From Serial Entrepreneur to Non-Profit Founder with Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt.org

Aid, Evolved
From Serial Entrepreneur to Non-Profit Founder with Gustav Praekelt of Praekelt.org
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Gustav Praekelt is founder, chairman, and CEO of the African-based Praekelt Group. Praekelt has directly delivered essential health information to 100 million people around the world. Praekelt runs both the South African national COVID-19 hotline as well as the World Health Organization COVID-19 hotline, making it the most popular WhatsApp service in the globe.

This is the story of the man behind the institution. We peel back the layers to uncover the tragedy which led this tech entrepreneur to dive into the aid sector. Intertwined through his story is the story of modern-day South Africa, from the HIV epidemic to Apartheid. But it’s also a story of hope, of idealism, and of the endless work of making change that he continues to this day.

Show Notes

  • Praekelt.org is the non-profit that Gustav founded in 2007 dedicated to using mobile technology to improve the lives of people living in poverty. It was inspired by the lessons Gustav learned volunteering at his local hospice. 
  • Praekelt.com is the mobile technology startup that Gustav founded in 2003 after his return from Zanzibar.
  • Using WhatsApp to Fight COVID-19: This podcast interview from TechCentral digs deeper into Gustav’s experience fighting COVID-19. He talks about the race against the pandemic, and the challenges of launching the largest WhatsApp service in the world in record time
  • The Chat for Impact Summit: Gustav and I talk about the importance of working with local actors within a country and building upon local technology talent. Backing up these words with actions, Gustav was part of the team running the Chat for Impact Summit. This effort supported local organizations both financially and technologically to get started with WhatsApp services.  
  • Turn.io is a social change platform that spun out of Praekelt.org in 2017. It is a public benefit corporation (PBC) in South Africa that provides a tool for nonprofits to build their own WhatsApp services.
  • Beltway bandits is a term used by many in the aid industry to reference a set of private American companies located in or near Washington D.C. with a track record of winning major government funding. One question Gustav raises is why such organizations are so much more successful at winning funding than local technology startups within targeted countries.
  • Noora Health: Gustav offers a shoutout to Noora Health and its CEO, Edith Elliott, for their work to combat the COVID-19 surge in India.
  • Andy Pattison: Gustav gives another shotout to Andy Pattison and his team at the World Health Organization for their tireless work and long hours over the past 2 years against COVID-19. 
  • Good Economics for Hard Times: Gustav’s book recommendation is a piece by two economists from MIT (who together won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2019). It describes how economics done right can help solve some of today’s greatest challenges.
  • Let My People Go Surfing is Gustav’s second book recommendation. It was written by the billionaire founder of sustainable clothing company Patagonia. It provides Gustav with some guidance and empathy for the trickiness of running an impact-driven social enterprise. 

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