Not so long ago, my grandfather and I visited East Timor, a Southeast Asia country often plagued by militia violence. Through a large window above my hotel’s all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, I could see women and children in a refugee camp across the street — displaced by violence. The stark contrast transformed my future. I walked outside and began to listen.
We spoke with Ben Lyon, the founder of FrontlineSMS:Credit*, a non-profit focused on micro-financing. After his experience in the East Timor hotel, his passion, drive and motivation to help those in need brought him back to Africa, only this time, with a plan of action. In fact, when we spoke with Ben, he was in Uganda promoting FrontlineSMS:Credit with an operational budget of less than $1,000 budget.
Ben, like many social entrepreneurs, merge passion with business savvy to make meaningful impact on the world. Like many of his peers, took his academic background in economics (with a focus on micro-finance) and merged it with his passion to improve the lives of others. He and a team of driven entrepreneurs launched, FrontlineSMS:Credit.
Only around a year and a half after establishing FronlineSMS:Credit the non-profit has connected with regional partners throughout Central & South America, Sub- Saharan Africa, North Africa & the Middle East, and Asia & Pacific. We’ll discuss the many challenges and rewards of FrontlineSMS:Credit and social entrepreneurship with Ben.
What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
Life-changing experiences are pervasive among social entrepreneurs. For Blake Mycoskie, his trip to South America as a contestant on the Amazing Race, sparked the idea for TOMS Shoes — a non-profit shoe company that gives a pair of shoes for every pair sold. For Ben, it was his trip to East Timor that began his quest for the other bottom line — or people at the bottom of the economic pyramid.
Typically, entrepreneurs are seasoned industry veterans, which has many benefits. As a recent college grad, what advice can you give other young entrepreneurs?
Age can have some impact, depending on your field. For instance, the tech industry is built by young, cutting edge programmers and developers, while in micro-finance, you’re selling your idea to engineers, venture capitalists and governments — much more challenging if you’re a...