January 2022

Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Research Report Series

About the Research

Innovative Companies Can Unlock Solutions for Emerging Markets

Entrepreneurs who lead innovative companies and spearhead transformative solutions are needed to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. Endeavor Insight offers in-depth research on innovation and entrepreneurship across agriculture, healthcare, and clean energy sectors, made possible with support from the Lemelson Foundation, and additional funding for agriculture-specific research by Small Foundation.

These studies evaluate the challenges and opportunities for founders creating positive impact in emerging markets, specifically sub-Saharan Africa and India. Based on data from more than 500 innovative companies and interviews with over 130 entrepreneurs, the research draws lessons from high-performing companies, identifies how they are addressing urgent needs, and analyzes the role of ecosystem actors such as support organizations in enabling their success.



Read the Reports

Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Agriculture

September 2021

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Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Clean Energy

January 2022

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Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Healthcare

January 2022

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Key Takeaways

A Company’s Innovation Type Influences its Potential Impact

Innovative companies operating in sub-Saharan Africa and India are scaling up their businesses and playing a crucial role in generating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Endeavor Insight analyzed three types of innovative companies to understand their different challenges and impact.

These different business models are better suited for achieving different types of impact. For example, business process companies excel at driving job creation in local communities. Software firms have an advantage in rapidly scaling up and reaching large numbers of people. Furthermore, invention-based enterprises (IBEs) provide the transformational solutions needed to improve livelihoods and living standards in multiple countries.

High-Performing IBE Teams Have Prior Experience in Tech and Business

Due to the nature of their business models, IBE founders frequently have highly technical or scientific professional backgrounds. However, they often lack business experience and report benefiting from support programs that advise on business matters. Endeavor Insight found that IBEs experience greater success when their founding teams combine technical knowledge with prior business experience. The graph below shows that IBEs that had at least one co-founder with some type of business experience were more likely to raise capital than those that did not.

Support for Innovative Companies Does Not Match Founder Needs

While many programs focus on helping companies at early stages, relatively few assist with growth and expansion strategies. Out of the 293 support organizations that supported innovative companies, 204 supported the early stage, 15 supported the growth stage, and 74 supported both. As the graph below shows, this is despite most companies from the research being at the growth stage.

Founding Team Backgrounds and Resource Absorption

This research also explored the flow of resources going to different founder teams. In the charts below, each bubble represents a company, and its size is proportional to the number of relationships its founders had through which they received mentorship, investment, and or services from support programs. In sub-Saharan Africa, most well-connected companies are expat-led, while in India, most are returnee- or local-led. These differences can have long-term implications for the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Sector Highlights

“Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Agriculture”
Entrepreneurship evolves differently within value chains, as demonstrated by Endeavor Insight’s comparative analysis of the Kenyan macadamia and Nigerian maize sectors. This report finds that Kenyan macadamia is export-focused and concentrated with expat founders who have strong connections to foreign capital and mentorship, but not necessarily to local actors like farmers. Domestically focused value chains with more local or returnee founders, such as Nigerian maize, succeed more in local social impact.

“Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Clean Energy”
Clean energy encompasses a broad range of industries, with off-grid solar power representing a mature subsector that has achieved wide impact. Endeavor Insight’s research demonstrates that many successful solar companies incorporate elements of both IBEs and service companies by developing innovative physical products and delivering them in an accessible and affordable manner. This report explains how founder-led support programs help up-and-coming entrepreneurs not only with tailored product development, but also with other concerns such as customer access and affordability.

“Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Healthcare”
Endeavor Insight extracts lessons for developing countries from India’s experience in strengthening its national innovation capacity and entrepreneurial ecosystem in healthcare and biotech. The report outlines how the Indian government set up a number of funding opportunities and support agencies for scientists to translate their research to commercial applications. As this research shows, those efforts acted in synergy with local angel investors, university programs and incubators, and international tech transfer partnerships to help entrepreneurs succeed.