How Spring Is Helping Businesses Improve The Lives Of Girls In Developing Countries

The startup accelerator is hosting design bootcamps to foster innovation.

How Spring Is Helping Businesses Improve The Lives Of Girls In Developing Countries
[Illustration: Karolin Schnoor]

Startup accelerator Spring, which launched last year, nurtures businesses that benefit adolescent girls in East Africa and South Asia. In 2015, the group organized a design-focused boot camp in Nairobi, Kenya, and similar projects are now set to take place in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Here are some of the businesses that took part in the Kenya sessions.



Started by a pair of Georgia Institute of Technology grads, this company installs free toilets in homes that don’t have access to a sewer system (it charges a fee to cart away waste, which it then turns into charcoal briquettes). The Sanivation toilet addresses several issues related to public pit latrines, such as sanitation, privacy, and safety. “We look at girls as indirect consumers who can trigger purchases,” says cofounder Andrew Foote, who assembled focus groups at schools in Kenya to help design toilets that would most appeal to young women.


The Nairobi-based family-health company aims to reduce maternal and infant mortality by using SMS and voice technologies to send advice and reminders to expectant and new mothers. Spring helped Totohealth design a content system that’s aimed at teenagers. “[Teens] are more on their own than somebody who is carrying a pregnancy in a stable relationship,” says Fonda Ruiter, a pediatric and public-health specialist at Totohealth. “They do not have the support an adult would have.”

Tiny Totos

Tiny Totos is working to improve day-care facilities in poor Nairobi neighborhoods. The company helps train caregivers to create safe and nurturing environments, and also provides funding and business coaching. “We just want kids to have a place where they can be kids,” says Tiny Totos cofounder Emma Caddy. “To learn, be confident, and find a kick-start to rise above the squalor of their surroundings.”

Click here for the 2016 Innovation by Design Awards finalists and winners.

About the author

Belinda Lanks is the editorial director of Co.Design. Before joining, she was the managing editor of Metropolis.