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 Arif Md. Waliullah Bhiyan (Wali), CEO of Light of Hope, a tech-based non-profit delivering innovative and sustainable solutions for rural schools in Bangladesh. Light of Hope aims to improve the quality of primary education in Bangladesh through innovative technology projects.
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’m a crazy book lover. I also watch lots (only good ones) of movies and love travelling. I’m passionate about drawing, designing and using these skills for branding and marketing of Light of Hope.
What inspired you to start this venture?
I wanted to use my engineering and problem solving skills to change people’s lives and make a social impact which encouraged me to join in BRAC – the largest non-profit organization in the world after completing my graduation in EEE. The inspiration to develop a solar school came from a local woman from a remote Bangladeshi village, when I saw how she used a solar energy system to provide mobile charging services to her neighbors, earning money and also providing lighting to her children so that they can study longer hours.
What is one obstacle you have faced in running your social business? How did you overcome this obstacle?
In order to get initial seed funding to run any social business, one needs a very good network from where he/she can manage to raise that money. Many entrepreneurs talk about ‘lack of funding’ is the major obstacle. But I found it’s the ‘lack of network’ that leads to ‘lack of funding’ for any venture. I will not say we have fully overcome this obstacle as we are still facing this challenge. But we are now focusing more on building our own networks by meeting people from different backgrounds, developing relationships, trying to help each other with our own skills. We are applying in different competitions, small grant opportunities etc. to expand our project.
What are you looking forward to when you come to the United States for the Jolkona Catalyst program?
I will definitely look forward to more opportunities for networking and developing my own skills in pitching and negotiation. I also look forward to any angel investment for Light of Hope.