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Martin J. Fisher

Martin is co-founder and CEO of KickStart International (previously ApproTEC). After a PhD in Engineering at Stanford he went to Kenya on a Fulbright and stayed 17 years. He established a large WASH program at ActionAid and led the installation of ~100,000 pit latrines in Kenyan refugee camps. In 1991 he and Nick Moon co-founded ApproTEC, a non-profit SE with a mission to help millions in sub-Saharan Africa to earn a lot more money. As a pioneer in proving how social business models can be used to fight poverty, Martin has designed multiple ‘money-making’ tools for micro/small enterprises including a soil-block press that has been used to build ~1M rooms. Since 1999, KickStart has enabled >390,000 smallholders to pivot from rainfed to irrigated farming enabling over 1.5 million women, men and children to climb out of poverty and adapt to climate change. They design and promote lowest cost irrigation pumps, sell them in 17 countries through private-sector suppliers, work with hundreds of development players to reach and educate farmers and advocate for system changes to promote irrigation. Amongst multiple awards Martin/KickStart has been named a Skoll and Schwab SE, Time European Hero and Stanford Engineering Hero. In his spare time, he is an avid hiker, biker and explorer.

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KickStart International
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Hybrid Social Enterprise
Agriculture, Food and Beverage; Sustainable Development; Social Innovation
Areas of Impact
North America, Africa, South Sudan, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Malawi, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda

KickStart International

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's work addresses a market failure where governements and private sector are not investing in the opportunities and potential of base of the pyramid markets. As a result this solution can only succeed if subsidies are available for building a private sector supply chain and establishing strong market demand.

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 $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 $1 donated results in $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.


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