Pablo Santaeufemia, an dual-master's alumnus (Mechanical Engineering / Engineering & Technology Innovation Management) from Carnegie Mellon University, was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Social Entrepreneurship for his online platform Bridge for Billions. Bridge for Billions is a business development software platform that helps early-stage entrepreneurs craft their ideas and then connect them with mentors to better enable them in their endeavors.
“Our mission is to create a bridge that connects entrepreneurs worldwide who are systemically excluded by the ecosystems of today, but who have business solutions with the potential to make billions of people's lives better,” said Santaeufemia, who serves as CEO for Bridge for Billions.
Bridge for Billions seeks to democratize access to quality entrepreneurship support and to empower entrepreneurs who are solving problems for customers currently ignored by the entrepreneurship ecosystems of today.
“Entrepreneurship ecosystems worldwide are not inclusive and systemically exclude low-income, women, rural and minority entrepreneurs,” added Santaeufemia. “This leads to a bias in which problems get to be resolved through a market-based approach. Bridge for Billions’ goal from the beginning to create a highly scalable solution that adds value to all the stakeholders in one entrepreneurship ecosystem: entrepreneurs, mentors, physical incubators/accelerators, universities and investors.”
An early success story for Bridge for Billions was entrepreneurs David Asiamah, founder of AgroMindset. Asiamah found it “difficult to find business mentors that didn’t cost a fortune.” Bridge for Billions provided Asiamah with the guidance and tools and helped AgroMndset “take their business to the next level.” Within one year after graduating from Bridge for Billions, with mentor CMU Alumnus Jils George, David was named Forbes 30 Under 30 for Africa in 2016.
The original spark for Bridge for Billions came from a class project in 2013 in the Design & Policy for Humanitarian Impact course at CMU. The class is an interdisciplinary offering from both the School of Design and Heinz College and taught by Design professors Kristin Hughes and Bruce Hanington, as well as professor Tim Zak from Heinz College.
“I owe everything to Kristin Hughes, Bruce Hanington and Tim Zak,” said Santaeufemia. “Their course empowered me and gave me the chance and the tools to combine my 3 main passions: international development, engineering and social entrepreneurship.
“Since then, I took Bridge for Billions from project course to project course at CMU, which gave me the extra time I needed and the support from professors and peers who helped me develop our product by the time I graduated in May 2015.”
While not a designer by trade, Santaeufemia has become big design advocate when it comes to business and entrepreneurship.
“CMU taught me how to see design for what it really is, and not as ‘making things look pretty’ as some might still think,” continued Santaeufemia. “From very early on, we had CMU designers in our team. Without their perspectives and input, we wouldn't have created what we did. The four designers we’ve worked with from CMU (Jacklynn Pham, Jay Liu, Mengying Li, and Jessica Kou) helped us tremendously to understand what the customers really wanted and they were key for developing a product, which became useful for the users from day one.
“The creation of our methodology is the result of almost two years at CMU of co-creation with entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, incubators and accelerators from the US, Mexico and Ghana,” added Santaeufemia. “Countless sleepless nights went into integrating innovation-driven entrepreneurship methodologies with human-centered design and design thinking in order to create the platform we have today.”
This interdisciplinary environment is key according to Santaeufemia.
“While I was a CIT student I have to say, the courses in the School of Design are great, the Professors even better and it’s next to the CIT and Tepper Business School which altogether makes it a great environment for startups to emerge.
“If you want to be the designer, a facilitator of creative sessions, a systems thinker, a problem solver, a founder of a great startup, the School of Design is the place to be.”