Determination… What’s behind Bridge for Billions?

With our CEO Pablo Santaeufemia that was listed on Forbes 30 under 30 for Social Entrepreneurship, we wanted to go back on the why behind Bridge for Billions and what led him to start our online incubator

Throughout his career and specially during his time in India, Thailand and China, Pablo was continuously sickened by the consequences of the aid and volunteering industry, especially by the “voluntourism”. While well-intended, many times these voluntourism initiatives are short-sighted and compromise the dignity of the recipients, while not making a durable impact on those in need. Based on these experiences, Pablo became convinced that a market-based approach, with local entrepreneurship and job creation at the core, was integral to alleviating poverty. During his time at Carnegie Mellon University, while pursuing his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering and Technology Innovation Management, Pablo continued to ruminate on how to create product and services that would truly help those in need.

Picking “the winners”
The idea for Bridge for Billions was inspired by Pablo’s realization that there are brilliant ideas by people that do not have the necessary tools to structure, expand, or launch them. Entrepreneurship ecosystems worldwide are not inclusive and systemically exclude low-income, women, rural and minority entrepreneurs. This leads to a bias in which problems get to be resolved through a market-based approach. Therefore, if we continue excluding these entrepreneurs who have business solutions with the potential to make billions of lives better, we will only develop solutions for the wealthiest customers and ill-suited solutions for the other 90% of the world.

Born at Carnegie Mellon University
A native of Madrid, Pablo comes from a low-income, single-mother family, and for the last 10 years, he has been awarded with full scholarships that have funded all his education in mechanical engineering and technology innovation management, and has had the privilege to gain strong mentors and advisors that have guided and supported him till even today.

From his own experience, he knows that resourceful people or “fighters” as he calls them, when given a chance (guidance and resources) can achieve great things. At the same time, there are lots of professionals who want to volunteer using their skills but don’t know how to do it in a meaningful, structured but still effortless way.

That’s how Bridge for Billions began: at Carnegie Mellon as Pablo’s main masters project. Combining his 3 main passions: international development, engineering and entrepreneurship, Pablo thought to create an entrepreneurship mentoring platform that would channeled the good intentions of skilled volunteer professionals in a way that would truly help those entrepreneurs who needed it. With the help of Jessica Kou, our CDO, and other business and design Carnegie Mellon graduate students, the team created the methodology found today in Bridge for Billion’s online platform. The creation of the Eight Business Creation Tools is the result of almost two years of co-creation with entrepreneurs and mentors from the US, Mexico and Ghana. Countless of sleepless nights went into integrating innovation-driven entrepreneurship methodologies with human-centered design and design thinking theories in order to create the intuitive platform.

Since 2013, Bridge for Billions has slowly grown from a Master’s project into the entrepreneurial tool it is today.

Along the way Bridge for Billions has encountered numerous entrepreneurs and mentors who have helped them further develop the online methodology, and improve the user experience. One of their first entrepreneurs, David Asiamah, from Ghana created AgroMindset, a company that facilitates youth engagement in agribusiness by helping them acquire the skills and knowledge necessary. David found it “difficult to find business mentors that didn’t cost a fortune” which is where Bridge for Billions came in. For David “the guidance and tools I need to succeed are all provided by Bridge for Billions as well as the advice necessary to take my business to the next level.” David was even named to Africa’s Forbes 30 Under 30 last summer, before our own CEO Pablo! We’ve also learned a lot from the mentors who have participated in our program. Maria Oria, who mentored Casa Lila, has been a mentor for many years, yet she found that “Bridge for Billions makes my job so much easier, I really like it and I want to use it in the future.”

Today Bridge for Billions has incubated over 120 entrepreneurs from 22 countries, thanks to the help of 146 volunteer mentors. Without the team behind Pablo supporting him every step of the way, and the entrepreneurs and mentors who put their faith in his platform, we wouldn’t be able to share the happy news.

Pablo has been named Forbes Europe’s 30 Under 30 in Social Entrepreneurship. Out of thousands of applications and nomination, Pablo stood out both because of his passion for social innovation, as well as the strength of the platform he has created. All his hard work has been recognized, and both the Bridge for Billions team and Pablo himself are excited to see where the new year will take us. We are excited to be starting the new year off on such a high note, and we are so proud of our CEO for receiving the recognition that he deserves for the countless sacrifices he has made in order to see this company grow and prosper. Congratulations Pablo! You truly deserve it.