Meet entrepreneurs in Namibia, Argentina, and Japan

Happy Wednesday!

In last week’s issue, I introduced you to the Namibian entrepreneur Rudie van Vuuren, who built the Naankuse Foundation. I thought today we’d cover in detail how and why he did so.

“Rudie’s full story,” I said. Man… did I jump the gun. 

Unpacking our interview transcript, there is so much more to cover than can fit into a single newsletter (or two or three!). So today, I’ve given you some insight into how Rudie thinks, while also telling the story of the heartbreaking catalyst that started it all.

You’ll have to check your inbox again in the coming weeks for both the build and grow parts of Rudie’s inspiring story as a changemaker in Namibia.

Before we dive into the rest of today’s issue, there’s another social entrepreneur who deserves a quick shout-out.

Yesterday, Simon JD Schillebeeckx had a wide-ranging chat about his experience in academia, being an early adopter of blockchain technology, and the importance of mangroves — all tied into what they’re doing at his startup, Handprint.

Simon’s got a quick message for you:

We're launching a crowdfunding campaign on Wefunder in the US. So if you feel like, hey, I can do a small investment in this company, it's going to go live in a couple of days. on Wefunder. Please go find us and become part of our community.

In today's email:

  • Think with Rudie van Vuuren, CEO of Namibia’s Naankuse Foundation

  • Watchlist: Our first stories of 2024 are live! One is our second story featuring Argentinian entrepreneurs, and the other is our first featuring a French entrepreneur operating out of Japan.

Think with Rudie van Vuuren, CEO of the Naankuse Foundation

“I immediately saw that this child really had a problem, and we needed to get this child to the nearest hospital. The nearest hospital was about 120-150 kilometers away.”

The child was the daughter of Rudie’s wife’s coworker at a wildlife sanctuary in east Namibia, on the border of Botswana. In a rush to find help for her daughter, the woman sought out Rudie (a trained medical doctor), who was staying on a nearby farm for a weekend holiday.

Tragically, the baby died before she could receive proper medical attention.

Recalling the story some twenty years later, Rudie says, “The child didn't die because she didn't get to the hospital. The child died because she didn't have access to medical care in the rural area where she lived.”

I can see it in his eyes: It’s a moment that will stay with Rudie for the rest of his life. It’s also the heartbreaking catalyst that laid the groundwork for the Naankuse Foundation.

It all started when van Vuuren built a medical clinic in the rural area where the woman (his wife’s coworker) and her baby lived. That clinic was actually the second that Rudie built in Namibia. The first one — the first ever in Namibia — was in another resource-poor area where he was practicing medicine at the time. 

“There was a need for people to have all medical services in one place. So we built the first medical center in Namibia — where you had access to radiology, a lab, a dentist, and everything under one roof. And that worked out very well for us. We built up several medical practices like that over the years,” he says.

In 2003, Rudie, who at this point was already experienced in recognizing and addressing needs (“You know, you find a need, you address the need, and you see how you can make it sustainable.”), turned his attention to further cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit.

“I think the entrepreneurial spirit was always, how can we make things work? And that became the way of thinking — where you see, this is not right, I wanna change this, be it a conservation problem, be it a social problem…addressing it and getting a sustainable solution for it.”

So, how can we fund it? How can we make it work? How can we make a definite change? 

These are the vital questions for Rudie, and I notice a distinct absence of a scarcity mindset, not a hint of pondering how things might go wrong. For him, everything is figure-outable. 

So, how did he fund it?

The cash Rudie needed to lay the foundation for the medical clinic, which would ultimately lead to the Naankuse Foundation, didn’t come from “all the big funders — USAID, Health Unlimited, Comic Relief — all these big charities.”

The funds he needed came from recognizing an opportunity… on the Rugby field…

…and that’s where we’ll pick up the story in an upcoming issue.

🔎 Watchlist

Argentinian entrepreneurs Luciano Cohan and Miguel Ángel Saez have harnessed change and transformed it into a business opportunity. Their company, Alphacast, a platform for financial data analysis, was born out of an economic consulting firm and continues to adapt to meet today's industry demands.

From a curious student in Kyoto to an e-commerce expert, Thomas Bertrand's journey is a remarkable story of passion, innovation, and resilience. This French entrepreneur has turned a love for Japanese culture into two thriving businesses.

Until next time,

Nolan Bulger

Take 30 seconds to ask a question or two — and you’ll get them answered by experienced global entrepreneurs and investors in an upcoming Think, Build & Grow issue.

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