Scaling Africa, through entrepreneurship, then government innovation

Tamara Giltsoff never expected to end up in a Government role. She was always interested in new technologies and how they could create innovative business models. This led her to Product Health a connected hardware start-up, which also introduced her to commercial Africa. When it was time to move on, Tamara found her calling as Head of Innovation at the Department for International Development. In this podcast, Tamara gives us insight on how her entrepreneurial spirit could be applied to the world of government, as well as the economic development of Africa. She also investigates how venture capitalism can help shape future government investing practice.

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Tamara was until very recently the Head of Innovation at the Department for International Development (DFID), working at the intersection of development funding and venture capital in Africa and South Asia. She was responsible for DFID’s £50M commitment to the Global Innovation Fund, a venture-style, evidenced-based investing vehicle. She led a programme of work to review DFID’s commitment to innovation and challenge funds (approx. £1 billion committed over five years) and embedded a strategic and operational approach to addressing the gap in ‘patient capital’ and venture support needed to get impact innovations to scale. She co-launched a ‘frontier technologies’* programme inside DFID to introduce and pilot the use of technology for development and for humanitarian response, piloting the use case for UAVs, Electric Vehicles, Internet of Things, 3D printing, machine learning and AI. She also launched a programme to introduce Lean Impact (start-up) innovation methods into development programmes and innovation funds.

Prior to DFID Tamara spent her 20-year career in the private sector working as a designer originally, then in strategy and innovation roles, and as the co-founder of Product Health – introducing sensing and machine learning into the off-grid energy sector in East Africa. She has put her design background to use in business model and venture design and continues to do so.

*She and her collaborators won a ‘Civil Service Award for Innovation’ for this work, influencing others across government to replicate the programme.

Podcast links:

Tamara Giltsoff

Product Health - Smart, Connected and Healthy Powered Products.

Nat Billington - Product Health co-founder and business partner

Department for International Development (DfID) - a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid.