Author Archive for Ben Tobias

Gifting Africa

Eighteen year old Alain Nteff was alarmed by the high death rate of newborn babies and pregnant women in his community. When he was  20, he developed a mobile app called “Gifted Mom” to help solve this problem. The app helps teenage mothers and health workers calculate due dates. It also collects and sends information to women in the community. His app has more than 500 downloads and is integrated with locally made phones. It has 1,200 pregnant women and mothers as beneficiaries and has led to a 20% increase in antenatal attendance rate for pregnant women in 15 rural communities. Nteff is also working with 200 medical students to reduce brain drain in Cameroon. He plans to reach 50,000 pregnant women and mothers by end of 2015 and 5 million across the continent by 2017.

Sadly, over 7000 women still die per year in Cameroon from pregnancy related complications which can be prevented by a simple educative SMS. The company  notify subscribe women by SMS on when they should do their ANCs and tell them why. Subscription to their SMS solution is free and be done on the companies homepage. The company has the inspiring campaign and goals to use low cost technologies to fight ignorance and Maternal and Newborn Health issues. They organize monthly outreach sensitization projects, one village at a time to help Africa for the better.

Chalk One Up

The issue of uniformity and compatible software has always been of relevance in education and in business alike. William Zhou, the creator of Chalk, invented an Office for teachers. It’s a suite of productivity apps for K-12 educators. Used in over 20,000 schools worldwide, solves the problems of lesson planning, assessment, and collaboration and eases teachers’ pain by facilitating personalized education and driving student success.

William Zhou, co-founder and CEO of, observes, “I had always thought that teaching is an easy job. I thought teachers taught from a textbook and got 3 months off in a year. It wasn’t until I visited my own high school teachers that I realized it’s not the case. They were struggling with an overwhelming amount of work—dealing with lesson planning, assessment, and attendance, in addition to fending off angry parents and bureaucratic administration. I told them I couldn’t help them with the latter two but I could help ease their daily tasks. That’s when I started” is used in over 20,000 schools and has over 100,000 teachers and continues to rapidly expand throughout schools and administrations throughout the world.

At the young age of 23, William is just beginning his entrepreneurial career  and has already made it into the Forbes list of
30 under 30. His example of immigrant entrepreneurship is inspiring others from his homeland of China to journey to the United States in search of a better life, and a venue for their ideas and dreams. He hopes that one day his motherland will become just as friendly to new companies and ideas as the United States is.

Sole Men

It’s been said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what one shoe company called “Greats” is doing with their new line of product is giving old dogs new kicks and everyone is loving it. CEO Ryan Babenzien set out in 2013 to create a shoe company that would break the traditional model of the shoe industry by creating something that could appeal to a broader market of customers by providing them a product unlike any other in the marketplace. Babenzien says “Let’s pick the greatest silhouettes in men’s sneakers and footwear, and design our DNA into them.” The company accomplishes this by combing old school leathers and colors with new styles for a one of a kind design.

By marketing to customers directly online, Greats lowers the cost of their product significantly. Where one leather shoe that would retail at a high-end department store for over 500 dollars, it can now retail for somewhere in the region of 100 dollars. The company really saw potential in taking tow different concepts, and combining them in a way that created something entirely new. Consumers also appreciate the product, and by 2015 the company expects to make somewhere in the region of 5 to 7 million dollars next year, proving to the industry that classic shoe styles never die, but their “soles” live forever.


Freaky Fast Food

For the last decade, Amazon has claimed the title of king of the online shopping world. With the company seeing 2 billion orders from customers in the past 2014 fiscal year, they dominate the online market. While Amazon continues to announce further upgrades and innovations to their overall experience, the process of implementation and usage has been another matter, and many, smaller, smarter, and ambitious companies are hungry to accommodate customers in light of Amazon’s failures.

Putting a spin on Amazon’s concept, young millennial entrepreneur Max Mullen started Instacart in 2012 to provide customers with a simple and quick option for buying their groceries online. Mullen, who studied entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California in Los Angles, created a startup that partnered with stock grocery warehouses, and a fleet of branded vehicles  to deliver the goods to customers on an order basis. In some cases, the delivery occurred within 12 minutes of the customers order! Investors quickly took notice of Max’s success, as by 2014 he received a 2 billion dollar valuation, and had already expanded to 15 major metropolitan areas.

Grocers are recognizing the power of the application as well, as customers purchase 2.5 times more product when shopping online. The software predicts similar grocery items the shopper may want, and as such has improved impulse buying for all grocery chains involved with the app. Instacart is already looking to innovate, as in April they added Petco to their retail roster. Instacart has realized that they can be so much more than just a grocery service, and is looking to the future in hopes to provide a better and quicker service than many of the larger online shopping companies.

Max Mullen showed the world that innovation doesn’t have to be an idea that nobody else has stumbled upon, on the contrary, he saw the need to improve on something that was already good, but could be made better with some slight tweaking. Just like the grocery market, there are other industries begging to be improved by the right person. Mullen defied those who said his idea would never work, and pushed through until he could claim success.