Martin J. Fisher

KickStart International
Year founded: 


KickStart develops and promotes technologies that can be used by entrepreneurs in Africa to establish and run profitable small-scale enterprises.

Focus: Agriculture, Enterprise Development, Technology, Climate Change
Geographic Area of Impact: Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Angola, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 750,000 (2013)
Annual Budget: US$ 7 million (2013)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 37%
Recognition: Schwab Fellows of the World Economic Forum

In the industrialized world governments subsidize research and development of new technologies, as well as market development to promote their adoption. In developing countries governments have other priorities and invest very little in this front. Because it is not profitable private sector companies rarely develop new products and technologies for the poor, who have minimal purchasing power and are very hard to reach. This market failure can be addressed by designing useful, innovative and affordable technologies and equipment that can be sold to the poor; however, it can only succeed if subsidies are available for building a private sector supply chain and establishing strong market demand.

Innovation and Activities
KickStart’s mission is to help millions of people out of poverty through developing and bringing to market new low-cost technologies and services that local, dynamic entrepreneurs can use to establish and run profitable small scale enterprises and that offer waged jobs. KickStart trains private sector manufacturers to mass-produce the tools, and uses innovative marketing techniques to sell them to entrepreneurs in poor communities through a network of local retail shops.

Because 80% of the poor in Africa are rural farmers, KickStart’s best-selling devices are MoneyMaker micro-irrigation pumps. These simple, human-powered pumps enable farmers to start small businesses that grow and sell high-value fruits and vegetables throughout the year. They can recover their investment in three months, make on average US$ 1,100 in profits per year, and increase their net farm incomes by up to 1,000%. KickStart’s micro-irrigation pumps have been identified as one of Newsweek’s “Ten Inventions That Will Change Your World”.

As of September 2011, 188,000 micro-irrigation pumps have been sold, 125,000 enterprises have been created and 625,000 people have been lifted out of poverty. Every month more than 1,600 new businesses are created, which generate new revenue equivalent to more than 0.6% of Kenya's GDP and 0.25% of Tanzania’s GDP. With a 15:1 return on investment, every US$ 1 donated results in US$ 15 in new profits and wages for the small businesses.

KickStart seeks to develop a significant middle class in Africa by stimulating the growth of a thriving entrepreneurial sector. Beginning with Kenya and Tanzania, then in Mali and Burkina Faso, and now in Malawi and Zambia it seems well on its way to attaining that goal.

The Entrepreneurs
Nick Moon grew up in India and south-east Asia. He learned woodworking and construction skills and started a building renovation business in London. In 1982 he sold his share of the company and left for Kenya as a VSO volunteer. He later joined ActionAid where he met Martin Fisher. In 2002 Nick received an MBA from the University of Durham. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Commerce and Manufactures.

Martin Fisher received an MSc and PhD at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering. It was not until he spent a summer in Peru that he considered applying his knowledge to help people in the developing world. He went to Kenya on a Fulbright scholarship in 1985 and never looked back. Nick and Martin co-founded KickStart in 1991.

Among the many awards received: US State Department "Innovation Award for the Empowerment of Women and Girls" (2012), Forbes Magazine Impact 30 List - World's leading social entrepreneurs (2011), Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability (2008), Social Capitalist Award Fast Company Magazine & the Monitor Group (2007), Skoll Social Entrepreneur (2005), Gleitsman Award of Achievement (2003).