In this series Karen Guzman He talks to student and alumni entrepreneurs about how they are making an impact in their startups.
Venture: The way is forward. A A global digital platform connecting refugees fleeing crisis situations with immediate assistance and resources to cover their basic needs.
Founders: Ali Platon ’23, Bart McDonough ’23, Kelsey Overby ’23, Ivan Volodchenkov ’23, Meshi Knight ’23, Jide Okandeji ’23, Puneet Chhabra ’24, and Ella Archibald ’22.
What was your idea for this startup?
In April 2022, MBA for Executive students Ali Platten ’23, Bart McDonough ’23 and Ella Archibald ’22 flew to Krakow, Poland to meet the urgent needs of Ukrainian refugees crossing the Polish border. In total, they visited two shelters hosting more than 200 refugees, women and children, and bought food and other supplies for Ukrainian refugees with the money they raised through the EMBA network.
Upon their return, recruit additional students from the EMBA Class of 2023 (Kelsey Overby, Meshie Knight, and Jide Okandeji) and Class of 2024 (Puneet Chhabra), fundraise and collect food to assist with immigrant visa applications.
As we have all learned, we have developed a deeper understanding of the global challenges, crises and conflicts that force people to flee their homes. We also reflected on how climate change is driving forced migration. In May, we organized around the name Way Forward, and in October, we developed a global vision and began developing our digital platform.
What is the problem you are trying to solve or the gap you are trying to fill?
We want to reduce the time migrants have to migrate and support themselves in a new place they can call home. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, because there are already many organizations. But we want to modernize the carriage, so to speak, so that the wheels turn faster.
To achieve this, we are designing a platform that will store information and improve collaboration between migrant organizations. A critical aspect of our design is that each available function or utility should be useful in its own right.
What was the most important resource that Yale SOM contributed to your startup?
Yale SOM offers several courses that contribute to our work. They include Global Macroeconomics with Lorenzo Caliendo; Financial Markets and Macroeconomic Policy with Alp Simsek; Social Entrepreneurship Lab with Teresa Chahin; Teams with Amy Wrzesniewski; Operation Engine with Saad Alizamir; and Modeling Management Decisions with Nathan Novemsky and Anjani Jain.
SOM students also have access to classes at other Yale schools, and we took advantage of this opportunity to study Critical Border Studies with William Nordhaus and Leslie Gross-Wirtzen from Climate Change Economics. Outside of class, we benefited from our discussions with Professors Mushfiq Mobarak and Michael Peters and their presentations at the Macmillan Center’s Refugee, Forced Displacement and Humanitarian Responses Program.
What is the biggest milestone your startup has achieved?
We currently have a working platform in beta. Most importantly, we helped people. During graduation, we plan to support a local immigrant family, write a series of blog posts impacting immigrants in New Haven, and raise money for Integrated Immigrant and Immigrant Services.
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