Posted on May 21, 2017
I recently spent five weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes Silicon Valley). As you will know, this is a spot renowned for its technology innovation/startups. It was more-or-less the same price for me to travel to Madagascar via San Francisco, compared with flying directly to Madagascar and with a friends couch to crash on, I figured I might as well make the most of the opportunity to talk with some foundations and wealthy individuals.  I am now in Madagascar, and have been here for about one week.
 
Key Progress: 
 
  • I, Faso and Fita (two Malagasy friends involved in Onja) met with Mr Dimitris Skourtelis, the president of the 'Rotary Club Antananarivo Ivandry', a very well respected club in Madagascar. Mr Skourtelis very quickly understood the potential Onja has to create rapid and large scale opportunity not only in Madagascar but throughout Africa and immediately offered his club to act as the Host Sponsor for our project - an offer we are absolutely honored to receive. We also attended a club meeting last night and were very well received by the club. They are very impressive, managing several large projects, and has extensive experience with International Rotary Grants.
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  • While in the US, I targeted a few wealthy individuals. They were very difficult to reach but with some hustling I managed to get hold of one or two. Most notable, a man called Ali Partovi, who between him and his brother have a net worth of half a billion dollars. We had a few phone calls, but I wasn't able to actually get a meeting before I left. He wants to focus his efforts on the non-profit he has founded, but he is certainly interested in what we are doing so I will keep him updated and perhaps he will contribute in future. 
  • I had the information memorandum printed really nicely and people seemed to love that. When they flicked through it they realized that it has all been clearly thought through etc. If anyone is interested in reading through that just let me know and I will send you a copy. 
  • A few weeks ago I had quite a nice conversation with Jesse Mulligan on radio NZ about our work in Madagascar. Here is the recording: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/afternoons/audio/201839425/the-expats-teaching-kids-coding-in-madagascar
Challenges:
  • I met with a handful of foundations in the US. Generally I got a meeting with someone senior, and generally they were very interested in what we are doing. Mostly they said they cant get involved now as we are too early-stage for them. Once our first class in Madagascar graduates that would be the time they get involved. One donor advised fund said they will circulate our material to some perspective individual donors, and another family foundation indicated we would have a good chance of receiving a grant but we would have to become a US registered non profit to qualify, and the maximum grant they give is $15,000. 
  • In the US personal networks seem to be particularly important, which naturally made things difficult for me. 
Many Thanks to you all, 
Sam
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