Access Afya is providing primary health-care services in the slums of Kenya.

Most social enterprises seek to change the world directly. One Atlanta-based company has decided it’s better to enable other innovators through funding and peer support. 

Village Capital, a grassroots effort spun off from seed capital firm First Light Ventures, has conducted 14 accelerator programs in locales as diverse as Brazil, IndiaChina and even cities in the United States like Atlanta and San Francisco

It works like this: Entrepreneurs meet together over a number of months and self-select the best business models among them to receive funding from Village Capital. In three years, 250 startups participating in the programs have created 1,000 jobs, served 10,000 customers and raised more than $20 million.  

In 2012, Village Capital partnered with Nairobi-based GrowthAfrica to take the program to Kenya. Two of the 18 participants secured $50,000 in the form of convertible notes. During the Kenya leg of the Geeks Gone Global Africa tour in May, I met with three companies to learn how the program helped fuel their growth, whether they won or lost. 

Eco Fuels Kenya 

Eco Fuels Kenya develops biofuel and fertilizer from the nut of an African tree with a name straight out of a superhero movie: Croton megalocarpus. 

Essential to the startup’s model is its Seed Collector Network, a group of agents who recruit locals to gather nuts for eight Kenyan shillings (about 9 cents) per kilogram. 

Myles Lutheran, Eco Fuels director and one of Village Capital’s frontier-market scouts who scours emerging markets for new innovations, said generating income in communities that form the company’s supply chain is a key goal of the social venture, which is poised for expansion after winning $50,000 from the Village Capital accelerator. 

After a successful first year in which demand outstripped supply, the company looks to strengthen its Seed Collector Network and construct six more factories across Africa over six years.

Access Afya 

Access Afya provides primary care to more than 500 clients and counting through “ultra-mini” health clinics. In order to keep prices affordable for the poor while breaking even, the startup has built a lean staff network of nurses and community health workers focused on a suite of specialized services. It also employs technology to manage data, communications and operations. 

Putting clinics in the slums it serves, Access Afya competes with public hospitals that are often crowded and inconveniently located, and with informal pharmacists who sell drugs without proper licensing. 

Founder Melissa Menke is raising funds to roll out another pilot clinic by September. Access Afya plans to launch 15 clinics by 2015, making a significant dent in the number of Kenyans suffering from preventable diseases.


IProcure is streamlining procurement and distribution for enterprises. Through software built by founder Stefano Carcoforo and his team, suppliers can use analytics to conform to the buying habits of their customers, ensuring their inventories are stocked with their clients’ preferred products.  

The iProcure software also allows buyers to build a network of trusted suppliers and manage their procurement processes. Users spanning the agriculture, construction, and ICT sectors have adopted the software, and Mr. Carcoforo is working to perfect the technology and ramp up sales. 

Village Capital’s second accelerator program in Kenya begins this fall, running from Sept. 13-Dec. 6. 

For more information, visit Village Capital/GrowthAfrica2: Innovation to Impact or

For more on Geeks Gone Global, which is launching an innovation excursion to East Asia in November, visit

Kwame Som-Pimpong is co-founder of Afara Global LLC, a consultancy that enables small business to connect to opportunities on the African continent. He represented Global Atlanta on the Geeks Gone Global Africa innovation tour in May. He can be reached at

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...