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MicroForester: Seeding social entrepreneurship while planting trees

In May 2012, Alexander Shakaryan’s MicroForester, which is an online platform to stimulate reforestation in designated parts of the world, received the runner-up prize of infoDev and Nokia’s m2Work Challenge. The m2Work competition was a global call for innovators to design jobs that anyone could do from a mobile phone. Three months later, the Armenian developer assesses next steps for his fledgling company.

As an entrepreneur, winning a competition is only the beginning of the tougher part of the journey, which is creating a real company from an idea. You can win a competition with just an idea, but winning investors and customers depends on lots of other things like money, connections, and fame. The m2Work competition was good for local fame, and the m2Work Hackathon will help as well, but more importantly the events show us who the entrepreneurs are and how to help us on our own tough journey.

The m2Work hackathon is planting the seeds for innovative entrepreneurship (Credit: ILRI, Flickr Creative Commons)A few months ago I received an email from the Enterprise Incubator Foundation (EIF) about the m2Work contest. Inspired by the idea of microwork and driven by my love for nature, I had an idea for an app to allow people in different corners of the world to use their phones to earn money by planting trees. That was MicroForester.

Since the competition we have put together a great team of developers. We have developed an application for mobile platform iOS. The first trees have already been planted with MicroForester in Yerevan, Armenia. We have a sponsorship agreement with a local leading food industry company, and we also have mining companies interested in financing the project. We have a signed Letter of Commitment with the American Institutes for Research for a future USAID-funded reforestation project in Cambodia.