How This Nebraskan Entrepreneur Built ‘The Bay,’ A Startup That Helps Youth Across The United States

Mike Smith is a 30-something-year-old from Nebraska. He has four companies, a non-profit that supports youth, over 100,000 followers on Instagram, and spends most of the year on the road, speaking to students around the country about how to be better human beings.

Mike Smith

Mike Smith is a Nebraska-born entrepreneur who has built a career by speaking to American youth across the country.

“I don’t believe in jobs, I believe in lifestyle,” he says. Dressed in a t-shirt, and a baseball cap with shoulder length hair, Smith is anything but the traditional startup entrepreneur.

In fact, he doesn’t like to be called an entrepreneur. “I can’t even spell it. I always have to check on my phone,” he jokes.“But seriously, I just don’t really think of myself as the kind of entrepreneur that’s often portrayed in the media these days. I don’t build companies to make money. I do them because I get really excited about some issue.”

Read the full story on


London Startup Uses Technology To Open Up The World Of Book Publishing

Reedsy is the online marketplace democratizing the publishing process

Emmanuel Nataf has a simple mission: “I want more people to share their ideas with the world.”

That’s why three years ago, the Frenchman moved to London and co-founded Reedsy, a curated marketplace for authors to find publishing professionals to help bring their book to life.  While Paris may have Station F now, Nataf saw opportunity in the British capital thanks to the concentration of publishers, writers, and investors.

Reedsy is a curated marketplace for publishing books. REEDSY

“I wanted to see if we could take this world of publishing, which was happening primarily behind closed doors, and make it more transparent and accessible to everyone. Plus, as more and more people in the writing and editing profession are adopting freelance careers, it made sense to organize them,” he says, seated at the Monocle Cafe, home to one of London’s iconic magazines.

This year, Reedsy is democratizing the publishing process even further with a new component to the company: Reedsy Learning.  Launched in late 2016, the online courses help individuals figure out how to land publishing deals, what kind of support to hire (in terms of graphic designers, editors, ghostwriters), and how to navigate the complex world of Amazon, Facebook, and paid online advertising.

Read the full story at

Why Silicon Valley’s money can’t solve Africa’s tech problems

“Parachute investing is a problem. If you’re investing in early-stage companies from an airplane, you should consider philanthropy”


Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari chats with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during his visit to the presidential villa in Abuja, on September 2, 2016

When Mark Zuckerberg went to Kenya and Nigeria in 2016, he proclaimed that the future would be built in Africa. That same year, Y-Combinator accepted startups with African roots for its much sought-after accelerator program. But is Africa indeed the next frontier for Silicon Valley?

Not so fast, says Mercy Mutua, an investment manager based in Nairobi. Despite all the fanfare and media coverage, the venture capital scene in Africa, particularly beyond South Africa, remains nascent.

“There are few, if any, funds here that are run by Africans that invest in African-led companies. It’s all largely capital from the US and Europe, much of it going to foreign-led companies on the continent,” she says. “So how do we build the next generation of private equity funds or impact investors that are actually led by locals?”

Read the full story at

In rural India, wild honey farmers are using bees to fight terrorism

In some of India’s most dangerous conflict areas, one company is using sustainable farming as a model for economic growth – and peace

Much of the world’s honey is contaminated with pesticides. In a recent study, 200 honey samples from around the world were examined for neonicotinoid insecticides; 75 per cent of them tested positive. For Amit Hooda, co-founder of Heavenly Organics, this isn’t new information. His belief? That harvesting wild honey isn’t just the answer to pesticide, insecticide and antibiotic-free honey, but also a way of rebuilding conflict zones. It’s a way of thinking that he hopes can not only transform community, but the entire global food industry.


Credit: Mike Leibowitz

“Food can have such a positive impact on the world, creating peace between conflict communities, giving people work, and producing something nourishing for humankind,” says Amit, who has been testing his batches of wild-harvested organic honey for antibiotics and pesticides for ten years. “But we’ve turned food into a profiteering venture and it’s not working. It hasn’t been working for a while.”

Amit, an Indian-born American entrepreneur, started Heavenly Organics in 2005 with his father, Dr. Ishwar Singh Hooda, an agronomist who raised his family in the agricultural belt of India, Punjab, in the 1980s. Despite turmoil by local Maoist insurgents in the region at the time, communities in Punjab were able to prosper because they had fertile land, and means to make a living. “A life of violence wasn’t so appealing because they had other ways of making a living,” Amit says.

Read the full story at

The Indian startup modernising a 200-year-old industry


Teabox sends fresh tea leaves straight from estates to customers anywhere in the world within days

The British drink more than 60 billion cups of tea every year, and it is the second most-consumed drink in the world, after water. Yet the industry has seen little innovation in how the humble tea leaf makes it from the plant to the cup, sometimes many thousands of miles away. Kaushal Dugar, is changing all that.

“The process of getting it to the customer from the tea estate has not changed in nearly 200 years, going back to the days of the British,” says Dugar, who grew up in Darjeeling, a region known for producing India’s champagne of teas. After a corporate career in Singapore, he returned to his roots to help modernise an antiquated industry, steeped in colonial history and its archaic methods.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Teabox, based in the West Bengal city of Siliguri, with a satellite office in Bangalore, fuses tea and tech. The sleek, modern, whitewashed walls of its Siliguri headquarters are more Silicon Valley, than colonial British. In this newly remodelled space, opened in 2016, Dugar and his 95 employees are putting the $7 million (£5.4 million) raised from investors such as Accel Partners, Ratan Tata, and Texan billionaire Robert Bass to work.

Read the full story at



Three Friends Turn Plastic Waste Into A New Retail Brand


Three friends started a company, Nomadix, based on one product — a towel made of recycled plastic. Three years in, they’re in REI, Urban Outfitters, and over 100 boutiques, surf shops, and yoga studios. And their approach to growth is, ironically, slow down.

Chace Petersen, Zack Helminiak, and Hunter Robinson are accidental business partners. After years of camping, surfing, and having an outdoor lifestyle together, the trio realized that there was increasing plastic waste in the ocean, and trash littered at their favorite surf spots. Eliminating all the waste would be too hard, so they decided to hone in on single-use plastic water bottles, Helminiak says.

“Plastic pollution is a major problem for oceans and wildlife, which Nomadix and our customers seek to protect.”

Nomadix was born out of necessity, he says. The founders travel regularly, having visited about three dozen countries collectively and towels, they realized were either too niche or made of rubbish quality. 

Read the full story on

How Chris Burkard Built A Creative Company Based On His Photography

unnamed (2)

Chris Burkard is not your average creative entrepreneur.  The 31-year-old who is known for his epic surfing photographs, often in the coldest corners of the world, has a massive Instagram following of nearly 3 million, but still argues that he is a hustler.

His photographs have been featured in Toyota, American Airlines, Apple and Sony campaigns, to name a few of his clients. This summer he’s taking a personal project on the road — a short film called Under An Arctic Sky.  Filmed in Iceland with majestic shots of the Northern Lights, the 40-minute film features Burkard and his crew surfing off the Iceland coast.

Though he has a massive online following, his entrepreneurial journey is lesser known to his fans. Over a decade ago, at 19, Burkard decided that he would be a surf photographer. He was going to forgo college to pursue this seemingly niche career. “Is that a real job title? My parents didn’t believe me when I told them either,” he jokes in a phone interview from his New York City screening of Under the Arctic Sky.

Read the full story at

(All Photos Courtesy of Chris Burkard Studio)