KickStart International is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to lift millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably.
KickStart’s vision of success is to take millions of people out of poverty sustainably, and in doing so, to change the way the world fights poverty. We see the untapped entrepreneurial drive in the world’s poorest people and harness this potential for massive change.
An estimated 40 million small-scale farmers in Africa have access to sufficient renewable water resources to adopt KickStart’s technologies on their farms and turn them into profitable businesses that generate food and income year-round.
Hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent providing aid and other forms of assistance to African countries. Though well-intentioned, there has been little sustainable return on these investments. In sub-Saharan Africa, securing enough food and money to meet basic human needs remains a daily, all-consuming struggle for hundreds of millions of people.
KickStart’s founders, Dr. Martin Fisher and Nick Moon, saw this challenge from a unique perspective. Very different paths led each founder to initially work for the same large development agency in Kenya, where they fortuitously met.
Martin excelled in academia, earning two degrees from Cornell University before completing his Ph.D. in engineering at Stanford. It was after his graduation when he first encountered extreme poverty. In all its depth and nuance, poverty struck him as a great engineering challenge facing mankind.
Nick, on the other hand, was born in Mumbai to British parents and exposed to the dynamism of the developing world from a young age. A strong-willed idealist, he sought alternatives to traditional education and left school at the age of 17 to pursue his own entrepreneurial endeavors around the world.
Upon meeting in their first job as development practitioners, Martin and Nick compared observations and shared frustrations over the fleeting impacts of the projects on which they worked. They soon discovered that their vastly different experiences had culminated in a shared recognition of the need to examine the shortcomings of traditional development.
Martin and Nick took a look at the work they had done to answer this vital, but controversial question. When the pair felt they had identified some of the root causes of these failures, they took these takeaways to their supervisors and other leaders of the major aid programs in the region. What they found were big bureaucracies closed to new ideas. Critical self-examination was not only discouraged, it was considered dangerous.
Far from heeding this discouragement, Martin and Nick’s desire to put their takeaways into action grew stronger with each indication that there was a sector-wide resistance to new approaches to development.
They remained convinced that there was a better way to address poverty—a model that would bring together the power of technology with the proven sustainability of the marketplace and private sector.
Martin, rooted in his engineering background, believed that the right technology could change the lives of millions of people. Nick’s own entrepreneurial experience and appetite for risk added another layer: individuals must have the opportunity to invest in and purchase these technologies themselves. Both agreed that the number one need of the poor is a way to make more money and that, with income security, individuals would prioritize and address their remaining needs for themselves.
They decided to take on a risk that the private sector was not willing to: designing a product exclusively for some of the poorest people in the world, rural African farmers, that would enable them to make a lot more money. Rather than giving these technologies away, they set out to sell them at an affordable price.
In 1991, Martin and Nick founded ApproTEC, now KickStart International, based on their confidence in good design and the entrepreneurial spirit of individuals. They reframed beneficiaries as customers and the products and programs born out of this pivot have since empowered over 1,000,000 people to lift themselves out of poverty on their own terms.