Roya Mahboob's visit to New York was very inspirational for me. Her role in Film Annex's endeavors in Afghanistan, both from a strategic and execution standpoint, helped us achieve our goals and develop further projects. Last February, I expressed my intention to build schools in Afghanistan with INTERNET classrooms. Roya suggested that we start with primary, secondary, and high schools in the city of Herat. Four months later, we have three INTERNET classrooms and are currently working on the fourth school.
In 2011, supporting Afghanistan's education system and having an impact on Afghanistan's economy and government infrastructure weren't in my plans for Film Annex. However, after watching Roya Mahboob's video on the NATO channel, it was difficult to pass the opportunity to work with the most successful digital company in Afghanistan. Despite her young age, she is the liaison between Film Annex and government agencies like USAid and the Department of Defense, private companies like IBM, and leading press representatives. How can such a young person be so professional and successful? You can watch our last interview at the United Nations on Afghanistan's economy and education.
I spent 21 years in Florence and 22 years in New York City, two flourishing cities with a bright past and future. Who would I be today had I spent most of my life between a small city on the border of Iran and Afghanistan, as an Afghan refugee in Iran and back in Afghanistan after the Taliban regime? What would my future be like? I opened an office in Los Angeles when I was 21, representing 6 Italian clothing lines, which is quite different from being based in Kabul and operating a digital company that provides IT services to the US, Afghan Governmental Agencies, and organizations like the NATO.
As you can read on my Wikipedia page, when it comes to business I am a very creative person. In the last 22 years, I went from selling Italian fashion on the west coast to founding and producing the Uncle Kimono clothing line in partnership with actor John Malkovich, and finally founding Film Annex, a large online network with three times as many page views as National Geographic and Time Magazine. I am so eclectic that my partner at Film Annex Capital Partners, Mike Sweeney, defines me as the crazy guy in the room. In spite of my experience and craziness, Roya Mahboob's ideas and concepts don't stop surprising and inspiring me. That is why building schools in Afghanistan is now part of my career path and passion.
Here are three hints on Roya's last suggestions:
- Roya's vision on Examer, the educational software, inspired us to use Mobile Money Payments to provide Afghan students with micro-scholarships.
- Roya's vision on educational software inspired us to open a dedicated office and a company in NYC to market this educational software to Central Asia.
- Build an IT and entertainment center in Herat.
- Sponsor Kabul's leading soccer team.
Many people have great ideas, but they often don't focus on them and just talk about them. With Roya, it is very different. She executes her ideas and never looks back. She is the example of an excellent business woman with creative and realistic targets.
Afghanistan has a complex society full of a variety of languages, casts, and tribal and religious diversity. To live and operate in Afghanistan is as complex as playing a chess game at an advanced level. Some get demotivated, scared, and even depressed. Some walk away from the complexity and give up. Others feed energy off the challenge and get wiser and wiser every day regardless of their age and education level. Afghanistan is the ultimate puzzle and riddle to break. The silent growth of female entrepreneurship in Afghanistan is staggering and Roya is a primary example of success. She is an inspiration to me and my partners, not only because of her background and position in society, but also because she means real business and gives tangible results in short term. By merging our experience and vision, we are able to obtain a return on our investment by 200% with limited financial exposure and in very short terms.