one example of something that can potentially revolutionize the lives of millions.
Other entrepreneurs in the piece were involved in developing something as rudimentary as miner lights for emergencies, and providing them to customers in the West with the option to buy a second light for charity. Something similar has also been reported in the trendy world of boutique cafes in Europe – with customers being encouraged to buy a second cup for the homeless. The overall sentiment in the article was that finding investors for, and turning a profit in the developing world isn’t harder than in the capitalist West – it just takes a better business model, perseverance in getting backers, and more patience. This seems to be an encouraging trend and one that’s definitely good news.