Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

KickStart: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists


San Francisco, California

Cofounder and CEO: Martin Fisher

Previous winner: 2005

What it does: KickStart sells farmers in sub-Saharan Africa--many of whom live on less than $1 a day--the technology to lift themselves out of poverty. Its top seller: an $88 foot-driven irrigation pump that allows farmers to grow three or four crop cycles annually and sell fruits and vegetables throughout the dry season.

Results: KickStart estimates that each pump can raise a small farm's income from $110 to $1,100 annually, lifting a family out of poverty. Its tools generate more than $38 million in profits and wages each year.

Social impact: A+
Aspiration and growth: A+
Entrepreneurship: A-
Innovation: A+
Sustainability: B

Winner's Statement

KickStart's mission is to get millions of people in the developing world out of poverty-and to change the way the world fights poverty.

We recognize that poor people today live in a cash economy. Their number one need is a way to make money. Most organizations focus on alleviating the effects of poverty-hunger, disease, and squalor. KickStart addresses the root cause: lack of income. Poor people can only access adequate food, shelter, education and healthcare if they have a reliable source of income.

KickStart's unique market-driven approach focuses on economic empowerment rather than traditional aid. We develop money-making tools and mass-market them to very poor people who buy them and use them to start profitable new businesses. The new incomes lift them out of poverty and transform their lives.

In Africa 80% of the poor are rural farmers who have only one asset-a small plot of land. Irrigation allows them to move from subsistence farming to commercial farming. With irrigation they can grow 3 or 4 crop cycles per year instead of one or two; grow high value crops; and sell them in the dry season when the prices are high. KickStart's best selling, very-low-cost, manual, irrigation pumps enable farmers to irrigate as much as two acres of land.

On average, farmers who buy KickStart MoneyMaker pumps increase their net farm income from $110 to $1,100 per year. This lifts them from poverty into the middle class. For the first time, they can properly feed and educate their children, afford healthcare and invest in their futures.

To date, our pumps and other tools have been used to create nearly 40,000 profitable new businesses in Africa. Together these businesses generate over $40 million in profits and wages each year and have created over 30,000 waged jobs. They have lifted 200,000 people out of poverty forever.

KickStart is changing how the world fights poverty.

Decades and billions of dollars of aid have not ended poverty. In Africa, poverty has gotten worse. It's easy to blame corrupt governments but the real problem is that we continue to implement the same failed methods again and again. Top down approaches are ineffective, massive giveaways create more dependency, and village-based interventions and community-owned businesses collapse once the aid organization leaves.

KickStart is different. We work with the local private sector to build a truly sustainable, scalable and replicable solution to poverty. We develop money making tools and build a profitable supply chain-from manufacturer to retailer-to deliver products to the poor. We use donor funds to subsidize the initial demand creation, but as the demand grows, we can withdraw our support and leave in place a fully profitable and sustainable solution to poverty.

Our plans for the future

Over the next three years KickStart will:

  1. Increase our market development and sell thousands more irrigation pumps to poor farmers in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali
  2. Expand our program to three new African countries
  3. Introduce new lower cost pumps
  4. Develop a financing model so that farmers can buy our pumps on credit
  5. Sell our pumps to other NGOs worldwide

Our goal is to create 80,000 profitable new businesses that will take 400,000 more people out of poverty, and also to continue to prove that, with the right interventions, poverty in Africa can be solved.

And we will do this at a cost of $40 per person lifted from poverty-a total of $16 million over three years. We are looking for individual, foundation and corporate partners to join us in this effort.

Learn more | Get involved

The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.