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OPEN Accelerator: An Accelerator Program Like No Other

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Nov 9, 2014

It was almost 11:00 am when I arrived at the venue of Open Dhaka meet up. This is the first meet up of entrepreneurs, coaches and investors after the training camp few months back. Jerry welcomed me at the gate and walked me through sessions and meetings. I like Jerry especially because I feel he has a good heart. He smiles a lot.

This is the team engine office located in the city’s Mohammadpur area and I’m visiting the first meet up of investors and entrepreneurs arranged by Open-the accelerator program of Tinder Capital. The rooms are buzzing with entrepreneurs from different parts of the country-a very unlikely scenario for regular events in Dhaka.

I met with a woman entrepreneur from Naogan who runs an Old people’s home for free and also runs a successful coffee house with all modern amenities in a place like Naogan. She told me that she feels life is all about giving and helping people. Wonderful perspective.

I met with an entrepreneur who works with marginalized women to produce natural soap and another entrepreneur who started to cultivate strawberries commercially in Bangladesh. I would never know if it were not for Open that there are so many great initiatives and wonderful and courageous people working on beautiful projects in remote places.

The best part about these entrepreneurs is that they are authentic, humble and spirited. They are all about work where many people I meet in events in Dhaka are all about talk and no substance. They don’t overdo, don’t take unnecessary pride in what they do but they love their work and want to do more of it. Most importantly, these people understand what they do and they do it with authentic passion which is very rare in many people where I live.

I met with a woman entrepreneur from Naogan who runs an Old people’s home for free and also runs a successful coffee house with all modern amenities in a place like Naogan. She told me that she feels life is all about giving and helping people. Wonderful perspective.

Jerry with a Participant
Jerry with a Participant

Tinder Capital

Tinder Capital is an impact investment firm based in Dhaka founded by Jerry and Fiona. Both of them came to Bangladesh years back to work on developing and supporting entrepreneurship. A few months back I did an interview of this husband-wife duo for Future Startup and they said they love Bangladesh.

I love making and building things. That’s what even I do for a living. Building a company from ground up is hard work. Harder than one might think and comprehend unless she has a firsthand experience. Since I started my journey as an entrepreneur I never tell that entrepreneurship is a cool thing rather I believe it is anything but cool.

Jerry and Fiona took a journey which we never thought was possible or at least never considered something worth doing. But I have found that they have rightly picked a very potential target segment-a segment that contributes a lot to the economy of Bangladesh and has huge potential to do more but is often ignored and seldom gets credit for their contribution.

Open Accelerator

Open is an entirely different type of Accelerator program. And it fits beautifully with the socio-economic condition of Bangladesh and targets a segment of entrepreneurs who are often ignored despite their potential and contribution. Among many things that I love about Open-its target group or customers is in the top. It finds and brings entrepreneurs from villages and under-served areas under an accelerator program and trains and connects them with investors and mentors and coaches.

Samantha of Hathay Bunano coaching Entrepreneurs at Open Dhaka Meetup
Samantha of Hathay Bunano coaching Entrepreneurs at Open Dhaka Meetup

The Future

Jerry told me this is a pilot for Open and they want to see how it turns out at the end. They have brought in a few impact investors from around the world and also engaged a few financial institutions from Bangladesh. So far things are great in short. Training camp was great-I was there. They have got a few really good entrepreneurs. And the team is passionate enough to put a ding in the universe.

One of the common characteristics of great ideas is that they are often over looked and often seems not obvious. With Open this is palpable. Hence Jerry and Fiona had to come to Bangladesh from the UK to start it.

I hope this will turn out good and Open will continue and live long. However, challenges are there from both sides-finding the right kind of entrepreneurs and also meeting their needs and ensuring a viable funding mechanism for the program.

[su_note note_color="#2f6a81" text_color="#ffffff" radius="13"]Credits: This article was written by Ruhul Kader and Edited by Samantha Morshed[/su_note]

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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