The MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp teaches established business professionals entrepreneurial best practices. The goal is to build on one’s experience and adapt it to starting a new venture. But the Bootcamp also serves an additional role – meeting co-founders.
Such was the case with Miranda Phua and Laurent Savaëte, both graduates of the inaugural MIT Entrepreneurship Bootcamp.
Phua is a finance professional with over 14 years of experience. She believes in the eradication of global poverty through social entrepreneurship and has lived and worked across the world, including Cambodia, Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan and Belize. “I was interested in the idea of social enterprises – businesses that build on the efficiencies of the corporate world but also had the heart of an NGO at their core,” says Phua. “I’d never started a company, especially not a large scalable operation with limited resources – it seemed like a daunting task, especially as I was a non-techie and the startup world seemed to have a language and network all of its own.”
Prior to her social entrepreneurship journey, Phua headed the Asian operations of BlueOrchard Finance, one of the world’s largest impact investors, before becoming a member of its global investment committee. She also helped to fund multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects at ANZ and was a Finance Advisor with United Nations Development Programme.
The bootcamp “opened my eyes by breaking down this seemingly insurmountable journey into manageable pieces – it allowed me to not just dream but to actually see the possibilities of building a sustainable business,” says Phua. “When the opportunity arose to participate in the Bootcamp, to be a part of the MIT entrepreneurship ecosystem, and learn from the world’s best, there was no doubt in my mind that I had to apply!”
During her studies, she teamed up with Savaëte, a corporate engineer, humanitarian, and social entrepreneur. He had worked as a project engineer and coordinator in water sanitation and waste treatment for years but was ready to do more.
“I first heard of the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in a refugee camp in South Sudan, after a long day of work fixing the water supply for thousands of refugees. While my job was literally saving lives every day, I wanted to make a wider impact and provide more long-lasting solutions to the problem of poverty by attacking its root causes,” explains Savaëte. “Social entrepreneurship seemed to be the right way to do this, and after taking MIT’s MOOC Entrepreneurship 101, the bootcamp appeared like the place where I would meet like-minded people to join forces and learn how to get started on the entrepreneurial journey, and it clearly exceeded expectations.”
In addition to meeting Phua, Savaëte learned that “starting a scalable business can be broken down into a process of small manageable steps, almost like an algorithm, which is very reassuring for an engineer! All of a sudden, the nebulous path forward was a lot clearer.”
Since the Bootcamp, Phua and Savaëte have been busy. The pair co-founded CityTaps, a social enterprise devoted to helping low-income families in developing countries access affordable running water in their homes and won $500k in the Internet-of-Things category at the Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award in 2015. They are now working on ZigWay, a social enterprise that helps low income families break free of debt traps with moneylenders.