IBD 2016 Crowns Conference Winners!  Team Apsara Takes Home Best Presentation.

Every year at the Berkeley-Haas IBD Conference, the IBD faculty announces student team winners in a variety of categories to celebrate another successful year of IBD spring and summer courses.  This year’s IBD team winners were:

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After reviewing six IBD team presentations delivered during the Conference, the award of Best IBD Presentation was unanimously awarded to Team Apsara.  Team Apsara traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe, to develop and teach a two-week entrepreneurship program named ACT (Apsara Capital Trust).  The ACT program was directed to young Zimbabweans who are passionate about social change in a country that faces challenging economic and political conditions.  This was the fourth IBD team to work with Apsara, and the team’s main project objective was to develop curriculum for an online and in-person course for ACT’s Intensive Entrepreneurship Program.   During two weeks of teaching, Team Apsara worked with 21 students daily on design thinking, prototyping, brainstorming, constructing empathy maps, and developing interviewing skills.  At the end of their in-country experience, the IBD team delivered more than course materials. They also recommended how to create an ACT Ecosystem whereby students could share and help each other with entrepreneurial ideas.  In addition, the IBD team suggested possible revenue streams to help ACT become more sustainable.  IBD team member Julian Garzon shared this conclusion from his project experience: “We were impressed to find great people with great ideas everywhere, but the resources are not for them all the time.  It makes us think how privileged we are, and how we should be committed to give back and contribute to the community because these great people should have a shot to flourish with their business ideas. Finally, we can’t underestimate the power of bringing people together who are motivated and driven to work hard and achieve their dreams”.

To read Team Apsara’s blog click here.

Nan ga def! Mangifi!

Nan ga def! Mangifi!

Welcome to Dakar. Nestled in the Cap-Vert peninsula, Dakar is the westernmost point of the African continent.

picture1          A beautiful beach in Ile de Goree, off the coast of Dakar

A city of contrasts where gleaming Range Rovers and broken Renault cabs jostle for space on the same lane, towering beachside mansions overlook decrepit shanties. And bold new-age enterprises, dysfunctional government and age-old agriculture makeup the Senegalese economy.

The first thing that strikes you in Dakar is the construction. There is an undercurrent of urgency in a city bursting at its seams as people from all over Africa, and around the world flood to it, seeking opportunities in a resurgent Africa. We visited and met scrappy entrepreneurs in a number of incubators in Dakar – working on bringing technology to transform deep social causes. 

picture2           Dakar is bustling with construction

Africa has leapfrogged the traditional banking system, with mobile banking. With over 100% mobile penetration, mobile payments and mobile money transfer are slowly replacing the cash based economy. Our host InTouch hopes to make this readily accessible to a wide swath of the population with a digital point-of-sale system as an aggregator of payments. From day one, we hit the ground running to figure out a strategy for expansion and growth for InTouch’s products.

picture3             Tigo is one of the top 3 mobile money operators. In the foreground is a                                                          rebooting Windows screen.

Our main focus was understanding the market landscape and the adoption of InTouch’s current product. We had already prepared a couple of solutions before landing in Senegal – so that we could quickly validate our hypothesis and present to InTouch.

picture4           Usability research at gas station where the product is deployed


picture6          Market validation with local retail stores

We visited CTIC (an incubator) and Jokkolabs (a co-working space) in Dakar. It was fascinating to meet and interact with the entrepreneurs from all over the world working on making a deep impact on some of the social challenges in Africa.

picture5                        Visiting incubators and co-working spaces in Dakar with Yann LeBeaux

Vincent, the Innovation director at UNICEF was looking to use data analytics to become a nimble and agile organization. Adam at Voto was working on technology that could be used to gather survey data from social workers in far-flung regions. Malick at Africa Mobile sought to build a service to reach uneducated massed via web and mobile communication tools. And Bagore & Edouard at La Laiterie du Berger are looking to create a distribution channel for milk produced in rural Senegal to meet the burgeoning demand in cities like Dakar. We also met a passionate Daouda Gassama at the AEME who is bringing in an age of energy efficiency to Senegal.

picture7          Met the passionate Daouda Gassama and his wall of energy efficient lights at the AEME

As a part of our secondary research, Mike also figured out that Senegalese eat 29 Kgs of fish every day. One of our goals was to consume 29 Kgs of fish in 2 weeks. Thus began a search of the local Ceebu Jen (thiéboudiène), Yassa Poisson, Grilled Thiof, Crevette et lotte, and all sorts of deliciousness. Incidentally, we also found that Ravi does not like to wait for his food – a point made amply clear while waiting repeatedly for the local made-to-order Thiof.

picture8      Food was always on our minds in Dakar

Yogesh earned the nickname of “Yekini” given his uncanny resemblance to the professional Senegalese wrestler Yekini. That and his love for fish heads and sparkling water.

picture9           Apparently Yogesh bears an uncanny resemblance to the wrestler Yekini

Our gracious hosts took us sight-seeing over the weekend to Sine Saloum islands in South Senegal. This was a weekend of touring the local villages, fishing in the delta, pickup soccer on salt flats, seeing our first ever sun halo and attending a local wrestling competition. Evenings were spent taking in the spectacular African sunsets and more eating.

picture10     Amazing Sine Saloum


picture11    Spectacular African sunsets

This was one of the best experiences we have had at Haas. Thanks InTouch team for hosting us.

picture12     We can fit in the back of a beat up Renault or a horse cart

An Invitation to Help Transform Agriculture in Ethiopia

Like all the other IBD stories, ours is a story of international travel. Of exploring a country for the first time. Yes, we tried new food and saw amazing new things (our oldest known human ancestor, 12th century churches carved into hillsides, and much more).



We survived the government shutdown of the entire country’s internet. (Yes, really) We fit all of us PLUS our intrepid client/guide into his tiny car from the 80’s.


Collectively, we even tried every single domestic beer brand (not as impressive as it sounds, considering there are only nine of them) and lots of Ethiopian buna coffee.


But more interestingly, it’s also a story of agriculture in a country where over 80% of the population depends on the sector for their livelihoods. It’s a story of a country determined to achieve middle-income status in the next 10 years and of the proud and optimistic people across numerous sectors who are working to make this a reality.


So it’s not really a story about us. It’s a story about an invitation. An offer to share a vision and contribute in some very small part to projects that could one day help an entire country produce key crops more efficiently and effectively. Reaching this goal will mean food security for 100 million people. Exports that provide income for public investment in roads, health systems, and schools. An opportunity for children to become educated and pursue jobs that will help their families have more than the generation that came before them.


This is a story about Ethiopia. About the people who work here every single day with the hope that someday, together, they will reach these goals. So instead of talking any more about us, we’d like to share the story of just two of the many amazing people we’ve met over the last two weeks.


Input Supply and Distribution Head at the local government level an hour outside of Addis Ababa

Taressa is young, a sharp dresser. He seems out of place in his surroundings – the local branch of the Ethiopian Agricultural Bureau. The office where we conduct our interview is cramped with three desks, one computer, several filing cabinets, and shoulder-high piles of what could be anything from reams of paper to leftover and forgotten agricultural inputs. By lining chairs up between the desks, we find room for everyone to sit.


As Taressa tells us about his job, the most incredible thing is that he doesn’t seem at all frustrated by a system we view as infuriatingly outdated and redundant. Each day, Taressa spends up to eight hours on the phone collecting transaction data from 20+ primary cooperatives (agricultural distribution centers) under his office’s jurisdiction. When no one else is using one of the two working computers in the office (the one in front of us is off the “functional” list) he can update an excel sheet with his findings. If not, or if the electricity is out, he records information by hand and waits for an opportunity to update the excel sheet. Once updated, he prints it out and walks or catches a ride to the center of town to hand deliver the sheet to another office. When we ask about emailing it, he laughs. There is no internet in the office.

But he doesn’t seem upset. He smiles the entire time we’re talking and is optimistic that there are ways to improve the system. He takes us to see a primary cooperative and animatedly discusses different options for digitizing their inventory tracking system.


Meeting Taressa gave us a newfound respect for the young people who dedicate their time and talent to improving the lives of smallholder farmers. And we left with the hope that our project can in some small way make his job slightly easier, and in turn help to improve others’ livelihoods.

Melaku Admassu

20 years working for DuPont Pioneer, the only private multinational company with current permission to sell seeds in Ethiopia

We met Melaku, the Country Manager for DuPont Pioneer  Ethiopia, at his administrative headquarters on Peacock road in Addis Ababa. We entered the building, which looked like a converted private residence, and were welcomed by an older man wearing a tweed suit and a warm smile.


Melaku has worked for Pioneer in Ethiopia for twenty years and, though his humble demeanor won’t allow him to say it out loud, is largely responsible for the international company’s success in a country whose agricultural industry is almost entirely dominated by public sector enterprises.

At the end of our interview, during which Melaku showed extensive knowledge of both the agricultural sector in Ethiopia and innovative marketing and business practices, we asked him one final question and received an amazing answer –

Q: What is your background and why do you do this work?=

A: My background is in agronomy. When I was young, my father was a teacher but he also farmed the land. I still remember when one day a government extension agent came to our farm and he said “you should use this fertilizer” and my father, he said, “why do I need this? All I know is manure.” And the man said to my father, “Okay, don’t use it for your own sake. Use it because you are a teacher and you need to show everyone else that this works and will make their crops better.” And my father said “I’ll do this for the people.” I still remember that.

When I started this work as pioneer employee, I went to this smallholder  farmer and asked him. “Please try this improved seed.” He looked at me and said, “you know I have two wives and sixteen children to provide for. If I take your seed and it doesn’t work, you’ll be responsible for killing my family.” And I said, “Okay, I believe in this seed. I’ll take the responsibility.” He planted the hybrid corn seed I gave him as a sample (free of charge ) plus my advice on agronomy management and he harvested three fold of what he used to harvest from the same plot of land, secured food for the whole year, and started convincing his neighbors later the community.

Now, 20 year’s later, he is a big man. We promoted him from a Pioneer Extension Partner (model farmer) to a seed dealer and he has expanded from half a hectare of cultivated land to 16 hectares. His productivity has increased and his  income is also growing because he is implementing  best practices. Before, he had to decide which of his children could attend school, because he didn’t have enough money for uniforms and supplies for all of them. Now, four of them have graduated from university and the rest are all attending school. He has upgraded the grass roof of his house to corrugated iron, bought a television and radio, and now has a mobile phone to be able to keep better track of  agricultural market information. I was talking to him last month and he was going to another city for his son’s graduation. He was taking his younger wife with him I asked him, “oh, how long will your drive be?” and he replied, “We’re flying! I want my wife to experience riding in an airplane.”

Melaku smiles and says, “This is what our seed can do. It helps people. And when I see their success, it is my success. It’s like all their good fortune, it’s in here,” he touches his chest, “not just in their pockets.”

We feel similarly about our project and our time here. It’s a class, it’s an adventure, but it’s also a labor of hope. Hope that the project recommendations we make here will someday help the people we’ve met do their jobs more efficiently and, in turn, help farmers grow better crops for their children, their communities, and their country. If our project recommendations put more money in the pockets of the people who truly need it, their good fortune will be reward enough for our work. We are grateful to Haas for providing us with an amazing experience and an opportunity to go “beyond ourselves.”


Getting started

To get a sense of the evolution of our project, one could start with the name of our team. Initially, we – Theo, Vaisakh, Josh, Asli, and myself (Cameron) – were assigned to groupelephant.com, a South African for-profit company with a  “three-zone” business model consisting of a for-profit software business as well as non-profit and impact investing activities around wildlife conservation and poverty alleviation. The client was frustrated that all of the good work it had done for conserving elephants and rhinos had gone nearly unmentioned in the press, and hired us to turn that around.

After a semester in Berkeley figuring out how to market this unique business model to a corporate audience in the U.S., we decided to refocus our efforts on just the non-profit entity of groupelephant.com, ERP – short for Elephants, Rhinos, and People. We were fortunate to work with Quintin Smith, a Haas alum himself, who embodied the passion and entrepreneurial spirit we came to recognize in all of ERP and groupelephant.com.

On The road!

The highlight of our three-week trip was without a doubt heading down two days after we arrived to a wildlife reserve in the Eastern Cape. The reserve had recently suffered a tragic rhino poaching, and we were there to discuss steps the reserve could take to protect the rest of its herd. These conversations dovetailed nicely with one of our final deliverables, developing an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign for a technology-driven rhino security solution.

Every good Indiegogo campaign has a short video to go along with it. So we had to take to the streets – er, the dusty trails – of the reserve to start shooting some film.

To get the best lighting, we woke up at the crack of dawn for some sunrise safaris…

Our director and team lead, Theo, with his cinematographer Rob (of ERP)

Our director and team lead, Theo, with his cinematographer Rob (of ERP)


…and went back for round two as the sun set:




With this trip, we really took mixing business and pleasure to new heights – we struggled to think of another time when we’d be holding team meetings around a campfire, or conducting research from the back of a safari truck.

Enjoying my fifteen minutes (seconds?) of fame as a stand-in for our interviewees.

Enjoying my fifteen minutes (seconds?) of fame as a stand-in for our interviewees.

Our crew hard at work

Our crew hard at work

As much as we loved our time on the reserve, eventually, we had to pack our bags and say goodbye.

Me, Josh, and Vaisakh on a final ride with our German-Spanish-French tour guide Pablo

Me, Josh, and Vaisakh on a final ride with our German-Spanish-French tour guide Pablo

A weekend retreat

Fortunately for us, the Quintinator was not about to let us go back to Pretoria quite yet. Instead, he and the rest of the crew took us up to Modumela, a ranch several hours north of the city.

After several days of filming and focusing exclusively on our Indiegogo campaign, we needed to step back for a moment to think through our project’s broader objectives.

Hard at work, clearly

Hard at work, clearly

But it was the weekend, and we made sure to relax:

Learning new hobbies

Learning new hobbies

Grilling full chickens!

Grilling full chickens!

Closing down the campfire at 2? 3am?

Closing down the campfire at 2? 3am?

The real work begins

When we got back to Pretoria, we buckled down in the office and got back to work. We had a gargantuan task ahead of us: taking a semester’s worth of research, conversations, and observations and coming up with a succinct yet comprehensive branding for this burgeoning non-profit. Very quickly, we realized that this work was more than just a marketing exercise; it was getting to the heart of ERP’s strategic first, figuring out how to communicate it second.

Like any good first-year Haas students, we got our PFPS on:


The Windy City

Despite being in crunch time, we managed to find time to get away, just the five of us – the dream team. We spent the weekend in beautiful Cape Town, taking a much needed break from everything branding, marketing, and frameworks.

Asli making some new friends

Asli making some new friends


Blown away by Table Mountain!

Blown away by Table Mountain!

Elephants, rhinos…and sea lions?

Elephants, rhinos…and sea lions?

Wrapping up

In the end, we delivered a comprehensive branding and marketing action plan for our client. This final report provided some realistic, actionable recommendations for coordinating ERP’s communication from the inside out.

It wasn’t always the easiest process – we took the liberty of proposing some bold new ideas, and the clients didn’t always pick up what we were putting down, sending us back to the drawing board. This entire experience was undoubtedly a valuable learning process. If anything, we learned that, for all of the immense value of the Haas core curriculum, what works in a business setting isn’t always the most feasible for a young non-profit. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our challenge was adapting what we had learned in Marketing (and in Strategy, Leading People, Leadership Communications…) and adapting it for an untraditional setting. Three weeks and many Post-Its later, we can confidently say that we “cracked the code” on non-profit marketing.

All done!

All done!

As for me, I learned that, when you have the right crew by your side, getting around the South African bush on crutches isn’t so hard. I wasn’t sure what three weeks abroad while unable to walk properly would be like, but with help and support from my awesome team, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. It was, as Josh would say, truly something special.

The Big Five

The Big Five

The “United Nations Delegation” to Ghana

IBD team members Kaajal Baheti, Pedro Navarro, Howard O, Hassan Rashid, and Cecilia Toscana traveled to Accra, Ghana to work with Ashesi University, an innovative, private liberal arts college founded by Berkeley Haas alum Patrick Awuah (MBA ’99).

One Peruvian, one Guatemalan, one Chinese-American, one Indian-American, and one Pakistani-American in Ghana… sound familiar? The United Nations in a nutshell. It wasn’t until we got to Accra that we realized our diversity across cultures, ethnicities, personalities, work styles, and even religions. A team that was so different that it balanced itself out perfectly.

One of the main reasons why I signed up for IBD was to get a chance to learn from an international client. I couldn’t have imaged that I came out of the experience learning as much, or even more, from an internationally diverse IBD team. I learned that Guatemalan enchiladas are very different than Mexican enchiladas, that the Peruvian football team made it to the 1982 World Cup (crossing my fingers for Pedro that it happens again soon), that Chinese characters are based on ideas that build upon each other, and that northern Pakistani mountains are more beautiful than the Swiss Alps.


The IBD team at Ashesi University, from left to right: Hassan Rashid (MBA ’17), Kaajal Baheti (MBA ’17), Cecilia Toscana (MBA ’17), Howard O (MBA ’17), Pedro Navarro (MBA ’17)

We continued to embrace our unique interests during the three weeks we spent together—from learning Hassan and Howard’s new card games despite not having any electricity, to making it a team mission to watch the Champions League finals live over tapas for Ceci and Pedro. As we arrived in Cape Coast for a weekend getaway, much to my excitement, the team even jumped on the idea of learning Western African drums and dance. (Ask any of us to show you the chicken move or swing move next time you see us! We’d be more than happy to perform.)

The IBD Ghana and IBD Côte D’Ivoire teams met up at Cape Coast and took an African drumming and dancing class.

The IBD Ghana and IBD Côte D’Ivoire teams met up at Cape Coast and took an African drumming and dancing class.

5 different ethnicities, 4 different religions, 3 home countries, 2 dietary restrictions, 1 project and many nicknames later—this experience would not have been the same without this unique combination of bright, funny, hard-working, caring, loyal and ridiculously diverse teammates.

The Challenge: Transforming a Continent
The founder of Ashesi University came to us with a grand vision to help develop the next generation of leaders to transform Africa and solve its biggest challenges. Ashesi had achieved remarkable success in a short time, and now, it wanted to develop an Institute to scale its successful model and share its best practices with other education institutions. After 3 months of working remotely, we finally arrived to Ashesi campus and, even though we had already seen pictures of the campus, it was much more gorgeous than we could imagine—a perfect place to spend the following 3 weeks.

In our time in Ghana, we conducted interviews with different stakeholders, all of them passionate about revolutionizing education in Africa, to validate our findings from previous research. What we found was that the higher education system in Africa is broken, resulting to high rates of unemployment, corruption, and little innovation. There is gap that Ashesi can help to fill, and other education institutions were eager to learn more about Ashesi’s secret sauce.


The IBD team brought over 1,400 Post-Its to Ashesi for brainstorming with the community.

We facilitated an ideation session with internal stakeholders where we validated Ashesi’s core competencies that the market was demanding and the programs to deliver them. During the last week, we conducted a pilot with potential customers interested in the Institute to test which programs were the most appropriate and effective to achieve the Institute’s goal.

With all these inputs, we created a comprehensive business plan that we presented to the Executive Committee to recommend the implementation of the Institute and start working with a potential customer as part of a pilot initiative to validate our findings.

Patrick Awuah (MBA ’99), center, and the Ashesi University Executive Committee with the IBD team

Patrick Awuah (MBA ’99), center, and the Ashesi University Executive Committee with the IBD team

The Ashesi Family
The people at Ashesi made our time in Ghana truly memorable. From setting up workspaces to finding a bespoke tailor, our gracious hosts ensured that our stay was incredibly smooth. Ashesi provost Marcia shared her remarkable experiences and found a connection with each of us, from working at FC College in Lahore to doing an exchange program in Peru, to having her daughter working in Guatemala City. Patrick was the inspirational leader we heard so much about, and he inspired us to think broadly about the impact our project could have for higher education across Africa.

Ashesi means ‘beginning’ in the Akan language, and our team is very much looking forward to the beginning of the Institute when it launches—hopefully, a future IBD team will have the opportunity to be a part of this meaningful transformation.

Don’t hate, opto-isolate! – Update from South Africa INSiAVA IBD Team

FTMBA students Petar Kralev, Luke Baran, Matthew Hahn, Lucy Hakobyan and Chris Kavcsak spent 3 weeks in South Africa working with INSiAVA a fabless semiconductor start-up that owns and develops silicon light emitting and detecting technology in standard CMOS.


Week 1:

Work hard play hard was definitely the motto of our team and client. Working late nights at the Innovation Hub was well balanced with weekend trips to Cape Town and the South African bush. From constructing the framework equivalent of the movie Inception (frameworks within frameworks within yet more frameworks) in countless powerpoint slides that literally took us to the brink of a Google Slides implosion, to consuming previously unfathomable amounts of red meat and pinotage that are sure to give us heart attacks within 3 months, team INSiAVA was well-immersed in South African culture.

We started off the first week with a heavy 8-hour marathon of a design thinking session with INSiAVA’s CEO and Head of Engineering, which ultimately culminated in a strong value proposition presentation validated by several local customer interviews.



Weekend 1:

To celebrate our great work, we flew to Cape Town that weekend where we sabred bottles of champagne on the terrace of our private 3 bedroom waterfront mansion villa. Don’t worry, we’re professionals.


The next morning we summited Table Mountain, conquering one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. From the top we enjoyed incredible views of the city and the grandiose Lion’s Head peak.



Between delicious authentic African dinners on the waterfront and sophisticated drinks with live music at the hotel, we also managed to mix it up with the local party scene on Long Street, which had a distinctively Bourbon Street feel.


To end the weekend on a strong note, we started with a breakfast of champions – ice cream – on top of Signal Hill, immediately before jumping off a cliff with parachutes strapped to our backs. Paragliding down to the Sea Point gave us 360 degree views of the city and the mountain, the serenity of which was counter-balanced by our immediate regret of crushing copious amounts of frozen dairy before extreme motion and moments of weightlessness.


Week 2:

The following Monday marked the start of another week of top notch work. After several customer and potential partner meetings and interviews, we strove toward validating the value propositions from the previous week. Next up was the Go-to-Market Strategy…which we crushed, as per usual.

Thursday evening we joined forces with our fellow IBDers, GroupeElephant.com, at Capital Craft Brew Academy, a local drafthouse serving up South Africa’s finest microbrews and BBQ. Much to our surprise, South Africa has a vast and pretty darn tasty craft brewing scene. Comparing notes on our experiences thus far we realized that their project was a complete and utter softball. Seriously, from what we can gather they color and take pictures all day. Matthew took away the gold medal for the evening, crushing an entire kilo of beef and an entire platter of gin.


This was of course only to get inspiration to educate our classmates on two chip opto isolators that operate on low voltage low speed on a simple CPU.


And as a testament to the amazingness of the exchange rate, each person spent less than $20.

Weekend 2:

That weekend, our client team took us for a more unique adventure to experience the African wild. INSiAVA graciously hosted us at a private game reserve that is part of the larger Kruger National Park. We went on harrowing game drives that made as though we were part of a National Geographic expedition chasing majestic animals like Elephants, Kudu, and the rare African Wildcat in their natural habitat.



To reflect on our near death experiences, we spent an evening having a traditional braai out in the bush under the most incredible starry night anyone has ever seen. Literally, ever. As the local African wine guided us toward pondering the heavens, we spent hours stargazing and learning about the astrological signs along with useful navigational skills which will surely be used in the near future.


As an environmentally conscious Berkeley student, Chris was deeply troubled by the drought and lack of food strangling the surrounding animals. And when Chris sees a problem, he solves it. After what we can only assume was an intense design thinking process that took place in his head, Chris came to an innovative solution. He gave his dinner back to a nearby bush and watered the plants a bit. This last part may have been a bit misguided as it may have been perceived as a territorial threat to the dominant male rhino in the area, but it’s safe to say he took one for the planet.


Week 3:

During the last week of our IBD project, we visited the Industrial Development Corporation and learned about the strategic investments in the economy of South Africa. Heavy stuff. To unwind, we had a delicious lunch under the supervision of no other than Nelson Mandela in Mandela square of Johannesburg.


The culminating field trip of the week was a tour of University of Pretoria, which gave us perspectives into the education and social developments since Apartheid. Oh and there was Steers, the local equivalent of Burger King. Check it off the bucket list.


And we always remembered to stop for #selfies.


IBD in Zimbabwe Week 1

FTMBA students Sebastian Pflumm, Rodrigo Calmet, Julian Garzon, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell were in Zimbabwe working on an International Business Development (IBD) project.

The first week of our International Business Development project flew by for us five Haasies based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our project is to develop and teach a two-week entrepreneurship program, named ACT (Apsara Capital Trust), to young Zimbabweans who are passionate about social change. Our client Henri Lambert, owner of Apsara Capital, founded the intensive design-thinking program two years ago to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Zimbabwe that catalyzes economic development and fights unemployment. While our IBD team is a diverse mosaic of nationalities and backgrounds, we share a common work ethic, sense of humor, composure, and dedication to our project.

First Day of Class

Irene, our local and indispensable program manager, picked us up at 6:45 a.m. on the morning of Monday May 16th. Having worked on lesson plans, Powerpoints, online pre-courses, and logistics for the past two months in Berkeley, our team was anxiously quiet on the bumpy car ride to the first morning of class. As we looked out the window onto the Harare streets, we noted the contrast between the huge houses, malfunctioning street-lights, and large pot-holes. We didn’t know what to expect, both in terms of our students’ skills and the general classroom experience. It was not only our first time in Zimbabwe, but also our first time teaching a structured program. Additionally, due to unexpected problems with our Colombian teammate’s visa, we were one team member short. As we pulled into the school at 7 a.m., we were surprised to see that many students had already arrived. The school, our office for the next three weeks, is a large house in the Milton Park neighborhood recently converted into a center for entrepreneurship named Udugu Institute. The students cautiously mingled with each other as we checked them in. Their backgrounds range from the founder of the University of Zimbabwe Entrepreneurship Club to a preacher-turned software developer to a young amateur rapper.

ACT_1_fvChloe McConnell teaching the Introduction to Design Thinking class on Day 1.

Our biggest take-away from the first day, was how passionate, excited and bright our students are. They are willing to work hard to change their communities for the better and we left the day incredibly excited to help them realize their dreams.

Diverging and Converging in the Classroom        

Over the next 5 days, we experienced the sun-soaked winter Zimbabwe days as we ran the students through the design thinking process while simultaneously teaching them the business skills necessary to launch their ideas. As the intensity of the work built throughout the week, so did the comradery within the teams. Breaks and teamwork time starting filling up with laughter and heated discussions. The teams’ focuses range from waste management to organic farming to increasing employment opportunities for semi-skilled workers.

ACT_2_fvRodrigo Calmet working with a team on insight generation.

Luckily, our Colombian classmate Julián finally received his visa to enter Zimbabwe after five lonely days in Johannesburg. We welcomed him with salsa music and a whiteboard full of messages from the students in local languages.


The students welcoming Julián Garzón to Zimbabwe after he finally received his visa!

ACT_4_fvJulián Garzón with the winners of the marshmallow challenge.


A passionate team working late into the night on their business idea.

Adventures Outside the Classroom        

We are staying in the walled neighborhood of Gunhill at the Guinea Fowls Rest Inn and eat out most nights. Harare has a plethora of food options ranging from the local sadza and stewed meat to tempting Thai eateries. Our favorite spot, named Amanzi, hosts trivia every Wednesday. The five of us, Henri, and Irene formed a team named after the tasty South African Cabernet Sauvignon we were imbibing and were immediately hooked on trivia. Our excitement did not make up for our sub-par knowledge of miscellaneous facts, leading to an underwhelming middle of the pack finish. We committed to practice for the next week.

During the days, we’ve explored Harare by accompanying students on their fieldwork. When visiting the Central Business District and the Avondale and Barrowdale shopping markets, we noticed Zimbabwean’s positivity and friendliness despite the distressed economy.


Chloe McConnell taking a Kombi into town with the students for fieldwork.

On Sunday, our first day off, we embarked on a group neighborhood run, relished in a long breakfast, and drove out of town for a hike. The beautiful rocky landscape of Ngomakurira is rife with green algae-spotted rocks and cave paintings. The scenery was ideal for group portraits and we took the time to stage some shots.  We then hit the driving range for a fun, but competitive, putting tournament to round out the day.


Rodrigo Calmet, Julián Garzón, Sebastian Pflumm, Benjamin Irarrazaval, and Chloe McConnell (members of Team ACT), pose during a hike in Ngomakurira.

Concluding Week One

Our first 6 days of teaching left us exhausted, yet exhilarated. We feel at home in Harare and are inspired by the work and ideas that our students have developed. We are ready to work closely with our students to develop business models, financial plans, and a tight story that they will pitch to investors next week.



From Silicon Valley to Abobo

Naomi Logan is a full-time MBA student working on an International Business Development project with the Jacobs Foundation in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. She and her team of four other MBAs are exploring ways to improve education in developing West African countries through low-cost technology.

Walking into school
The sounds of recess are unmistakeable anywhere. When we walk into Abobo’s primary school we are greeted by a chaotic courtyard teeming with kids running, yelling, and laughing. Abobo, a suburb of Cote d’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan, is densely populated and individual classrooms can include up to 100 students per teacher.

We are in Abobo to observe a pilot that our client, the Jacobs Foundation, is running with Côte d’Ivoire’s Ministry of Education. They have equipped pilot schools with tablets, training, and basic software designed to improve reading and math skills.

As we make our way into the classroom, a corridor of kids forms around us eager to check out the visitors. With pale skin and bright red hair, I especially stand out. Some tentatively tap my arm, and excitedly wave when I smile back. As we’re seated, the teacher has to shoo away kids from another class that are crowded around to see what we’re doing.

Jacobs_girl-fvStudents in CP1 (first grade) ready to start class

Digital classrooms
The teacher hands out tablets, and after warnings not to break them, the students are set to log-in. Even the most basic password (12345) takes some explanation as they are just learning how to count to 5. However once the kids are logged in, they display the intuition of digital natives. An error message pops up on one girl’s screen that she can’t possibly read. But she navigates back to the home screen, reopens the app, and is ready to practice drawing the letter “a”.

The excitement is palpable, and the teacher has to repeatedly clap and tell the kids to sit back with their arms folded to calm them down. In an older class this is less of an issue, but the dedicated focus on their tablets shows the real potential for technology to help keep students engaged in such large classes.

Students logging in to their tablets

Bringing Silicon Valley to the Ivory Coast
The route to digitally-enabled classrooms will not be easy. As we’re discovering with field visits and interviews, infrastructure like electricity and internet are sorely lacking in most schools. Teachers, themselves often unfamiliar with technology, need substantial support managing technology in the classroom. And aspiring education technology enterprises will need support from a Ministry of Education that is just beginning its own technology journey.

However, we’re here to understand these challenges and how technology solutions might help improve education in Côte d’Ivoire. After months of researching companies ranging from global success stories to the edtech explosion in our own backyard in Silicon Valley, we’re eager to advise our client on the types of businesses that might make both a difference and a profit in West Africa.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be meeting with technology companies, education non-profits, startup accelerators, government staff, and more to understand how the Jacobs Foundation can best support appropriate efforts and business models in support of bringing education technology to Cote d’Ivoire. There’s a lot to learn, but we’ll also make time for weekends at the beach and lots of local food.


Our team at a maquis, the local name for a casual bar/ restaurant

As we wrap up our visit in Abobo, the kids have grown braver. They reach out to feel my hair and skin, or grab my hand and walk with me. By the time I’ve reached the gate I have an entourage of at least a dozen waving me off. There are plenty of office visits and brainstorming sessions to come, but ultimately this project is all about how technology can change their lives.


Updates from IBD Senegal – Team In Touch SA

EWMBA students Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy, and Zack Bailey traveled to Dakar, Senegal during summer 2015 to work with Senegalese start up company In Touch SA.

Senegal — Three Grown Men in the Back of a Taxi

With a population that’s mostly unbanked, Senegal is a thriving market for money transfer companies and mobile wallet providers who used their understanding of the local market, to disrupt the banking industry.

Our client, In Touch SA, is a Senegalese startup that is looking for opportunities to partner with payment providers to create an aggregated payment platform that can be used to offer valuable services for store owners. They recruited our team, the Dakar Bears, to validate their initial value proposition, evaluate potential partnership opportunities and develop a recommended go to market strategy.

The Dakar Bears team: Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy and Zack Bailey

The Dakar Bears team: Marc Valer, Nikhil Pai, Ramy Bebawy and Zack Bailey

The Initial Research

We realized early on that the informal nature of the Senegalese economy made it hard to find useful online resources and that most of our work would be based on in-country interviews. So we focused our strategy on narrowing down the list of questions to answer, working with In Touch to set up a thorough interview schedule and using our own networks to find additional contacts to interview in Dakar.

Arrival in Senegal

Arriving on Saturday July 4th, we were greeted by our enthusiastic host, Omar Cissé, the founder of In Touch SA. He gave us a quick tour of Dakar and seeing that we were in good shape, despite 30 hours of travelling across many Time Zones, he took us to meet the In Touch SA team who were working on a presentation for a client meeting the next day.

The team having our first meal in Dakar

The team having our first meal in Dakar

After settling into a spacious Dakar apartment in the up and coming area of the “Sacre Coeur III”, we immediately headed out to a local mall to purchase SIM cards, gaining a first hand knowledge of the mobile providers, and to set up our mobile payment accounts, both of which were relevant to our project.

A self serve machine for the Tigo Cash mobile wallet in Dakar

A self serve machine for the Tigo Cash mobile wallet in Dakar

Communicating our goals

Our day of arrival presentation to the In Touch SA team helped us validate our initial strategy and gather useful feedback. Having continuous daily interaction with the team ensured we were always in sync. It also allowed us to dynamically shift our interview schedule based on our findings.

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Our Day of Arrival Presentation

Learning about the market

The first week, we focused on interviews with relevant players in the local payments market. These were conducted with an In Touch SA representative to help with the translation since our team did not speak French or Wolof. By the end of our two weeks we had completed 16 interviews, ranging from a Marketing Director for the largest money transfer company in Senegal to small store operators. Our interviews helped us in many ways:

  • Understand how the informal Senegalese economy works and why consumers and store owners use the money transfer services.


Local consumer goods store owner and a pharmacist that used money transfer services to supplement their day to day business

Local consumer goods store owner and a pharmacist that used money transfer services to supplement their day to day business

  • Learn about the nascent startup ecosystem in Dakar and sectors where future mobile payment opportunities may exist, such as the education, health services and transportation sectors.
The team with Yann Lebeux, the Director of the CTIC startup accelerator, who walked us through the startup ecosystem in Dakar

The team with Yann Lebeux, the Director of the CTIC startup accelerator, who walked us through the startup ecosystem in Dakar

The team with Africa Consultants International (ACI) a non-profit organization that talked to us about opportunities in the education, and health services sectors where they have a lot of experience

The team with Africa Consultants International (ACI) a non-profit organization that talked to us about opportunities in the education, and health services sectors where they have a lot of experience

  • Clarify the vision, strategy and partnership goals for the major payment providers in Senegal to look for opportunities that In Touch SA could use.
The team with Alioune Kane, Marketing Director for Orange Money, a mobile wallet offered by Orange, the largest Senegalese mobile operator

The team with Alioune Kane, Marketing Director for Orange Money, a mobile wallet offered by Orange, the largest Senegalese mobile operator

The team with Awa Dia, Group Communication Manager for Wari, the largest money transfer service provider in Senegal who explained Wari’s long term vision and partnership goals

The team with Awa Dia, Group Communication Manager for Wari, the largest money transfer service provider in Senegal who explained Wari’s long term vision and partnership goals

  • Find opportunities for strategic partnerships with companies that could help In Touch SA distribute their technology through an existing distribution network.
The team and Omar Cissé with Bagoré Bathily, founder of La Laiterie du Berger, the biggest producer of dairy products from local milk in Senegal

The team and Omar Cissé with Bagoré Bathily, founder of La Laiterie du Berger, the biggest producer of dairy products from local milk in Senegal

Formulating a strategy and our final presentation

After collecting all the data, it was time to use these insights to formulate a proposed strategy for In Touch SA and work on our final presentation. We made use of what we have learned in Haas courses, such as Problem Finding, Problem Solving, to organize our ideas, develop a work plan and execute on it.

The team working on our final deliverables in In Touch’s main office

The team working on our final deliverables in In Touch’s main office

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

Organizing our findings through a diverge/converge exercise

On our second to last day in Senegal, we presented our findings to the entire In Touch SA team. The presentation included an overview of our research methodology, an evaluation of their value proposition, an assessment of partnership opportunities and our recommended go to market strategy.

Our final presentation

Our final presentation

Out and about in Senegal

Our two weeks in Senegal were full of experiences that helped us gain a better perspective of the country. The In Touch SA team also went out of their way to show us a good time and give us a chance to experience Senegal on a more personal level. We had a ton of fun, learned a lot and made some new friends, as well.

On our second day in Dakar, we went to the beach with some of the In Touch SA team. We had a great time playing pickup soccer (football) games with locals in the sand.

Dakar Bears with with In Touch SA team after the Pickup soccer game at the beach

Dakar Bears with with In Touch SA team after the Pickup soccer game at the beach

We were also invited to participate in a weekly soccer game at a nearby college, where we eked out a win. With the exception of Marc, the Dakar Bears contribution to this feat is somewhat questionable.

An exhausted and sweat drenched team after a soccer game at the local college

An exhausted and sweat drenched team after a soccer game at the local college

Over the weekend, Omar, In Touch SA’s founder, took the entire team on a trip to the N’Dangane on the Sine Saloum, where we visited the house where Léopold Senghor, the first Senegalese president, was born and visited some of the islands in the area, where the locals graciously welcomed us.

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

The house where Léopold Senghor was born

There is always time to talk about business even on a boat on our way to some of the islands in the N’Dangane area

There is always time to talk about business even on a boat on our way to some of the islands in the N’Dangane area

Marc and Zack showing pictures to local kids on one of the islands in Sine Saloum

Marc and Zack showing pictures to local kids on one of the islands in Sine Saloum

During our second week we were invited to attend the French National Day celebrations in Dakar

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

Attending 14th July festivities organized by the French embassador

We also visited the local market, Marché Sandaga, where we bargained hard for gifts and souvenirs.

A textile factory in the local market

A textile factory in the local market

We also had a lot of fun dining and discovering Senegalese cuisine




From Dibiterie to Thieboudienne family style meals we explored a wide variety of Senegalese dishes

From Dibiterie to Thieboudienne family style meals we explored a wide variety of Senegalese dishes

We took more than 60 taxi trips around town, where we learned what it takes to tell taxi drivers where to go, while bargaining hard for our taxi fares (a standard practice).

Post it notes with what we should ask the Taxi drivers in order to take us there

Post it notes with what we should ask the Taxi drivers in order to take us there

Timelapse of our team in the back of the numerous taxi rides around town

Timelapse of our team in the back of the numerous taxi rides around town

In Conclusion

Senegal is a country of many opportunities. We met entrepreneurs working hard on disrupting the status quo and a lot of people who were proud and happy to share their culture. In the short time we spent there, we gained a solid understanding of the local payments industry, immersed ourselves in Senegalese culture, had a lot of fun around town and made some great friends on the In Touch SA team who further enhanced this amazing experience.

This might have been our first trip to Senegal, but it won’t be our last!


[Thank you in the Wolof language]

Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a 49m (160ft) tall bronze statue unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state in April 2010

Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine is a 49m (160ft) tall bronze statue unveiled in Dakar in front of 19 African heads of state in April 2010

The picturesque view of the beautiful city of Dakar from the African Renaissance Monument

The picturesque view of the beautiful city of Dakar from the African Renaissance Monument


Updates from IBD South Africa – Team African School for Excellence

EWMBA students Susan Hsieh, Melissa Tsang, Cameron Passmore, and Kate DeLeo worked with African School for Excellence, a non-profit organization based in South Africa.


Johannesburg, South Africa

7:15am Breakfast

Our guesthouse in Melville, Life on 3rd, serves breakfast every weekday morning from 7-9am. There is a self-serve selection of cereals, yogurt, fruit, and toast, along with coffee, tea, and juice. Once we’ve settled into “our table”, one of the women who work there (Lydia, Beulla, or Blessings) will come and take our “hot breakfast” order. So far, every day has been an offering of eggs, bacon, and mushrooms. Between our group, we’ve had the eggs almost every way conceivable — scrambled, fried, hard boiled, an in an omelette. One day we’ll have to ask for them poached. The information booklet in our rooms says that the breakfast offering runs the gamut from American to traditional South African. Five days in we are yet to see an option other than eggs, bacon, and mushrooms. Regardless, the food is tasty and is a great way to begin our days.


8:00am Pickup

Our client, Jay Kloppenberg, the co-founder of ASE, comes to pick us up after breakfast. We are heading to the flagship school in Tsakane, a township about 40 minutes southeast of Johannesburg. The site is remote and there is no good way for us to get there ourselves, so we appreciate his hospitality. Even though it is winter break, there is a holiday program called Accelerate running at the school to recruit students for the following year, and Jay continues to have meetings on site as well. As we head further and further out of JoBurg, the roads are becoming more and more remote. When we turn off the highway onto the road into the township, it feels as if we are in a different world. Paved roads turn into dirt streets and it seems as though the entire community is milling about. As it turns out, the unemployment rate in the area is nearly 80% so majority of the community remains close to home every day. Most see their children’s education as their single opportunity to employment, which adds a deeper appreciation as to the symbolism of the school as we enter the school grounds.

9:00am – 1:00pm African School for Excellence (ASE) visit

We arrive at the school and are the only car there. The school looks empty, and we are not even sure if anyone is there. Not long after we park, the head of school, Berkia Banda, comes out to greet us and asks to have a word with Jay in private. We later learn that Mr. Banda had just gotten off the phone with a Grade 8 scholar whose father has just passed away. This interaction serves to remind us that while the school is an oasis to the students and community, it cannot overcome all the ills that the students face.


We are then greeted by four Grade 9 scholars who are at school over their break to help out mentor students in the Accelerate program. Jay asks them to show us around, and the eight of us head down the hill toward the school. As they begin the tour, teaching us about the school and sharing personal anecdotes about their favorite classes and teachers, we naturally break off into pairs, each of us taking our own route throughout the school with our personal guide-peaking into classrooms and exploring the library.

Once the official tours end, we start having personal sessions with teachers and students. Topics range from how everyone became involved with ASE to the plot of a novel that one scholar is writing to how to say “hello” in the language that another scholar invented. The one message that reverberates across each conversation is everyone’s love of the school. The feeling is palpable and contagious.


2:00pm Lunch

When we arrive back in Melville, we pick up some salads downtown to supplement leftovers from last night’s dinner. We had ventured to a neat little restaurant called Ant Cafe, recommended to us by Bernard, the owner of our guesthouse. The food was great, but we severely misjudged the portions and ended up with more food than could fit on the table. But it was nothing that couldn’t be solved by some creative combining…of a chair placed at the end of our table to hold the excess. Needless to say, we didn’t finish it all. As an added bonus, a local overheard our conversation about our upcoming weekend trip to Cape Town as we were waiting for our food and shared her insider knowledge of the best restaurants and trails to try as a “thank you” for our work in the community!


3:00pm Work Session

We eat lunch back in the guesthouse courtyard before heading into the boardroom to do some work. “Boardroom” may be a slightly misleading term. It consists of a table in an indoor/outdoor room. Fortunately, it has power, heat, and wifi. Sort of. Despite showing full connectivity, there are pockets of time where the internet slows to a crawl. The effect on our progress on our slides for Monday’s mid-trip meeting with Jay is drastic, but it gives us time to test out the whiteboard. It turns out that “whiteboard” is also a misleading term. We learn too late that what we thought was a whiteboard easel is in fact just an easel without paper loaded on, and the dry erase marker is a Crayola. At least we’ve left our mark.


6:00pm Break

We take a brief break from work to retreat to our rooms before dinner. We have adjoining rooms with two single beds in each. The rooms are cozy and although we’re in Africa, we are appreciative of the heating system and heated blankets in our rooms. We quickly check the WhatsApp stream that we share with our fellow EWMBA students who are in country to check on the progress of our colleagues across the world. After sending a quick update to the group and to our friends and families back home, we order an Uber – which luckily enough for us is operates in Johannesburg (one of three cities served across South Africa!) and file out to dinner.

7:00pm Outing with ASE team

During one of our weekly calls while we were still in Berkeley, we told Jay that we wanted to take some of his team out to get to know them and to show our appreciation. He ended up picking a spot nearby that we had read about in a few travel books and were curious to try. The reviews were an interesting juxtaposition of a “not to be missed” restaurant and a dive bar.

We arrive with Jay to meet two members of his team that were supposed to already be there. A quick sweep of the place doesn’t show them, and the hostess tells us they are actually preparing for a large group so there might not be space for us. We are making our way to the door, assuming they’ve gone elsewhere, when Jay, who is on the phone with the others in our group, says “What? The secret room?”. Before he’s off the phone, our hostess starts walking towards some occupied tables, indicating we should follow. She goes between them and reaches out to the floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases against the wall, opening a hidden door to this aptly-named secret room.


Over wine, tisers and barbecue ribs, we begin to relax in the informal atmosphere where we get to truly know everyone. The one founder shares his background and love of education as well as some of his favorite stories from his students. The other shares her personal struggles to get through college and how her family has helped drive her success. The others share how much they truly care about and love the students, underscoring just the students reliance on the teachers for strength is a two-way street. We are all sorry to have the night come to a close.

10:30pm Arrive back at our guesthouse

We reflect on the fun night on our way back but have to admit that we’re somewhat relieved to be heading to bed. We typically cap the night off with one final text message to our loved ones back west before either turning to a book or quickly turning on the TV, which seems to consistent primarily of bad U.S. movies from the 90’s (or earlier). While it’s been a long day, we’re excited for the adventures to come tomorrow!