Do great causes choose us, or are we born to do what we end up doing? Jehiel Oliver – founder of Hello Tractor, a sharing economy app for farmers in African countries – is kind of a model answer for both. Grandchild of a tractor dealer, he grew up on food stamps in a marginalised community and became a Wall Street financier unmotivated by money. What does motivate him though, are the problems driving global poverty. We hear you, Jehiel!
Smallholder farmers on the African continent are often poverty stricken, with swathes of uncultivated land. Rather than treat the symptoms, Jehiel looked to the causes – and homed in on a lack of access to machinery, which is not only expensive, but unattainable thanks to non-existent financing. Cue Hello Tractor, the app enabling farmers to loan one another equipment.
“Hire the people who live the problems you’re trying to solve. Your customers should have the loudest voice.”
More than just disrupting and reshaping the complex and antiquated agricultural ecosystem, Jehiel is also shaking up prejudices about what local talent can and can’t do. Forget Ivy League graduates, Jehiel’s business is run entirely by people who are living the problems he’s trying to solve.
In Episode 3 of Tony’s Chocolloquium, Jehiel talks to Amelia Høy about waking up to Africa’s awesome potential, never assuming what the people you’re serving need, and the importance of building relationships for anyone wanting to build effective change.