Kick Start

Year founded: 1991

KickStart develops and promotes technologies that can be used by entrepreneurs in Africa to establish and run profitable small-scale enterprises.

Focus: Agriculture, Enterprise Development, Technology, Technology/Services Innovations

Geographic Area of Impact: Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia, Burkina Faso and other parts of Africa

Model: Hybrid Non-Profit

Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 68,800 (2009)

Annual Budget: US$ 9.3 million (2009)

Percentage Earned Revenue: 35%

Recognition: Schwab Fellows of the World Economic Forum


In the industrialized world, governments subsidize research, development and market development to promote new technologies. In developing countries, governments have other priorities and little expenditure to invest on this front. Because it is not profitable, private sector companies rarely develop new products and technologies for the poor, who have minimal purchasing power and are very hard to reach. This market failure can be addressed by designing useful, innovative and affordable technologies and equipment that can be sold to the poor. This can only succeed if subsidies are available for building a private sector supply chain and establishing strong market demand.

Innovation and Activities

KickStart’s mission is to help millions of people out of poverty through developing and bringing to market new low-cost technologies and services that local, dynamic entrepreneurs use to establish and run profitable small scale enterprises and offer waged jobs to others. KickStart trains private sector manufacturers to mass-produce the tools, and uses innovative marketing techniques to sell it to entrepreneurs in poor communities through a network of local retail shops.

Because 80% of the poor in Africa are rural farmers, KickStart’s best-selling devices are MoneyMaker micro-irrigation pumps. These simple, human-powered pumps enable farmers to start small businesses that grow and sell high-value fruits and vegetables throughout the year. They can recover their investment in three months, make on average US$ 1,100 in profits per year, and increase their net farm incomes by up to 1,000%. KickStart’s micro-irrigation pumps have been identified as one of Newsweek’s “Ten Inventions That Will Change Your World”.

As of October 2010, 158,000 micro-irrigation pumps have been sold, 101,000 enterprises have been created and 500,000 people have been lifted out of poverty. Every month, more than 1,300 new businesses are created, which generate new revenue equivalent to more than 0.6% of Kenya's GDP and 0.25% of Tanzania’s GDP. With a 15:1 return on investment, every US$ 1 donated results in US$ 15 in new profits and wages for the new business.

KickStart seeks to develop a significant middle class in Africa by stimulating the growth of a thriving entrepreneurial sector. Beginning with Kenya and Tanzania, and now in Mali and Burkina Faso, it seems well on its way to attaining that goal.

The Entrepreneurs

Nick Moon grew up in India and South-East Asia. He learned woodworking and construction skills and started a small carpentry business in London. Nick sold his share of the company and left for Kenya as a VSO volunteer. He later joined ActionAid where he met Martin Fisher.

Martin Fisher received his MSc and PhD at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering. It was not until he spent a summer in Peru that he considered applying his knowledge to help people in the developing world. He went to Kenya on a Fulbright scholarship in 1985 and never looked back. Nick and Martin co-founded KickStart in 1991.