Welcome to part II of the ?Endeavor? series. You may recall that part I involved a rather interesting conversation
with Dan Isenberg
, a Harvard Business School professor who had written a case about Endeavor entrepreneur, Lapdesk. Given that dialogue, it seemed only natural to continue the dialogue with Shane Immelman
, founder and CEO of Lapdesk. So with no further ado, let?s have a chat with Shane.Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
What inspired you to found Lapdesk?Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
Simply put - if we ever hope to meaningfully address global poverty, then the answer must be to provide children in emerging markets with quality education - by doing so we will at least ensure that these children will be equipped to participate effectively in the societies within which they live, and will then have the opportunity to create a better future for themselves. The Lapdesk Company was founded with this in mind, as tens of millions of children the world over lack basic infrastructural equipment that will contribute to their quality education - a classroom desk.Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
Why did you decide to create a business with a social mission instead of a traditional charity? Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
We are addressing a major challenge facing education in emerging markets globally. Dealing with this issue will significantly contribute to the development of these economies in which multi-national corporations are or will become active, and will also significantly reduce the financial burden on governments, NGOs and international agencies over time.
To achieve these results requires the most professional and / or entrepreneurial individuals that we are able to engage with, to participate on a full-time basis in our programme of work - either directly or through our Territory Partnership model. In this regard we are competing for human and business resources with the best corporations and organizations.
As such, we need to be able to attract this talent through the kind of offering that only a business could reasonably provide. We are constantly on the lookout for individuals and Territory Partners who have a developed sense and understanding of the pressures and expectations faced by an organisation to ultimately ensure its success, and who are prepared to totally commit themselves to ensure the objectives of the organisation are achieved - in this instance ensuring that children are equipped with classroom desks.
Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
How did Lapdesk?s dual-purpose design evolve? Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
There needed to be a sound value proposition to ensure corporations?, NGOs and International agencies? participation. After all, why should they become involved in addressing what is essentially a responsibility of government? The media mix in emerging markets is generally poor, with few effective options for these organisations to deliver their respective brand communication or community oriented communication strategies and messaging; for corporations wanting to lock into the long-term BoP opportunity, this is especially challenging.
With the understanding that no emerging market government can reasonably address every social development challenge in the immediate short term without the investment and support of leading global corporations, NGOs and agencies, it made sense to create a model that would benefit government (providing an effective alternative to the traditional classroom desk) benefiting sponsors (addressing the BoP sector in a cost-effective, sustainable manner) and addressing the challenge (children receive their very own Lapdesk).Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
How has Lapdesk evolved since its founding? Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
The Lapdesk Company is active in more than a dozen countries across Africa, is presently completing our pilot project study in India, and has additionally set up fund-raising operations in Denmark and the USA. In addition to our current presence and Territory Partnerships, we expect to be active in Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi and the DRC by the end of Q3 2008.? We are also completing pilot project studies in India , and will be active in that country from Q1 2009.
Looking ahead we are focusing on identifying suitable parties for partnering across Latin America, the Sub-Continent and South East Asia at the earliest possible opportunity - in pursuit of our goal to be active in 40+ countries by the end of 2010. Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
What enabled you to ?export? Lapdesk?s business model? Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
We have a proven model and successful track record, and are affiliated to a growing number of corporations, NGO's, International agencies, quality peer organisations and institutions who are collectively enabling and accelerating our work. Through our various networks and a developing global audience we are able to reach out to quality individuals and organisations who wish to work with us in addressing and resolving this issue in their own countries. On completion of our due diligence process we then provide them with a turn-key business solution - a surefire methodology for expansion as we de-risk the respective Territory Partner operations from the outset, and therefore provide them with the greatest chance of success. Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
Lapdesk is a business with a social mission, but it also supports children?s education as a philanthropic effort. What prompted this decision? Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
Our sponsors and supporters set a charitable example by being involved in our work - we also want to 'do well by doing good' and should reasonably follow their example. Additionally there are so many talented children that we encounter who benefit exponentially from having the opportunity to attend better or prestigious schools in their respective countries - by providing them with this type of opportunity we irrevocably and positively alter the course of their lives, and the lives of their families, friends and even communities.Tayo Akinyemi, NextBillion.net:
Any exciting news from the desk of Shane Immelman? We?ve heard that you were recently selected as an African Leadership Institute, Desmond Tutu Fellow 2008
. Shane Immelman, Lapdesk:
Through our relationship with Endeavor and their vast network we are continuing our aggressive expansion strategy into Latin America, India and the sub-continent over the next 2 years.
Being selected as a 2008 Desmond Tutu Fellow and becoming part of the African Leadership Institute is an immense honor, and really is a tremendous validation of our work. I have also recently been nominated for the Schwab Foundation's 2008 Social Entrepreneur of the Year, and have been notified that I have reached the final evaluation round (hold thumbs - results to be announced November 2008).
On the product front, in addition to our the expansion of our education-related work, we are expanding our work in BOP-centric lifestyle products with 2 new product initiatives relating to the (more) effective access and use of water - a product that guarantees safe drinking water and effective water transportation, as well as a manual washing machine that will eradicate the need for hand washing whilst reducing washing time by half and washing-related water consumption by up to 40%.
Given Lapdesk?s success with, well, the Lapdesk, time will tell whether the company?s model is as flexible as it is exportable. Stay tuned!A special thanks to Shane Immelman, David Auerbach and Laura Esnaola for making this interview possible.