Human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui is battling the US college financial aid system – TechSwitch

    Tunisian human rights activist Amira Yahyaoui couldn’t go to school.
    Not as a result of she couldn’t afford it; the place she comes from, faculty is nearly free. She misplaced the chance to pursue greater training, to complete highschool, even, when she was exiled from Tunisia at age 17, below the repressive regime of the nation’s former President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
    As a part of the Tunisian human rights diaspora, she was impressed to construct Al Bawsala, a globally famend NGO that fights for presidency accountability, transparency and entry to data. Now, Yahyaoui has traveled 1000’s of miles to San Francisco to struggle one other battle close to and pricey to her coronary heart: civic training, or in Silicon Valley phrases, edtech.
    “I always knew that I wouldn’t allow myself to do anything else before solving the problem in my country and today, Tunisia is the only Arab democracy in the world,” Yahyaoui instructed TechSwitch.
    With that in thoughts, her focus has shifted to Mos, a tech-enabled platform for college kids to use for monetary help. With backing from Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, his startup studio Expa, Kleiner Perkins chairman John Doerr, Base Ventures, Sweet Capital and others, Mos has closed a $4 million seed spherical and plans to take its recently-launched product to the subsequent stage.
    The startup seeks to lower American scholar debt, which totaled almost $1.6 trillion in 2018, and digitize the antiquated authorities techniques that deter college students from making use of for monetary help. For a one-time payment of $149 and about 20 minutes of their time, Mos helps college students of all backgrounds maximize their help awards.
    “Our mission is to bridge the gap between citizens and government in a way that works with technology today,” Yahyaoui stated.
    Yahyaoui is making use of what she’s realized constructing a government-fighting NGO to the startup world, and with the assist of top-tier traders, she’s nicely on her approach to proving an “uneducated” immigrant girl of coloration can write a Silicon Valley success story for the lots.
    A face of the Arab Spring
    Mos founder and chief govt officer Amira Yahyaoui.
    After being pressured out of her dwelling nation, Yahyaoui fled to France, the place she lived as an unlawful immigrant and continued to struggle towards Tunisia’s authoritarian management by means of her weblog and an anti-censorship marketing campaign she began on-line.
    When social media sparked anti-government protests throughout the Middle East, Yahyaoui, nonetheless unable to reenter Tunisia, grew to become a face of what was later referred to as the Arab Spring. Her digital prowess, activist repute and protracted efforts to focus on the Tunisian administration’s human rights abuses rapidly made her a face of the motion.
    On January 14, 2011, when the protests succeeded in making Tunisia a pioneer of Arab democracy and ended Ben Ali’s reign, Yahyaoi received her passport again and went dwelling, instantly.
    Back in Tunisia with newfound freedom, she had an agenda: To maintain the governing company charged with writing a brand new Tunisian structure accountable.
    Yahyaoui constructed Al Bawsala, translated as The Compass, an NGO targeted on transparency and authorities accountability. Al Bawsala grew to become one of many largest NGOs within the Middle East, a bona fide success that attracted quite a few awards and cemented Yahyaoui’s standing as a fearless advocate for human rights, a freedom fighter and probably the most influential Arab ladies on the earth.
    “I had to work probably 10 times harder to get to be the self-educated me I am today,” she stated. “I saw way too many people getting their education refused and therefore their future ruined.”
    Her international standing earned her a seat on the board of the United Nation’s High Commissioner For Refugees Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement, and Protection, in addition to the title of Young Global Leader on the World Economic Forum and co-chair of the Davos Conference in 2016, a title she shard with Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and GM’s Mary Barra .
    Three years later, with a resume enviable to any dignitary, Yahyaoui is leveraging her distinctive expertise to lure in enterprise capitalists and use their money for good.
    Repairing a damaged monetary help system
    The Mos dashboard.
    Mos is like if Turbo Tax married Typeform and had a child, Yahyaoui defined. Not dissimilar to Common App, Mos lets college students apply to greater than 500 federal and state-based help packages in minutes utilizing a survey that matches them to each grant and scholarship program they qualify for, whereas concurrently finishing the FAFSA and state help functions. To guarantee each household is getting essentially the most monetary assist potential, a Mos monetary help advisor evaluations every case and negotiates with schools for greater awards.
    “Today, the biggest problem is people think they are not eligible for financial aid just because of how the thing is designed,” Yahyaoui stated. “You’re supposed to just go ahead and fill a form that has 200 questions and then send it like a bottle in the sea and wait for months.”
    Mos will full a full-scale launch this summer season and ultimately sort out different nation’s faculty monetary help techniques because of the brand new infusion of capital and the high-profile relationships Yahyaoui has solid in only one yr residing within the Bay Area.
    Ultimately, it was Yahyaoui’s activism that granted her a ticket into the opaque world of Silicon Valley VC. As it seems, angel investor Khaled Helioui, a fellow Tunisian immigrant in tech, was aware of Yahyaoui’s work and when he heard she had relocated to the Bay Area to launch a know-how startup, he needed to know precisely what she was constructing. Today, he’s a Mos investor and board member and it was his introductions that helped Yahyaoui rapidly and elegantly shut her seed spherical.
    An early angel investor in Uber, Helioui linked Yahyaoui together with his buddy Garrett Camp, the very rich co-founder and chairman of the ride-hailing big, who was bought on Mos’s mission proper off the bat.
    “I think because Garrett is an immigrant, he knows what it is to suffer with bureaucracy,” Yahyaoui stated. “He was a huge believer. He actually made it so easy for me because he said, okay, here’s an office, just stay and work.”
    She was then launched to John Doerr, the chairman of the esteemed VC agency Kleiner Perkins, recognized for his profitable bets on corporations like Google and Amazon. With Camp and Doerr on board, Mos didn’t wrestle to lift extra capital; in reality, Yahyaoui was in an uncommon place of having the ability to reject traders whose values and imaginative and prescient for Mos clearly didn’t align with hers.
    Tearing down boundaries
    Yahyaoui, heart, with the Mos staff in San Francisco.
    Yahyaoui isn’t within the startup enterprise to get wealthy off college students making an attempt to navigate their approach by means of the absorbently costly means of making use of to and attending faculty. She’s a part of a rising class of founders out to show which you could pair income with good morals and lead venture-backed values-based companies.
    “I know if I created the same thing as an NGO, I could have already raised $100 million, but I like the accountability of business,” she stated. “We can create businesses that are good for people.”
    Yahyaoui’s story, from being exiled from her dwelling nation at a younger age to combating an authoritarian regime will not be one which’s ever been instructed earlier than in Silicon Valley.
    In addition to being a trailblazing human rights advocate, she’s a girl, an immigrant, “uneducated” by Silicon Valley requirements and a first-time tech founder that was capable of stroll into a gathering with John Doerr and stroll out with a time period sheet.
    If she’s profitable in constructing a worldwide edtech enterprise, she’ll be emblematic of the meritocratic tradition The Valley has falsely claimed to uphold. Even if she’s not profitable, she’ll have torn down boundaries for different underrepresented founders and written a hit story becoming for this new period of accountability in tech.

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