An online payments system in Nepal.
A cybersecurity business in Kazakhstan.
A food-delivery operation in Angola.
Founders from emerging and frontier markets face unique challenges when starting and scaling their businesses.
These are their stories.
New episodes every other week.
Carlos Andrade - Healthy Ghost Kitchens in Peru and Abroad (Manzana Verde)
It was 2014.
Carlos Andrade had just gotten his degree in Mechanical Engineering and was ready to start a demanding, yet lucrative career as an engineer in Peru.
And after accepting his first job offer, a routine medical exam revealed something Carlos had never expected -- especially at the age of 23.
He had cancer.
So Carlos, for the time being, completely forgot about work. Instead, he turned to a healthy diet and underwent chemotherapy, thankfully going into remission 10 months later.
And at the age of 24, with an entirely new perspective on both life and health, he and his friend Larissa started ‘Manzana Verde’, meaning Green Apple in Spanish.
It started as a modest ‘healthy food delivery’ platform, where he and Larissa would buy groceries...by themselves, cook healthy meals...by themselves, and deliver them to customers...by themselves...all within the small city of Piura, Peru.
But four years, two fundraises, and five cities later, Manzana Verde has raised millions of dollars at an 8-figure valuation, is on pace to do 1,000,000 deliveries in 2021, and has a lofty, yet what seems to be a very realistic goal:
Become the biggest wellness e-commerce platform in all of Latin America.
Carlos’s story? It’s one of fight, of inspiration...and of victory.
Javad Rezabaksh - Bringing Afghan Emeralds to the World (Silk Road Heart Gem Lab)
In 1991, as an 8-year-old boy, Javad Rezabaksh and his family fled Afghanistan for Iran during the Afghan Civil War.
20 years later, in 2011, Javad returned to open his own small-scale gemstone cutting factory, where he trained countless Afghans - mostly women - to both identify and polish gemstones, especially emeralds.
Why gemstones you ask?
It’s said that there is $1 TRILLION worth of resources under Afghan soil.
Gold, copper, natural gas, oil -- you name it.
But for Javad, the most important resource in Afghanistan?
The mythical emeralds found only in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley.
And after 9 years of polishing Afgham gemstones in his small Kabul facility, Javad partnered with USAID to help build what would be one of the most modern, innovative gemstone polishing and certification labs not just in Afghanistan, but in the world.
Its name? The Silk Road Heart Gem Lab.
But one year later, as Kabul fell to the Taliban, both Javad's and the Silk Road Heart Lab's future in Afghanistan are tragically in question.
I spoke with Javad on 16th August, 2021 whilst he was in Kabul, hiding in a friend's basement. After two weeks in hiding, Javad -- in disguise and on foot -- was able to flee.
Now, you can hear Javad's story: a story of resilience, of hope, and of love for country.
Bara Wahbeh - Building Toilets for Refugee Camps and the 'Global South' (Akyas Sanitation)
Around 800 million people worldwide don't have access to a toilet.
That means over 800 million people - everyday - are defecating wherever they can: behind a bush, on the side of a road, in a hole, or walking what could be miles and miles just to find the nearest toilet.
The problem gets worse (much worse) in densely populated areas, such as refugee camps and settlements. With thousands of people living in extreme proximity to one another, it becomes incredibly challenging to properly contain human waste without toilets or proper sanitation infrastructure.
As such, people go to the bathroom in what are called pit latrines: effectively holes in the ground. But without an organized system to contain and remove the waste from densely populated camps, feces eventually rises to the surface, dangerously infecting the camp in a viciously devastating cycle.
After seeing the conditions at several Syrian refugee camps throughout Turkey with his own eyes, Bara Wahbeh, a Palestinian-Jordanian engineer and entrepreneur, founded Akays Sanitation in 2018 to create a revolutionary toilet that would allow those living in settlements and those impoverished in the Global South to go to the bathroom - finally - in a dignified and sanitary way.
Warning: this episode does include explicit language and describes - in detail - the harsh conditions in which many in refugee camps throughout Turkey, Jordan, and Yemen live.
Jude Celiscar - Engaging the Diaspora in Haiti (Goodoo)
Population of Haiti: ~11.5 million
Number of Haitians living abroad: between 2 and 3 million
Known as the 'Haitian Diaspora', around 20% of Haitians have migrated ... outside of Haiti, to the likes of the US, the Dominican Republic, Canada, and throughout South America. And unfortunately, it's quite understandable.
Plagued for centuries by foreign intervention, devestating natural disasters, and political corruption, Haiti has become ... the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
But there's one Haitian entrepreneur, Jude Celiscar, fighting tirelessly to engage the Haitian Diaspora to reconnect with their homeland...to interact with and invest in the country they love: Haiti.
A pivot from a 'drop and ship' model sending goods from the US to Haiti now has Goodoo delivering groceries and farmed goods directly from Haitian farmers to Haitian consumers. And Goodoo's biggest client? The Haitian Diaspora...buying fresh Haitian produce from abroad for their families back home.
But with over a decade of trials, such as the 2010 Haitian Earthquake that killed over 200,000 Haitians and displaced over 5 million, to the recent assassination of the Haitian President, it's made entrepreneurship in Haiti all the more difficult and Jude's story all the more...unbelievable.
Giorgi Tsurtsumia - Enabling E-Commerce in the Post-Soviet States: (PAYZE)
E-commerce is already a USD$5 trillion market. The likes of PayPal, Stripe, and many others have helped the global e-commerce space grow exponentially, serving effectively as the payment bridge between consumers and online retailers.
Whilst e-commerce has boomed in the US, China, and throughout Europe and India, there's one area of the world that has been slower to adapt:
The region made up of the former Soviet states, including:
Eastern Europe: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova
West / Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
Eurasia: Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan
Baltics: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania
The total population of these 15 countries: 300+ million
But with different currencies and payment systems within each country, no payment gateway or processor has been able to integreate the region and start an e-commerce boom.
Meet PAYZE, born and bred in the Eurasian country of Georgia.
Since launching only last year, they've processed over 90,000 transactions and are growing 35% month on month. This type of growth is reason enough for PAYZE founder Giorgi Tsurtsumia's say:
"We're becoming the Stripe of the former Soviet states".
How? Tune in to find out.
Melina Cruz Villafaña - Creating a 'Clean' Marketplace in Mexico (Homely)
In 2015, the minimum wage in Mexico was $4.
No, not per hour.
So when Melina Cruz Villafaña met Fernanda, an office cleaner, she learned of the harsh schedules that millions of Mexican women have every day:
1. wake up at 5am
2. commute three hours to Mexico City, the capital
3. clean officespaces or homes for an entire day
4. commute three hours back home and wake up a few hours later and do it all over again
It was Fernanda's conversation with Melina that inspired her to start Homely - a marketplace that connects cleaners and users to book safe, conveninient, and most importantly: fair cleaning services throughout Mexico.
But what started as a literal call center in 2015, dispatching different cleaners to different apartments in Mexico City, has transformed into a marketplace coordinating over 15,000 hours of B2C and B2C cleaning services per month throughout all of Mexico, with stories of social impact you'll have to hear to believe.