Monday, February 21, 2011

Beyond the Magic Bullet: Innovation in Bottom-up Development

On Saturday, Stanford University invited Peter to speak on a panel about Design for Extreme Affordability as part of an annual conference put on by the Stanford Association for International Development. Alongside Banny Banjaree, director of the Stanford Design Program, and Krista Donaldson, CEO of D-Rev, Peter discussed the engineering and design needs of the developing world.

The social entrepreneurs

The panel discussion focused on three main processes of evolving organizations looking to reduce poverty: need-finding, prototyping, and implementation. Peter shared the story of the birth of Driptech, when on a trip with his Stanford design class to Ethiopia he realized the very life-threatening problem of water scarcity and started looking for a solution. Throughout the development of the company, Peter has emphasized the necessity of embracing ambiguity in the early design stage, and working comprehensively from problem to solution.

Rapid prototyping is a key component of Driptech, to test form and function in the most efficient way, testing models with customers to integrate their feedback and make a product most suitable to their needs. Peter pointed out that prototyping is important in all aspects of a company, even marketing, sales strategies, and partnership models.

There were plenty of questions asked and lively discussion between the panel and audience. Aside from the main points of the panel, Peter also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of being a foreigner with an outside perspective in the need-finding process, how to find a balance between short-term and long-term strategy, and the multidisciplinary backgrounds necessary in a successful startup.