A report by Kiersten Willis for the Atlanta Black Star.
No one ever got anywhere by taking the easy road, and that’s what led Haitian-American tech entrepreneur Christine Souffrant Ntim to achieve mountains of success.
At just 28 years old, Ntim has received much recognition for tech achievements, which include establishing international vendor-to-consumer website Venedy, start-up company platform Global Startup Ecosystem and the upcoming Haitian Tech Summit. Forbes 30 Under 30, IBM Global Entrepreneur and the Haiti Changemakers 1804 List are just a few of the ways Ntim has been honored.
Ntim, who grew up street vending with her grandmother and mother, explained her interest in technology derived from her family’s history of the occupation.
“Each generation leveraged tech in a different way,” she said. “My grandmother used the radio to get information sources, goods and customers for selling her street food. My mom immigrated to New York and used SMS to find out the best corner spots to lay out her blanket and sell handcrafted Haitian art across Manhattan, N.Y., and I learned how to code to build out the app for Vendedy and … Global Startup Ecosystem.”
In December 2015, while she was pregnant, Ntim spent almost every waking moment learning how to code after her venture capital team disbanded just before Christmas.
“I was the only pregnant woman hanging at hacker groups across New York City coding with guys who have coded for years,” Ntim said. “I became obsessed. Sometimes, I would wake up at 6 a.m. coding and fall asleep coding.”
By the third week, Ntim had created Vendedy, a social media site that connects customers from around the globe to street markets. It is the first app to host 500 street markets across 51 countries. Ntim made the transition to digital accelerator, an online method of educating heads of startup companies to be able to pitch their brands, after getting upset that someone she met at a startup event was shocked by her nationality.
“I realized that it is not easy for entrepreneurs from emerging market countries like Haiti to just up and head to Silicon Valley to scale their company,” she said.
Ntim launched a 3-day program on ways to hack product growth and had thousands of inquiries. That ultimately led her to host several other programs for entrepreneurs in the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
GSE launched in July as the first digital accelerator in the Caribbean.
“Now, we accelerate 1000 to market each year across seven regions,” Ntim said. “And, now, other accelerators are doing the same.”
GSE features seven other women partnering with Ntim on the venture, but she says that wasn’t a conscious decision.
“Now, looking back on it, it’s important that this is highlighted because women are leading the tech ecosystems in all areas of the world but hardly get noticed for doing so,” she said. “Our success will surely spark conversation and challenge the tech bubble that only glorifies white young males as innovators of our time.”
GSE was founded to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to have online success and Ntim and her husband, Einstein, wanted to extend that to the Haiti Tech Summit happening June 6-7. One hundred speakers from around the world will share with 1,000 ticket-holders how they’ve used technology to change humanity.
Ntim said the announcement of the event at SXSW in March has already begun to transform the way Haiti is viewed worldwide.“My husband and I know the power of in-person gatherings and how seeing a country in its truest forms in person can transform biases about it,” she said. “So, we extended the mission of GSE to also build tech ecosystems in emerging markets for the next 13 years. … The goal is to [have] Haiti spark a new perspective in the Caribbean, Ghana for Africa and so on.”
“The narrative of Haiti being a place of destruction, poverty and disasters [has] truly crippled the economy and local culture. This summit is already inspiring the Haitian people to demand better of mainstream narrative and is forcing people to come and see what Haiti truly has to offer,” Ntim said.
She also recognizes the power that tech has throughout the African diaspora.
“[My husband and I] are highly focused on empowering our communities to [learn] tech and entrepreneurship,” she said. “Tech makes a vision that would have taken a decade to be realized happen overnight.
“That’s the power of tech and what we as a diaspora have at our disposal.”