Kyle Rudzinski, MBA ’14, and the Center for Responsible Business Scholar spent two weeks in Dar es Salaam consulting tech startups pro bono this past January. We spoke with him about his experience.
So what exactly did you do in Tanzania?
For two weeks I worked with 15 startups at KINU, one of the first tech and innovation hubs in Tanzania. Each company had its own challenges and barriers. I tried to focus on the ones that were most salient through “micro-consulting.” I’d meet with the founders for a few hours to learn the ins and outs of their firm and help them diagnose some of the challenges they were facing. The end deliverable typically consisted of high-level strategic recommendations that they could pursue to better understand their product/market fit because ultimately I was working with technical experts who could become more confident in their business acumen.
What types of companies did you work with?
Companies ran the gamut – from mobile app developers trying to create an Uber-like app for Bajajais (also called tuk tuks in other parts of the world) to startups working on B2B software development for small businesses to the first Swahili-based cartoon aimed towards children’s education.
The great thing about KINU is the culture they’ve created. It’s one in which many different types of companies can collaborate and learn from one another. It’s a very collegial atmosphere. The founders all have massive dreams to solve problems and make life better in Tanzania. They’re ambitious, too. So the feeling among the companies working at KINU is something special in Dar.
How did you find out about KINU?
As students, we’re fortunate to have time off and to travel with our classmates during business school. We’re afforded tremendous opportunity to do things that contribute to our personal growth. I knew I would already be in Ghana for a Global Consulting course, so I thought about taking on another project while in Africa. Thankfully, some friends who work at Google had colleagues who set off a chain of connections that led to KINU, which is backed by Google.
That sounds like you knew what you wanted to do and made it happen.
I was open and flexible. There are so many needs in Africa and I was only available for a couple of weeks. Finding a project where I could really contribute in such a short period did not come easily. I networked through Haas connections and elsewhere to find opportunities. Kiva, Intel, and Grameen were some of the other organizations people introduced me to. Finding the right project fit mattered and working with KINU sparked my interest. A burgeoning tech hub in Tanzania sounded fascinating, especially given our tech focus here in the Bay Area. I was curious to learn about the emerging tech culture in Tanzania firsthand and Google presented a great opportunity to help on the business side of things at KINU. I really have some phenomenal Googlers to thank for connecting me with KINU. And Haas prepared me to apply an MBA lens to the challenges the KINU companies faced – from helping them with financing considerations and strategy to integrating the lean start-up philosophy. So it seemed like the right time and the right opportunity.
What was the best part about the experience?
There were two best parts. The first is the energy the entrepreneurs at KINU brought to the hub every day. They were passionate about big ideas to make a difference in people’s lives. They have this contagious, earnest desire to use tech to improve how people live and how businesses operate.
The second part was being part of the Haas global community. Kristi Raube [Associate Director for the Haas Institute for Business & Social Impact] and Meg Roundy in our alumni relations office introduced me to the only Haas alumna in Tanzania, Melissa Higbie, who graduated a few years ago. After emailing Melissa for advice on where to stay and what to do in Dar es Salaam, she immediately invited me to stay with her.
For two weeks I lived with Melissa, her partner Mike, and their high energy dog, Max Power in a beautiful house. Melissa and Mike welcomed me to Dar wholeheartedly. From sailing to watching soccer to simply grilling mishkaki with expat friends, spending time with a new Haasie friend halfway around the world was incredible. This is another great example of the type of place Haas is and how far it extends beyond Berkeley.