by Kirsten Eldridge, Jolkona Volunteer
Our 16 social entrepreneurs in the Jolkona Catalyst program, a three-week mentor driven accelerator for founders from developing countries, will come from Bangladesh and Indonesia to Seattle next month. This three-week intensive program will allow them to further hone their business plans, learn how to tell their story, and gain new insights. We can’t wait to welcome them to our offices on October 25th!
Today’s feature is Abdullah Al Mahmud, Editor of Zero to Infinity, Bangladesh’s largest scientific community. Zero to Infinity now publishes the only monthly Bengali science magazine in Bangladesh with a readership of over 100k readers.
You can also register for our Jolkona Catalyst Showcase on November 11th in the beautiful, new Galvanize co-working space in historic Pioneer Square. Click here to RSVP!
Outside of this project and work, what else do you do for fun in your home country? What other passions do you have?
I love visiting places. Almost every weekend I leave the capital, explore beautiful rural areas of Bangladesh. I enjoy the diversity of language and culture in these areas. The way people live, the variety of their social and technological infrastructure attract me so much.
Though I am from engineering background, my passion is astronomy. My life long quest is knowing the governing laws of nature and understanding the basic fabric of the universe. I have written a couple of books on this area.
What inspired you to start this venture?
Actually, from a problem I got the inspiration of doing something. Back in 2012, there was not a single science monthly for the whole country with 160+ million people in it. That sounded like a problem to me. And I know that where there is a problem, there is an opportunity of doing something. This is where Zero to Infinity came into being.
In depth there was a bigger problem too. In 1990 students conversion rate to science was 42%. In 2015 it’s only 22%. And Zero to Infinity is up to fix this. We are publishing science and mathematics monthly magazines, books on different fields. We arrange workshops, public talks and science camps. We work with the ministry. We discuss with policy makers, private companies, NGOs and journalists. And now we look forward to expanding our reach beyond Bangladesh, to fight the same problem the whole world is facing.
What is one obstacle you have faced in running your social business? How did you overcome this obstacle?
The most annoying problem every entrepreneur faces here are questions. ‘Why you are not doing a job, why risk your life doing something on your own?’ I’ve overcome it through gaining their confidence by financial success. For me the next challenge was to build a market that never existed before. As there were no science magazines for the last 7/8 years before ‘Zero to Infinity’, we had to build and grow the market on our own. We did it by arranging workshops, Olympiads, camps at schools and colleges.
Convincing people to invest here in science is another problem. People aren’t convinced enough to advertise here, or make donation for science. Moreover, easier and less conditional finance policy is rare in Bangladesh. We are dealing it with the revenue generated from our gradually growing customer base.
What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States for the Jolkona Catalyst program?
As Zero to Infinity is growing, I need to develop an analytical eye on organizational behavior. Learning the corporate culture of engaging with investors would be a vital point for me. And I want to learn to visualize the whole process from generating ideas to building viable global businesses from our leading mentors.