Yama Saraj – ENTREPRENEUR INNOVATOR
I am a Dutch citizen, born in 1985 in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan. My mother, my siblings, and I fled the country in 1998 and were granted political asylum in the Netherlands. I grew up in Eindhoven; a high-education hub in the South of the country considered ‘the high-tech manufacturing capital’ of the Netherlands.
These events shaped my education and career choices.
I derailed my first choice of studies in industrial engineering for a degree in Economics. I was passionate about economic developments in the context of peace and conflict resolution, which contributed to helping me question my identity and roots.
After finishing my degree in Economics, I worked in Kosovo, DRC, and Afghanistan with several civil societies and non-profit organizations.
I could experience first-hand certain flaws generated by paternalistic and neo- colonialist approaches to emergency and development responses, leading to inefficiencies and lost funds. These observations helped me realize the importance of private sector development; and the role of entrepreneurship, that gives agency to developing countries.
It strengthened my passion for entrepreneurship and its implications for socio- economic development.
In 2015, I returned to Eindhoven, the city that shaped my teenage years, and got involved in the startup scene. In 2017, I finished my Master in Strategic Management; researching entrepreneurship orientation in the high tech hub of the Brainport region. In 2017, I created my own company YamZa, to support my freelance missions in tech innovation and strategy.
Sport has always been a part of my life, and big support in challenging times.
I believe it helped me built resilience when feeling excluded or lacking a sense of belonging. My experience as a former boxing champion paired with my management studies contributed to my work with refugees. It propelled me to develop a solution to help people get in top form.
With my team, I founded SensAi; a digital coaching app made of a smart punching bag, to support physical and mental health at work and at home. The project aims to build a punching bag from recycled tires. The punching bag, connected to the internet, allows the user to train with/against her/his buddies. It also provides valuable information via boxing champions and coaches. Importantly, it makes boxing safe and fun!
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