The “Cassava Tech” team testing out their Gari roaster in Palo Alto
Burro has been chosen by Stanford University as one of five global partners for the school’s prestigious Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability program in 2013. This renowned multidisciplinary program pairs Stanford graduate students with innovative developing-world companies to design real-world solutions to problems facing low-income people.
The partnership will allow us to move forward rapidly with some new business and product ideas in rural Ghana.
Over the next six months, eight Stanford students will work directly with Burro—on the ground in Ghana and in the U.S.—on two Burro design projects: “Ready to Run,” a portable battery business for off-grid entrepreneurs; and “Cassava Tech,” an initiative to identify efficiencies in harvesting and processing cassava, one of the world’s most important staple crops.
The “Cassava Tech” Team
The “Ready to Run” Team
Both projects have long been identified by Whit and his team as holding the potential for life-changing benefits in Ghana and beyond—but until now the Burro team did not have the resources or time to explore them. Starting in late March, the Stanford team, along with Burro’s own staff, will be fanning out around Koforidua and across Ghana—meeting with customers, resellers, and leading Ghanaian researchers to collaborate on these exciting new ideas.
Burro Employee Cecilia Charging Batteries in Koforidua
The nine-year-old Design for Extreme Affordability program, known on the Stanford campus as “Extreme,” is offered by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design through the Graduate School of Business and the School of Mechanical Engineering. Like the 2007 Cooper-Hewitt Museum show Design for the Other 90 Percent, the Stanford program focuses on bridging the gap between modern design (which typically serves high-income Western consumers) and the needs of the world’s low-income families.
An important component is demonstrating that innovative, life-enhancing design can be both affordable by the needy and profitable for businesses and entrepreneurs. The Extreme program helped jumpstart a world-leading supplier of solar lighting solutions, a provider of breakthrough drip-irrigation technology, and the leading provider of manual irrigation pumps in Southeast Asia. Among its partner “alumns” are such distinguished companies as Technoserve and iDE, a leader in the development of innovative technologies to enhance incomes.
The selection of Burro follows months of preparation, during which Stanford faculty identified us as having both an intimate connection to the needs of low-income citizens, and the ability to implement design ideas on a large scale. (A rough cut video of course co-instructor Jim Patell’s field visit with Burro is here.) Of course that’s not news to us—it’s the core of our business plan—but it sure is gratifying to be recognized by this distinguished group. Finding needs and solutions are what get us out of bed every morning, and now we’ve got a world-class team working with us. Stay tuned to this page for more updates as the Extreme team gets to work next week in Ghana.