FIP 129: Using Design Thinking in the Needfinding Process 2/3, with Juliana Proserpio of Echos Innovation Lab

In this episode of the Finding Impact Podcast I talk to Juliana Proserpio, Co-founder and Chief Design Officer of Echos Innovation Lab, on using Design Thinking in the needfinding process. Juliana talks about her work at Echos Innovation Lab and how it supports organizations and entrepreneurs to use the design thinking mindset for accelerating cultural change and creating new services and business models to create desirable futures.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Echos Innovation Lab has built a for-profit business that works with organizations to create and foster innovation initiatives, as well as building the design capability of individuals and organizations to create better and human-centered services through its School of Design Thinking. (01:30)
  • Design thinking is a way to understand people and people’s needs that helps develop solutions which address these needs better. The design thinking mindset is thus based on empathy, collaboration and experimentation. (02:37)
  • The double-diamond methodology of design thinking that focusses on using divergence and convergence methods for expanding knowledge of user needs (also called “discovery process” or “empathetic research”) and then converging (“synthesis”) upon real needs and specific ideas or insights that create value for the user. (04:15)
  • Tools for synthesizing, such as systems map, personas, etc., that can help in developing insights by understanding information patterns and interconnections. (11:30)
  • Key suggestions on how to manage the ideation stage of design thinking by thinking about quantity and not necessarily only quality (“you can only get to an amazing idea once you get some absurd ideas”). (15:36)
  • That design thinking is an iterative process where you ideate, prototype and test, while iterating and going back and forth between the various phases. (19:27)
  • Why social entrepreneurs need to have creative confidence for re-imagining how the world can be, and how design thinking aids in developing creative confidence. (23:21)
  • Advice for students and young founders looking to develop social ventures on how they can use design thinking to identify challenges within their communities (“near their doors”) – acting locally, starting small, and helping create value within the community first, and then aim at creating bigger impact (“dream big and start small”). (24:55)
  • About the School of Design Thinking at the Echos Innovation Lab, that helps individuals and organizations become better innovators through classroom programs and online courses on various design thinking topics. (26:30)
  • Examples of participants in the design thinking courses (such as Insecta Shoes) who have applied design thinking to their needfinding process and how it has helped them deliver the desired outcomes. (28:44)
  • Advice for first-time founders and social entrepreneurs to navigate the lockdown and the post COVID-19 situation – it is an opportunity for each one of us to re-design our world, where every assumption is being challenged, and the need for businesses to pivot their product or service in order to remain relevant. (30:52)

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Juliana:

FIP 128: The principles of fundraising, building teams and asking for advice with Jack Lowe of the Fit For Life Foundation

I’m very honoured to speak to Jack Lowe this week. He’s come on share lessons learnt throughout his 40 year career in microfinance and the startup world.

Jack was asked to become CEO of BlueOrchard Investments in 2004 — a microfinance fund that he grew from $40 million to close to $1 billion, stretching to 45 countries. It became the largest private microfinance lender in the world. Jack graduated from Stanford in 1965, joined McKinsey in 1969, and went on to grow a string of successful startups, from oil and gas to food distribution and restaurants. Jack is currently building another startup, Fit for Life Foundation, helping people stay active and age well.

On this show you’ll learn:

  • The fundamental difference between the business and non-profit sector (2.24)
  • The experience of pitching the microfinance fund to pension funds, family offices and institutional investors (4.57)
  • The two basic principles of fundraising (7.41)
  • How to know when something’s not working and to try something else (11.19)
  • Professional intimacy and other insights from building teams (14.12)
  • Using a network and calling on people for help and advice (18.45)
  • Getting out of a tough spot and avoiding depression (24.15)
  • Advice to his younger self (31.54)
  • Why exercise and ageing well is the feature of Jack’s next startup (36.31)
  • 3 quick fire questions (44.08)

Links from this episode

Get in touch with Jack

FIP 127: How to shift your attitude to perform at your best, with Scott Roy of Whitten & Roy Partnership

This episode is about the one thing that changes everything — mindset. Or attitude. We’re living in tough times, and often, our mindset, our attitude, our outlook, can hold us back. With fear, worry, panic, stress, all these different emotions entering our day at some point. All these things hold us back. But, with the understanding of how our minds work, and with the tools to shift our attitude, we can accept this new reality and choose to take action.

“We can’t make PPE. But we are experts on attitude and we know how people can change their mindset.”

I’m joined by Scott Roy, CEO of Whitten Roy Partnership. Scott is an expert in the art of selling and sales management. According to Scott, attitude is the most important component of successful selling, which is why they are experts in attitude and how people can change their mindset to generate optimal results for their organisation.

Listen to this episode to learn:

  • About the process you can take to shift your own attitude and the eBooklet that WRP are offering free to download on their website.
  • Understand the different forms of attitude, from overwhelm to possibility, so you can recognise which you’re in and then what you can do with it.
  • We talk about for the four states of overwhelm, which are compulsion, obligation, survival and impossibility.
    • Compulsion: Panic buying is a form of compulsion. It’s the feeling that you have to do things to fix this, to get ahead, to make it go away. It’s an obsession. It saps alot of your energy. An example is having to watch the news, to not miss anything – to see how many people had died and what was happening next.
    • The next state is obligation. This is where you’re so overwhelmed and exhausted, that you give up on trying to change things, you just put up with it. Like you’re now in quarantine, you complain about it, you moan about it to your friends, etc. There’s not very much you can actually do, other than muddle your way through it
    • Next is a state of survival, which is like running around like a headless chicken
    • Next is a state of impossibility, when you think there’s nothing you can do, you’re frozen, and you hold up your hands in resignation.
  • To understand these states of overwhelm is to know how our mind works. It makes conclusions, demands and predictions, and we can interpret our thoughts through these lenses.
    • Conclusions: this is the worse crisis the world has ever known…
    • Demands: this has to stop, things have to get back to normal, someone has to do something, I have to do something…
    • Predictions: things will never be the same again, we will never recover from this, my business will never recover, things will be much harder…
  • Then, once you’ve understood these states of overwhelm, take some deep breaths, in through your nose for 4 seconds and out 4 seconds. Do this 3-4 times. Feel yourself settled. Then say out loud “This is really happening, we’re in a pandemic, this is real. And I accept it.”
  • The next step is deciding what you’re going to do about this. It’s about choosing your response to those things you care about, rather than being led or blindly following an automatic response from your brain.
  • And finally, the last step is aiming. Say “I want this because…. And I want that because I want…” and keep repeating this, and find what’s possible.
  • So in summary:
    • First step: Recognise youre in overwhelm. That you have to be transparent, not just show the brave face, but share your nervousness, that you’re not feeling confident about the future.
    • Second step: inquiry — to understand why you’re in overwhelm. What conclusions-demands-predictions am I making?
    • Third step: generating brilliance — to boldly and confidently choose what you’re going to do about the situation, which is within your control.
  • WRP are offering free live public experiences throughout May. You can book or download the eBooklet by visiting the link below. Or you can get in touch and request a lead consultant lead your company through this free of charge.

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Scott:



FIP 126: How Business Can Respond to a Crisis with James Mwangi representing Safe Hands Kenya

This is the best business response to COVID-19 the world will ever see.

We’re joined by James Mwangi of Dalberg Group. He’s representing Safe Hands Kenya, a coalition of Kenyan businesses who’ve come together to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. They’re distributing free hand sanitiser, soap, face masks and surface disinfectants to all Kenyans, as a first line of defence against COVID-19.

(Shownotes to follow. Posting in haste – the world needs to hear this story.)


Amanda Cotterman Headshot

FIP 125: Venture Debt Fund for revenue-generating businesses during COVID-19 with Amanda Cotterman

Today’s challenge is for those businesses who’re seeing a temporary loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis, but also anyone in the business of raising capital, and interested in different funding instruments.

We’ve got Amanda Cotterman on the show, and we’re talking about the fund she’s raising, Equalife Capital’s Africa Venture Debt COVID Recovery Fund. We help you understand whether this funding instrument is right for your enterprise or if you’re a donor or investor, whether you might want to put some capital towards this fund.

What you’ll learn on this episode:

  • Amanda works for Equalife Group. They’re raising a $20M venture debt fund. It’s for businesses that are revenue generating and cashflow positive, and have a specific revenue stream or they want to prove out a revenue stream to get a better valuation. The debt would need to be serviced.
  • Examples of appropriate businesses include:-
    • Agriculture businesses e.g. a milk distribution business that pays farmers up front, before going to market
    • A wholesale distributor in Rwanda, who buys from farmers, adds value to veg by cleaning and packaging, and sells to hospitality market.A
    • FinTech factoring business, that pays against invoices.
  • Businesses that have a genuine liquidity issue are most suited to this fund, so there’s good product market fit, there’s a demand for their product, but it’s just a matter of sourcing sufficient working capital to cover purchases in the short term.
  • How the fund could be used to weather the COVID-19 storm:
    • Businesses might have seen a drop in revenue and need cash to weather the storm. They don’t want to take on more equity.
  • Amanda has been an entrepreneur in Kenya for 9 years , working in an operational role with several ventures. She moved to Kenya after working in Asian markets with Morgan Stanley. With a deep understanding of financial instruments and the needs of African ventures, she saw the gap for debt to come in alongside venture capital. The debt can be useful where the venture has a profitable revenue stream and wants to demonstrate the potential to gain a higher valuation, but is struggling with cashflow. Shareholders don’t want to dilute their shareholding by using equity to support with cashflow needs.
  • The venture fund prices for the risk, so interest in the range of 5-10%.

Links to useful resources:

Connect with Amanda:

FIP 124: Using Design Thinking in the Needfinding Process with Elizabeth Knight

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we find out how design thinking concepts can be used to improve the needfinding process and ideation. We talk with Elizabeth Knight, Founder of Purposeful, a new social enterprise empowering young people to create careers driven by purpose. Purposeful gives young people a structured way of finding their purpose. It’s their mission to help an entire generation feel confident, motivated, and excited about their futures.
They’re founded by young people, for young people and they’re launching their first series of programs in 2020.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Andy and Elizabeth are dealing with the new world of COVID 19 – structured journaling with pen and paper. (3:55)
  • What is needfinding and why is it important? (4:30)
    • It’s important because it’s a shift in terms of how we think about entrepreneurship and creating value as an entrepreneur; building a business or enterprise around a need (real problem) rather than a singular idea gives greater scope to produce value and to solve a problem in a sustainable way; it’s about core needs and what people are willing to pay for.
  • If you take away the beginning pressure of having to come up with a business model that’s going to be profitable but focus on finding a real need that people are experiencing then you get to know that problem in a lot more intimate way and the more you become the expert on that problem the better; potential profitable is short-term thinking nowadays. (7:05)
  • If we’re designing solutions for lower income people in informal settlements (11:03)
    • Design thinking gives you a tool / framework to explore that problem in more detail.
  • How design thinking has helped Elizabeth. (13:57)
    • Helpful for simplifying her problem down into its core essence which helped in communicating to other people; but also challenged her biases, assumptions, etc.
  • When does she know that enough is enough and when to move on? (20:20)
    There is a tipping point where you’ve done so much validation that it can become confusing; when you get to that point that is when strategic thinking is important particularly for early stage founders.
  • Tools that people can use in this process: (25:52)
    • Lean canvas – essentially a one page business plan which captures your assumptions, the problem you’re trying to solve, your solution, your customers, revenue stream, unique value, etc. all on one page; does not account for the role of the individual and does not allow you to explore what you’re passionate about and your strengths.
    • Empathy – not a bad thing to overcompensate; always put yourself back into your customers shoes.

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Elizabeth:

FIP 123: How this young founder is bootstrapping his EdTech Startup, with Cyril Michino of Chaptr Global

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we find out how a young founder bootstrapped his startup and the lessons he learnt in wannapreneurship. We talk with Cyril Michino, co-founder of Chaptr Global and hear about his entrepreneurial journey having founded 2 startups by the age of 21 and learn that capital is not a barrier for starting up. Cyril shares his experiences around the challenges faced by young founders and how he’s innovating around such challenges by adopting innovative revenue-sharing business models.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • How Cyril started his first business – Deliverus, an e-commerce platform in Nairobi, quite accidentally when he was just 17, based on an idea that he and his friends came up with for a high school business plan competition. (03:38)
  • Cyril shares how he overcame the challenge of lack of experience, being a young founder, and used tools such as YouTube videos for creating pitch decks, learning marketing techniques, etc. He also shares how he kept his curiosity levels high by reading blogs and articles to learn how things work out in a business and trying to find answers though online resources as much as possible. (09:47)
  • About what went wrong with Cyril’s first startup as they set out to focus on things such as getting the infrastructure ready, building the best mobile application, planning a big launch, etc., – things that Cyril calls “entrepreneurial naivety”, irrelevant from an entrepreneurship point of view and leads to wannapreneurship. Cyril also shares these, and many more insights based on this experience on what’s stopping entrepreneurs from actually starting up and also what’s holding back entrepreneurship in Africa in his TEDx talk (check resources below for the link to the talk). (13:26)
  • One of the critical things about being a young founder is to invest time in building a team with skills who solve the gaps that the founder personally has, like for example in Cyril’s case, he learnt that they needed people with real experience in managing deliveries, logistics, order fulfilment, things that cannot be learnt online but comes only with experience. (16:13)
  • Cyril then shares his journey of starting up his new blended learning edtech platform – Chaptr Global, that helps teach emerging technologies, such as AI, data science, blockchain to people in emerging markets, using an income sharing model, where students can sign-up for courses without upfront payment and pay later when they start earning upon graduation from the program. (19:34)
  • Finally, Cyril shares a powerful quote, based on his experience that says –“if you’re an entrepreneur and you cannot start off your idea in two weeks, then you’re probably not the best person for that thing”. As a young founder, it is important to be able to start work on something that the founder can personally start and build an MVP in less than two weeks. Once the MVP is built, the founder can then focus on learning aspects to improve the MVP, finding product-market fit and growing it into a venture. (21:50)

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Cyril:


FIP 122: How to build processes and systems for scale, with Boston Nyer of BURN Manufacturing 

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we are talking to Boston Nyer, co-founder of BURN. Boston’s played a wide variety of roles during his 8 years at BURN, including COO, where he was tasked with setting up processes in their factory in Nairobi that makes more than one stove per minute. It’s the largest of its kind on the continent.

On this episode you will learn:

  • An intro to his background, to BURN, and how BURN is structured. 1:48. 
  • How BURN is split up by departments. 6:00.
    • Four pillars: 1) Innovation (ie. new product development, piloting sales models, distribution schemes, etc.), 2) Operations (ie.manufacturing and supply chain), 3) Commercial (sales marketing), 4) Finance and Business support (Admin, IT, and HR). 
    • Which of these four areas Boston realized he needed to formalize by establishing systems and procedures. 7:00. 
  • How Boston would start making a procedure. 10:32.
    • Start with and have the right vision on how you’re going to succeed on the market as well as operational side. 
    • Find expertise externally if you do not have it internally. Find two or three experts who disagree with each other, and where they disagree is the spotlight of the area that you can play in. 
    • Avoid the trap of making systems to make systems. 
    • Start early and often. 21:50.
  • How Boston introduces new processes to staff without too much pushback. 18:02.
    • Skipfab? – Why, How, What
  • How often he revisits procedures. 23:10.
    • It’s continuous, although some things have more of a natural cycle, like launching a new product. 
  • Create a forum for conversation of sharing of ideas which might or might not be winners. 25:10.
  • How Boston gets people to follow processes. 27:37.
    • Make them and refine them so that they are inherently obvious. 
    • Bonus system to pay people for quality. 
  • Resources that Boston would recommend: The Finding Impact podcast, conduct research via google, be self driven, go find external experts, d-rev. 32:10.

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Boston:

FIP 121: Maintaining culture with growth through scale, with Paul Breloff of Shortlist

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we are talking about the challenges of maintaining culture as your social business scales, and tactics for how to adapt and scale your culture, with Paul Breloff of Shortlist. Paul’s company, Shortlist, helps companies build and develop their teams through a new approach to hiring. Particularly, we’ll be talking about Paul’s experience as he grew Shortlist’s team across two continents and to nearly 100 people and lessons he’s learned from the entrepreneurs at companies Shortlist works with.

On this podcast you will learn:

  • The definition to the word Shwashbuckle. 0:58.
  • Why he got into “talent;” his background is mostly in non-talent social enterprise and impact investing after advertising and corporate law. For about 14-15 years now, very focused on financial inclusion and initially was part of a team who set up a community development bank in the US which led to Accion Venture Lab.  The theme underlying all of this has always been looking at for-profit business models which can expand access to opportunities in different ways. 2:30.
    • Saw a talent gap in companies and how culture could enable or disable teams in doing things.
  • Realized that investors comfort zone was talking about fundraising and strategy. The messy reality of building teams and getting the right people on those teams are something that doesn’t get talked about as much, but they often make or break whether these companies work. So Shortlist emerged from those experiences. 6:12.
  • Shortlist created a platform (now close to 1 million people) that connects skilled professionals to great careers in India and Kenya, using tech tools that automates the collection of data points beyond their CV. 8:08.
  • How Paul came to define Shortlist’s culture. 10:10.
    • Culture should come from the co-founders. A key part of defining the culture was setting strong core values, which are: own it, act with intention, find the adventure, be a whole person, and one team.
  • Core values can adapt! Shortlist added “one team” after realizing the importance of this after a merger with another company and now they make it a major priority. 18:56.
  • Challenges he faced maintaining culture across multiple continents and what process or activities he put in place to help develop it. Tried to create consistency, and enough opportunities for exchange so people could get to know each other. But distributed teams is probably the future. 21:15.
    • Things that have worked: 1) Creating global informal places to spark chatter and sharing of personality. E.g. Their global WhatsApp group is quite active, silly, not very professional, but lets people throw emoji’s back and forth. 2) Creating face-to-face opportunities for real time connection, ie. making sure the team travels between India and Kenya. 3) Investing in technology that allows you to stay connected remotely. 4) Monthly remote town halls which get the whole office together to say hello to new employees, goodbye to employees moving on, promotions, etc. 24:30.
    • Any pushback from Board members or investors about having too much fun? No. “A startup’s most important product is the team, and making sure it works well. I think our stakeholders believe that and want us to invest in that.” 30:45.
  • Resources (books) that Paul would recommend to others: The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, Setting the Table by Danny Meyer, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (Zappos CEO), Primed to Perform by Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor. 32:10.

Resources from this episode:

Connect with Paul:

FIP 120: Adapting management and leadership styles for scale, with Glynis Rankin

This week on the Finding Impact Podcast, we are talking about how founders of social enterprises can transition from being a product builder to company builder, with Glynis Rankin from Creative Metier. Glynis is the CEO of Creative Metier, a niche consultancy that works with social impact investors and their investees to support social enterprises and small and growing businesses in emerging markets through executive coaching, human capital resources, and organizational strengthening.

On this podcast, you will learn:

  • How founders shift their leadership and management styles as their social enterprise scales, by looking at issues such as delegation, role of culture and values, coaching styles, etc.
  • The key difference between leadership and management roles in early stage social enterprises, where the core objectives of the leadership role are to set the strategic vision for the business, manage the interface between the business and the external environment, and inspire others to engage in it. Whereas, the management role is about the day-to-day activities to achieve the strategic business plan and deliver results.
  • The importance of delegation and coaching as a necessary leadership style so that the founder can pass on responsibility of key business functions and driving the business to others within the organization, while the founder can focus on other key aspects of aligning the culture and values with the business vision and future growth.
  • About examples of Creative Metier’s programs to support small businesses and social enterprise founders in making the transition to a delegation and coaching style of leadership in line with their business objectives and values.
  • And finally, Glynis shares excellent resources that are useful to social entrepreneurs and small business founders as they think about shifting their leadership styles and prepare to transition their business for growth and scale. The links for the resources are provided below.

Links to Resources:

Connect with Glynis: