Young alums pledge $50,000 to support entrepreneurship
As students, Ham Serunjogi ’16 (at right in the image above) and Maijid Moujaled ’14 wanted to get as much practical entrepreneurial experience as they could.
That’s one reason the co-founders of the Chipper Cash payment platform were part of the team that launched Pioneer Weekend, an annual student innovation and pitch competition now hosted by the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership.
Recently, the alumni took their engagement to a new level when they announced a $50,000 pledge to start the Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled Fund for Entrepreneurship in support of Pioneer Weekend and other Wilson Center entrepreneurial endeavors.
“We know other students have similar dreams of entrepreneurship but might not have as many avenues to pursue those or meet others who have similar goals,” Serunjogi says. “We felt the most Grinnellian thing for us to do is be part of a solution, so the student experience could be more robust. Maijid and I believe entrepreneurship is a means to grow society. It’s socioeconomic development. Creating a gift that was oriented to supporting students in Grinnell who have similar philosophies was near and dear to our hearts.”
Serunjogi is from Uganda. Moujaled comes from Ghana. In 2016, on a road trip through California, they brainstormed how they could leverage technology to make a positive impact in Africa. They launched Chipper Cash two years later. The free application allows users to send money from one country to another and one mobile money service to another, at no charge.
The platform has more than 3 million users and processes about 80,000 transactions per day. Chipper is backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and counts Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana as an investor. Among the nearly 200 Chipper staff are some 10 to 20 Grinnellians serving as full-time employees or summer interns.
“It wasn’t our objective to hire Grinnellians; it has happened organically,” Serunjogi says. “It’s a result of knowing smart people we want to work with and who want to join us. That they happen to be Grinnellians makes it that much more special.”
Serunjogi and Moujaled met at Grinnell through the AppDev (Application Development) group Moujaled co-founded. Kevin Charette ’15 came up with the concept for a business pitch competition and asked AppDev members to help organize the event. Moujaled and Serunjogi were eager to assist.
The duo was overjoyed to learn Pioneer Weekend had not only continued after they graduated but evolved and flourished under the Wilson Center’s oversight. “We were incredibly thrilled that experience of entrepreneurship is alive, and we felt an obligation of sorts to support the program,” Serunjogi says. “It was an easy rallying point for us.”
Wilson Center director Monty Roper says the center has worked to further entrepreneurial learning experiences, including the addition of an incubator. While the new Fund for Entrepreneurship will help support those efforts financially, Roper is equally enthused about Serunjogi and Moujaled’s reconnection to the College.
“Their story and success are really powerful,” Roper says. “Their example as social-entrepreneurial ambassadors is really important to our students.”
Serunjogi hopes their pledge may encourage other young alumni to give. “If more people are aware that we, as recent graduates, are engaged in making Grinnell a stronger institution, then maybe it will inspire other young alums to get into the spirit of giving back,” he says. “Not everyone has to give $50,000. What’s more important is the act of giving back, regardless of the amount.”