Ben Bellows spent almost 20 years studying the economics of aid systems – but 2 years ago Ben quit his day job to go all-in on Nivi. Nivi is a chatbot marketplace Ben founded to empower, inform, and engage communities directly. Today we chat with Ben to understand what inspired someone with 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts and a lifetime in the nonprofit sector to take a bet on a healthtech startup.
Ben grapples with the hopes and failures of designing a better kind of aid, one that rewards outcomes rather than inefficiencies. He talks about the unique moment in history when broadband arrived at his home in Kenya and you could feel the energy and optimism that kickstarted the Silicon Savannah. Embracing this moment, Ben clicked with one of his two co-founders within an hour of their encounter at Java House in Nairobi. All of this brings him today to Nivi, a social enterprise providing a chatbot-based marketplace allowing over 2 million people to achieve their own health goals in South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and India.
- Nivi provides a conversational marketplace that drives better health outcomes by giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about their health.
- Population Council conducts research in over 50 countries to address critical health and development issues.
- iHub Nairobi is an innovation center dedicated to accelerating the application of social capital and technology for economic prosperity. The iHub in Nairobi was just down the street from Population Council, where Ben worked. Its created an atmosphere of energy and optimism in the possibility of social enterprises.
- Nairobi Tech Salon is an intimate, informal, and in-person, discussion between information and communication technology experts and international development professionals. Ben hosted the first Nairobi Tech Salon in the offices of Population Council in Nairobi.
If you enjoyed hearing Ben’s experience and experiments with new ways of delivering foreign aid, you might enjoy these other episodes:
- Ikpeme Neto of WellaHealth (Nigeria): Healthcare Financing for the Next Billion
- Mike Quinn of Zoona (Zambia): Taking on the telcos
- Rikin Gandhi of Digital Green (India): 6,000 Videos for Smallholder Farmers