By Arabdha Sudhir
How has your journey – post IE been ?
Coming back to the Silicon Valley after IE gave me a new perspective on what I wanted out of my career. Unemployment was very low and jobs were plentiful at startups all over the Valley. I applied to only a few positions that intrigued me, and landed an in-person interview in East Africa. It was then that I decided to commit myself to the region and focus on social impact projects. Choosing to follow my instinct and passion has been very rewarding.
What prompted you to start your initiative?
After working with micro-entrepreneurs in Cameroon, I better understood the tremendous need farmers had for services. At IE my Term 1 team and I found a solution to market access for smallholder farmer. When our Venture Lab team placed as Semi-finalists in Venture Day, we knew we had a strong idea. It was easier to start this initiative with that kind of momentum.
How did the IE experience help you during the process?
The IMBA program at IE gave me and my teammates various opportunities to work on this project — from Entrepreneurship classes, Net Impact’s Impact Weekend, and Venture Lab. Gathering input from my classmates, professors and professionals in social impact, the business model took shape at IE. Having a general management degree under my belt has given me confidence to work in all of our companies “departments,” something I would have needed more external help from before the IMBA program.
How was the experience setting up the project?
The foundations of the business plan for Markit Opportunity were built at IE, but we had yet to understand the true reality on the ground. With the plan to bootstrap the business, I worked for six months after graduation in the Silicon Valley at a tech startup. The first three months in Kenya were all about interviewing and listening, which changed the direction of the business model and influenced our product offering. Now, after four months in country, we are incorporating and growing our team in Kenya.
Would you want to share any tips, advice with current student interested in the same sector?
If you are looking to start your own business for the first time after IE, particularly in the social sector, I recommend acquiring two key assets: cash and a mentor. Our experience working in a developing country has shown us that we usually need more time than we plan for. Having cash helps with that. A mentor in the country and sector you are launching in helps tremendously with introductions, advice about doing business in the sector, and most of all, a sounding board when you’re facing decisions based on limited information. Finally, keep asking questions! There is never enough to learn.
A note to the current students!
While you may have come to IE with specific ambitions, be open to new ideas for your career. Allow the input of your peers to influence you. However, if you have a passion for something big and bold, take it on! There may be naysayers, and it may look difficult, but if you believe your work is meaningful, you’ll put everything you have into it.
Markit was recently the finalist in the Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenege, held in Cape Town, South Africa. The team was awarded a cash prize of $10,000 and a mentor from Barclays for six months. Find out more @ http://disrupt-africa.com/2015/11/markit-opportunity-wins-barclays-africa-supply-chain-challenge/
Markit is also looking at hiring talent and they welcome applications from alumni!
We thank Ashley for sharing here experience with us and wish her all the very best for future.