Evaluation: Villgro Kenya
Villgro Kenya was founded in 2015 to solve Africa’s toughest health challenges through inspiring and supporting early stage, innovation-based social enterprise. Villgro Kenya is replicating Villgro Innovations Foundation’s (VIF) proven incubation model that over the preceding 15 years has supported over 119 innovators in India. Argidius partnered with Villgro Kenya in 2017 to support the incubation and pre-seed and seed funding of 27 social enterprises in East Africa.
Villgro Kenya’s support, typically lasting 2 to 3 years, consists of grant funding; active engagement from the team on the business model, product development, and funding; diagnostic panels with external experts; mentorship; and connections to organizations and investors in the ecosystem that might further support the social enterprise. As at the end of 2019, 20 enterprises had commenced incubation, generating €1M in incremental revenue, mobilizing €9M in finance, and creating 81 full time jobs. Most supported enterprises had less than €5k in revenue at baseline. In 2019 an independent evaluation was commissioned to assess the effectiveness of Villgro Kenya and provide a series of recommendations. It should be noted that the evaluation was carried out relatively early in the project, and the enterprises supported are very early stage businesses.
Early project findings:
- Villgro are unique in the East African healthcare innovation space, and early stage businesses in this space are grateful for the support.
- The grant money is especially important for businesses requiring clinical trials to validate their offering
- The rigorous due diligence is a key value add to both the earliest stage enteprsies and the more advanced enterprises. The process helps entrepreneurs refine their business models, consider their market opportunity, their commitment to the business, and how they present their business model.
- Entrepreneurs appreciate having an advisor, sparring partner, and cheerleader on their side, and the support to increasingly focus.
- Villgro’s contribution to the success of participating businesses is mixed. The factors listed above have contributed to the development of a number of participants, however two of the three biggest success stories so far had low engagement levels with Villgro. While there are examples of the different components of support delivering value, there is a lack of consistency at which several do so. Recommendations to strengthen the offering include:
- Refining the grant disbursement process in a more entrepreneur-friendly way
- Further customize the business coaching to get the frequency, pace, and intensity right for each business
- Expand the quantity and quality of mentors and those that serve on the diagnostic panels
- Deepen efforts to build the future pipeline