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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Breaking News: Husk Power Systems Wins $250K Venture Competition

By Rob Katz

Husk Power team in rural Bihar, India

Husk Power Systems, a company we profiled here on NextBillion back in October, was announced today as the winner of the Global Business Plan competition sponsored by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Cisco Systems.  As the winning entrant, Husk Power walks away with $250,000 in seed funding, which they will use to build and operate more power plants in rural areas of Bihar, India's poorest state.

Congratulations to Chip Ransler, Manoj Sinha and the rest of the Husk Power Systems team on this big win.  They have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company and FOX Business.  More PR will inevitably follow.

I am personally extremely excited about this development, not only because I know and like Chip and Manoj.  Part of my excitement stems from the fact that Husk Power is working in some of the poorest, worst-served parts of India - Bihar - that are hardest-hit by the poverty penalty.  Many BoP-focused companies work in relatively better-off urban areas or peri-urban villages, where average incomes are higher and consequently, so is ability to pay.

But the single biggest factor that has me so excited about this is that the Global Business Plan venture competition was not limited to socially-focused businesses.  Rather, Draper Richards and Cisco collected thousands of entries from companies around the world, most of them focused on a single bottom line.  That the winner is a legitimate triple bottom line company - generating financial, social AND environmental benefits - shows how much the social sector is mainstreaming in the eyes of "non-social" investors.

Much remains to be seen - Husk Power remains a start up, and will for the foreseeable future - but, at least for today, there is reason to celebrate in Bihar.

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