Tag Archives: FK Day


Impact Engine – Part 4

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact Engine

Ever hear o’ light poverty? Yeah, it’s a real thing ‘n’ it causes real poverty. But now somebody’s got a clever way t’ fix the problem. Lemme tell you about it.

This’s Loop Lonagan reporting. I’m here speakin’ to you again from Impact Engine Investor Day where a buncha new companies is makin’ their pitch fer growth capital.


This place is fulla us Impact Investors—them’s the only people invited here. And this crowd’s a whole lot more energized than other events. Way more lively.

Here’s what makes it so exciting: The best way to solve a social problem is to find a way t’ make money while yer fixin’ it. That way the solution becomes whacha call self-sustaining. They call it social entrepreneurship. I like da sound o’ that phrase.

Now let’s sit back and listen to one o’ these new ideas:

Note to Editor—I see you ain’t been fixin’ up my copy so the hell with it. I’m gonna let ‘er rip.

Note to Loop—Go for it. Keep it clean.


Da Problem

Hey—we ain’t got no light poverty here at the Chase Auditorium. They even got a special guy assigned to control the banks o’ stage lights with a fancy computer just fer him. And it’s daylight outside! And tonight, dis city’ll be lit up like it was Christmas er somethin’. But whada we care? It’s just electricity, right? Always there when you need it and Chicago’s so purty all lit up at night.

Now lemme explain what light poverty is:

Just fer a minute, pertend—pertend mind you, that yer livin’ in a little village in the boonies of Kenya. Way out in the wilds. Got the picture?

There’s nothin’ around—well maybe a buncha big cats ‘n’ hyenas, that come out huntin’ whenever there’s a moon. And plenty o’ snakes come out at night too.  You can hear all them insects–even swat ’em when they land on yer moist skin–if they’s small enough to swat.  And yer happy to live just a couple miles from a well so you get a few sips o’ muddy water ever day.

So far it sounds like paradise, right? But here’s da rub: You got only so much time to find food fer yer family ‘cause when the sun goes down, that’s it fer the day! The night’s curtain falls so black you can’t see yer own nose. No light—no electricity—no nothin’. How d’ya like that fer quality o’ life?

Expensive Energy

“Wait a minute”, you say. “What about candles and kerosene lamps?” Turns out those ain’t real options. You spend all yer daylight hours tryin’ to make a livelihood but you can’t come up with the lousy 20 cents a day that it costs to burn a kerosene lamp. That kerosene costs 30% o’ yer income. Whadaya gonna do—conduct commerce around a bonfire? Hey bud—you ain’t goin’ nowhere. Yer stuck. And 85% of Kenyans are in this group. I say it’s a crock!

On the positive side, the only form o’ entertainment accounts fer a whole lot more more mouths t’ feed in the precious sweltering sunlight hours. Just fix that picture in yer mind ‘n’ let the magnitude o’ this thing’ll start to sink in.


Da Solution

Light up Africa

This idea turns out nice and simple. A real bright kid named Alan Hurt starts a new company called LIGHT UP AFRICA and brings out the ZOOM BOX—a little gadget that makes a powerful electric charge just from ordinary motion ‘n’ stores it fer use later on.

It’s small. You can attach it to most anything that moves. Maybe tie it to the tail o’ the nearest cow—I dunno. Actually it’s designed fer you to wear when yer walkin’ around.

Zoom BoxNo this ain’t no fashion statement but I could see summa them green politicians makin’ it one.

Remember, yer livin’ in Africa, not the good old US of A. Nothin’ gets done in Africa without walkin’. Ever’body walks everywhere all day long. That’s how you get to market. That’s how you make your living. Takes up mosta the day.

Turns out all that walkin’ can generate lotsa electricity. Motion is da fuel. Sweat is da pollution. Get the idea?

So now fer the first time you can run a light at night. So what’s the big deal about that? Believe me, it’s big. Things really get rollin’ from here. All kindsa possibilities open up fer you ‘cause with electricity, you can jump all the way from the stone age to high tech.

  • Fer starters, you can actually study a book inside yer own hut at night—and maybe learn somethin’!
  • Somebody builds a clinic and saves yer worthless hide one night when you get bit by somethin’ nasty—all because they got light.
  • Pretty soon you got a new micro-enterprise o’ some kind goin’. Other businesses spring up around you sellin’ stuff ‘n’ yer little villiage comes alive.
  • Yer business grows. You start sellin’ yer goods to places where lotsa people live.

Now yer new office is in one o’ them big population centers ‘n’ there’s allota compicated problems in those places. But when it comes to light, you got the same problem.

  • Sure, you got a lamp or two—even a cell phone. But power’s so scarce they’re talkin’ about creating a new currency around trading electricity.
  • If you couldn’t afford kerosene in the boonies, how often d’ya think yer gonna flip on a light switch in da city?
  • But you still got yer ZOOM BOX so you charge up yer cell phone ‘n’ carry on business. Maybe even sell yer stuff on Amazon to those of us back here in Chicago!

.Portable Electric Generation

Da Business

Ever’body can buy a ZOOM BOX on the cheap just like you did. It’s a one-and-done proposition. Meanwhile, LIGHT UP AFRICA is collaborating with microfinance institutions and non-government organizations. They’re settin’ up a network o’ distribution and repair facilities. Pretty soon, ever’body’s gotta have one o’ these things. Hey, in Zambia alone there’s 650,000 bicycle cabs pedlin’ all day long. Alotta them’s probably Buffalo Bicycles made by F.K. Day—all just waitin fer the ZOOM BOX to make the right kinda juice.

This idea’s so simple, it’s transformational. Ω



Go back to Part 1


Da Links

Check out dis cool video:

Light Up Africahttp://www.golightafrica.com
Contact – founders@golightafrica.com – 773-817-9053
c/o 1871, 222 West Merchandise Mart Plaza Suite 1212, Chicago, IL 60654

Impact Engine – http://www.TheImpactEngine.com
Contact Linda Darragh – L-Darragh@Kellogg.Northwestern.edu

Images courtesy Light Up Africa and Impact Engine

Impact Engine

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved


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Impact Engine – Part 2

VERBATIM by Loop Lonagan – Investor and man about town,

as told to John Jonelis

Impact EngineLoop Lonagan here at IMPACT ENGINE Investor Day. This is the new Chicago incubator fer companies that do well by doin’ good—and doin’ it profitably! Think of it—we’re gathered here to get richer by makin’ all them other poor slobs around the world prosper! This I like!

The keynote speaker is FK Day. (He calls hisself  FK fer short.) And he tells us a story that knocks us outa our seats. This is a real unusual chain of events that speaks about the virtues of capitalism doing alotta good by helping folks raise their own well-being.

Buffalo Bicycles

Here’s the shortlist:

  • The story starts with SRAM that makes high-end bike parts.
  • Then FK starts World Bicycle Relief—a not-fer-profit.
  • That leads to Buffalo Bicycles—a self-sustaining company.

Impact Investing

The Chase Auditorium’s packed with serious investors. Them’s the only kind they let in the place today and this hall seats over 500 of them rascals. They’s all squealin’ ‘n’ squirmin’ to get a piece o’ the action. Sheesh—I ain’t seen so much money in one room since I…well I ain’t s’posed to talk about that so lemme move on. I’m here to do summa that Impact Investing, just like da rest o’ these clowns. But first lemme get back to the keynote speaker

(Note to Editor—All that coffee I swilled down‘s got my eyes buggin’ out ‘n’ I feel a whole lot more coherent. I’m gonna give you the skinny on this thing. But I want you should cut me some slack—just in case I get something out o’ order.)

(Editor’s Note—Nobody’s perfect. I’ll print it just as you dictate it.)

Okay, so dis story starts after FK pioneers bicycle shifters ‘n’ brakes at SRAM. His stuff’s in high-end bikes AND in all the big international races. Even poor disgraced Lance Armstrong uses SRAM components so you gotta figure that FK knows a thing or two about bikes.

Hey—this is a Chicago company, okay? Don’t get no better ‘n’ that, right? Well actually it does as you’ll see in uno momento.

Bicycles WBR 1

World Bicycle Relief

Remember that big tsunami in Indonesia? FK and his wife go there to lend a hand. They’re lookin’ for a better solution than the NGO relief organizations. So they asks people lotsa questions.

Turns out nobody can earn a living or make any economic progress ‘cause there’s no transportation. Everybody’s on foot. That ain’t too efficient. There’s kids spendin’ six hours a day walkin’ to school ‘n’ back. Mothers carryin’ groceries long distance. And get this—businesmen haulin’ their wares to market 5 or 10 miles on foot.

You think da rush hour here in Chicago eats into yer day? It’s nothin’ compared to this. This is no way to do business. This keeps folks in poverty.

The Power of Bicycles 3

FK’s a bike guy, so he shows up pre-loaded with the natural solution to the problem. He runs experiments and finds out alotta things. Turns out a bicycle can increase the income of a poor family in a big way. Looks like it’s the single best way to fight poverty in these primitive areas.

So he creates the not-fer-profit organization, World Bicycle Relief, which is a real big deal. They partner with WorldVision and alotta other organizations.  They give out 24,400 bicycles in Indonesia.

Bicycles WBR 2


FK starts a buncha 9-day trips to Zambia to fight HIV/AIDS and creates a special bike for it. Bicycles WBR 10

His folks first task is to assemble their bikes so’s they can get around. Their last task, before they leave, is to turn over their bikes to the villagers.


FK gives out 90,000 bicycles this way and learns a lot more about the problem.


By now he’s got three well-defined areas he wants to impact:

  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Economic development

Bicycles WBR 3

I think education tugs at him strongest.  Kids in these countries gotta travel a real long way to school and still have time to do chores not to mention homework.  With bicycles, they can get to school more often.  That builds up the whole culture by givin’ these people a future.  Givin’ ’em hope.  Summa these folks wanna be teachers, doctors, engineers.  Somethin’ as simple as a bicycle can make that happen.

Lemme get you started with a terrific video. Have a look at it ‘n’ then I’ll tell you more.

Pretty good stuff, doncha think? Bottom line—bikes carry more weight farther and faster than shoes. Bikes get kids to school, people to clinics, and they get businessmen to markets!

Bicycles WBR 11

FK tells the story of a dairy farmer in Zambia. With a bike, he can get to the co-op twice a day insteada just once.

That instantaneously doubles his income! 

Summa these guys mount homemade cargo boxes on these bikes and use ‘em like trucks.

Bicycles WBR 6

According to FK, the most powerful bike in the world is one in the hands of a mudder feedin’ her family or a fadder making a buck fer his family or a kid gettin’ an education to claw his way outa poverty. All o’ these takes transportation. And education is real important. You gotta learn readin’, ‘rightin’, and ‘rithmetic and how to speak yer language da right way or yer never gettin’ nowhere in dis here world.

Bicycles WBR 7

Buffalo Bicycles

Lemme go back to the hardware development phase. FK takes this jeep trip down them things called roads in Zambia. Whadaya think he sees? Busted bikes in the ditches ever’place he goes—every brand ‘n’ model on the planet. Says it looks like somthin’ outa The Andromeda Strain. (That’s a movie in case you fergot.)

Bicycles WBR 8These bikes come from well-meaning charities. But it’s all wasted. People in Zambia take to callin’ ‘em Chinese Junks. Off-the-shelf bikes is way too flimsy fer this kinda terrain.

So whadaya think the average lifespan is for yer typical off-the-shelf bike? 30 days! That’s it! And there’s no way to fix ‘em neither! Too many different brands. No parts. No mechanics.

FK figures what they need:

  • Standardized bicycle
  • Standardized parts
  • Real, real rugged
  • Trained mechanics
  • Supply Chain

Bicycles WBR 14 THE BIKE

The Buffalo Bicycle is a rugged design like no other. It can withstand rough roads while carrying a load o’ trade goods to market.

Here’s a video of FK in Africa riding the roads with folks:

Da Business

Charity’s a good thing.  But how do ya make it self-sustaining?  How do ya make it grow like a hockey stick?  You turn it into a business.  Business can be a helluvalot more powerful than an outstretched hand.  A little capitalism can be good fer da soul and FK’s a capitalist at heart.  

FK sells the Buffalo Bicycle to third-world businessmen at a profit.  That makes the project self-sustaining.  He trains and supplies mechanics.  And that maintenance network is self-sustaining too. So far they got 124,754 bikes out there where they can do some good. 

He shows us graphs ‘n’ charts. He’s gonna be building 100,000 bicycles in eight African-based supply chains in 2015.  This program is scalable and sustainable.

Bikes from website 2

Remember all that research I told you about? FK makes a key point about that. He learned everything he ever needed to know from the end user. We need to stay deeply in touch with these people. The answers almost always come from there.

Bicycles WBR 13 Wrigley FieldAnd to me, the amazing thing is that he went and figured out da problem and da solution ‘n’ engineered such a wonderful outcome.  He bootstrapped all o’ this starting with lotsa fund-raising drives like the annual Wrigley Field Road Tour which is a part of Chicago Cubs Charities. 

Here’s a candid video of FK thanking his volunteers after a small fundraising drive–one of many:

Next up is a company called ThinkCERCA. Meanwhile, check out summa the other articles about Buffalo Bicycles below.  Ω



Go back to Part 1

More Reading

Wrigley Field Road Tour


World Bicycle Relief on Wikipedia


Article in Forbes


BBC Article in TON



Da Contacts

FK Day

FK Day

World Bicycle Relief website  http://worldbicyclerelief.org

WBR on Facebook  www.facebook.com/worldbicyclerelief


SRAM Corp.  http://www.sram.com/


IMPACT ENGINE website  www.TheImpactEngine.com


[ Photos and video courtesy of World Bicycle Relief ]

Impact Engine

Chicago Venture Magazine is a publication of Nathaniel Press www.ChicagoVentureMagazine.com Comments and re-posts in full or in part are welcomed and encouraged if accompanied by attribution and a web link . This is not investment advice. We do not guarantee accuracy. It’s not our fault if you lose money.

.Copyright © 2013 John Jonelis – All Rights Reserved



Filed under 1871, angel, angel capital, angel investor, big money, Characters, chicago, Chicago Venture Magazine, Chicago Ventures, CORE Insight Story, Economics, Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Politics, Impact Engine, Impact Investing, Innovation, Innovation and Culture, Invention, investor, Kellogg, loop lonagan, Social Entrepreneur, vc, venture capital