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I was born in Calgary, Alberta Canada in 1980 as the son of two public high school teachers. I grew up in a middle-class family and learned the values of social justice, gender equality, and hard work from my parents.

In 1998, I moved to Vancouver to study mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. I discovered a start-up organization called Engineers Without Borders (EWB) that inspired me to launch a purpose-driven career.

In 2003, I volunteered for EWB in Ghana for ten months. I worked on a project called the Multi-Functional Platform that set up micro-enterprises to mechanize manual tasks performed by women in villages without electricity.

In 2005, I went back to Africa for eighteen months to volunteer with EWB in Zambia. I led a project with CARE Zambia to support two cooperatives and 600 small scale farmers in a drought-prone region to grow sorghum for food and income security.

In 2006, I was accepted by the London School of Economics (LSE) to complete a Master's degree in Development Management. I learned a lot about the institutional arrangements and economic incentives that drive both growth and poverty. I also met my wife. 

In 2007, I attended Oxford's Saïd Business School as a Skoll Scholar for Social Entrepreneurship. I gained the confidence, network, and toolkit to start my entrepreneurial journey.

At Oxford, I came up with an idea to find high-impact entrepreneurs building scalable businesses in Africa and connect them to investors. I called it African Enterprise Partners and convinced the Grassroots Business Fund (GBF) to buy me a plane ticket to Zambia.

On my first day back in Lusaka, Zambia in February 2009, I met Brad and Brett Magrath. They had a vision of A Cashless Africa and were starting one of the first African fintechs called Mobile Transactions. I helped them close $200 thousand of investment from GBF. 

After convincing my parents to mortgage their house and lend me $100 thousand to invest, I became a co-founder and CEO. I recruited my MBA colleague Keith Davies as CFO and partner, and we raised a $4 million Series A investment that closed in early 2012.

The company was rebranded Zoona which means "It's real."  Zambia was a cash economy, and Zoona created a unique model by setting up young entrepreneurs as micro-franchise agents to provide domestic money transfers for Zambian consumers. 

Over the next several years, Zoona grew to 2.5 thousand agents and 2 million active customers in Zambia and Malawi. The company processed $2.5 billion in transactions and raised over $30 million in investment. We received several awards for our achievements.

After ten years, I left Zoona in April 2019. I wrote a book as a personal reflection on my journey. I also started a new venture called Boost with a mission to enable 10 million small businesses to thrive in Africa's digital economy.

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©2020 by Mike Quinn


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