SOCAP offers important lessons for social entrepreneurs

Devex talks to Michael Lwin, managing director of a Myanmar-based social enterprise that creates software for the health and legal sectors. Via Devex’s YouTube Channel

SAN FRANCISCO — Michael Lwin, managing director of a Myanmar-based social enterprise that creates software for the health and legal sectors, was among the entrepreneurs who traveled from around the world to attend last week’s Social Capital Markets conference, or SOCAP.

He was able to catch up with many of the organizations that have gotten him and his co-founder at KoeKoeTech, to where they are today. He mentioned Echoing Green, a global nonprofit that supports social entrepreneurs and held its summit a day before SOCAP; the Global Social Benefit Institute, an accelerator that is part of the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Santa Clara and had its own booth at the conference; and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which also sent a number of representatives to the annual meeting of investors and entrepreneurs.

While he was disappointed but not surprised when Development Innovation Ventures, an initiative of USAID’s Global Development Lab, stopped accepting applications earlier this year, he emphasized the important role of official development assistance, together with investors and accelerators, in helping KoeKoeTech launch its MayMay mobile health app and then expand to other software services.

“I do not think we’d survive given the low purchasing power of Myanmar citizens doing a standard investor route even impact investing,” he said. “There are other social enterprises, for-profit tech companies, that tried to take a more traditional route and they don’t exist anymore.”

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    Catherine Cheney

    Catherine Cheney is a Senior Reporter for Devex. She covers the West Coast of the U.S., focusing on the role of technology and innovation in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. And she frequently represents Devex as a speaker and moderator. Prior to joining Devex, Catherine earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, worked as a web producer for POLITICO and reporter for World Politics Review, and helped to launch NationSwell. Catherine has reported from all over the world, and freelanced for outlets including the Atlantic and the Washington Post. She is also the West Coast ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit that trains and connects journalists to cover responses to problems.