By Rob Beyer - Villgro Africa Executive Chairman & Co-founder, Villgro Africa
From the early days when I first met with the founder of Villgro Innovations Foundations, Paul Basil, I was drawn in by both the passion and the belief in how the practical application of business solutions can improve the lives of the poor and underserved. To many, this combination can be considered mutually exclusive, but the Villgro Kenya team is proving that it is not only possible, but also points us towards a future where more African entrepreneurs can bring more innovations to more people under a market-based philosophy.
When I reflect on the journey of the last five years, three things standout:
While having three co-founders can be considered many, it has proven to be key to the success of Villgro Kenya. Robert, Wilfred, and I bring different perspectives of looking at opportunities (and risks), enabling Villgro to see many blind spots that a sole founder may miss – and not to mention that we are good friends! As others have now joined the team, we are grateful for tremendous talent and continued growth. There is no doubt that we have a core team who are ready to embark on an expanded vision and journey.
When the journey of building Villgro Kenya started, we actively sought out the help and assistance of those who have travelled a similar path and sought their insights and wisdom. We are incredibly grateful for our board members and those mentors who believed in us enough to even place their name and networks behind it.
After being initially ‘bootstrapped’ by Grand Challenges Canada, the Lemelson Foundation was the first large funder who backed the dream of expanding Villgro to Kenya, followed by the Argidius Foundation and USAID. As a start-up, these partnerships and funding opportunities are incredibly invigorating to the team and it is the fuel that has enabled us to accomplish what we have done since our inception.
As Villgro Kenya expands its work to impact the entire continent, we are committed to continually reminding ourselves of the lessons from our first five years. We will continue to build a team that we want to journey with, seeking out guides who can provide us with expertise and resources, and surrounding ourselves with fellow believers of our mission and vision.