"These are students wanting to make a better world," Fasihuddin says. "They are identifying problems and coming up with very creative solutions to do good and make money at the same time."
One such example from Open Minds, on its way to market, is a device that uses freeze-dried medicine to improve shelf life and provide a "just in time vaccine" that can be a lifesaver in remote areas. Another is a $2 "birth kit" that can greatly reduce the risk of infection in Third World countries by providing a sterile instrument to cut the umbilicle cord and giving mothers a sterile floor covering to lay upon.
"This generation is much more socially aware, the world is flatter," Fasihuddin says. "There is much more access available about problems halfway around the world and how you can overcome that strife by solving some of these basic health and human needs."
Helping others can, in fact, be a good business plan, Fasihuddin says.
"There is money to be made, and with microfinance [at work] in the developing world in a way that wasn't 10 or 15 years ago, students are figuring out the business models," she says.
Even private investors can sometimes be sold on such plans.
"Patient angel investors and venture capitalists are understanding that they can do good with their money and realizing their returns will come over time," she says. "This is an entirely new class of investors that go to conferences like the
Social Capital Conference
in the Bay area."
Both they, and the inventors they fund, are learning more and more about what it takes to be a success in these once ignored marketplaces.
"You are definitely seeing greater access to markets and a lot more written on how to penetrate those markets, different business models that work and price points you have to hit," Fasihuddin says, adding that you cannot just necessarily "take the same old U.S. products and cram them down another market's throat."
"You have to employ different techniques and materials, customized as to how they are delivered to the customers," she says.
-- Written by Joe Mont in Boston.
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