Christine Souffrant: Founder Vendedy
Spotlight no. 3:
Dartmouth College, BA
Vendedy's Strategic Partners: IBM Global Entrepreneur, Microsoft Biz Spark, Manatt Ventures, Poverty Alleviation Commitment with Clinton Global Initiative
What is Vendedy?
Vendedy is a mobile network (marketplace) connecting global travelers to street vendors all over the world.
What's your story and what brought you to the startup world?
The journey of launching Vendedy started from childhood. As a daughter of three generations of Haitian female street vendors, I grew up understanding that the way of life for many was selling in the streets. My mother immigrated to NYC and did what she knew best- sell Haitian artwork on the streets of Manhattan. By 1998 she owned a boutique and it seemed like our street vending years were over- until I got to college. I earned a Bill Gates Scholarship to Dartmouth and traveled to over twenty-two countries - witnessing and learning the stories of street vendors across Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. I became obsessed with the street vending industry and when the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, I made it my life goal to transform it for the better. In 2013, I quit banking to move to Dubai to study social entrepreneurship with the goal of launching a startup post graduation. Little did I know that idea would be Vendedy.
This year we focused on raising seed funding through competitions and have been a global inspiration since then with each competition and with each country/ city demo - Dubai, Tel Aviv, NYC, LA, Trinidad, and Haiti.
What is the social impact of your startup?
Context: Two billion people currently live in poverty, of which many make a living as street vendors due to limited employment. Despite the fact that well over one billion people travel the globe annually as tourists, volunteers, students, and for business, these street sellers still have inconsistent access to global consumers. Even though the most authentic products are in street markets, travelers often purchase local products & souvenirs at hotels, boutiques, airports & malls. As the world moves towards bridging developed and emerging markets, many products are now available digitally. Yet one third of the world’s supply market, including bazaars, souks, and street markets are isolated from the digital landscape.
Street sellers need consistent access to global consumers. Global tourists need safer and more convenient access to authentic local products without having to buy at surged price points within hotels, airports, and fragmented 3rd party players (street market agents, NGOs, boutiques, eCommerce sites). Here's where Vendedy comes in.
How have you grown in character since you first started?
Entrepreneurship does something to you. I have had many high intensity moments throughout my banking/policy career but nothing compares to the past year of launching a startup. For one, my ability to communicate clearly and effectively has skyrocketed- when you are constantly on pitch mode and connection mode, you learn quickly to say what matters. Second, my sense of wonder and imagination has expanded. It is truly powerful to build a company from an idea. Furthermore my core character traits amplified- bold, resilient, charismatic, empathetic, intuitive. In addition, other character traits that emerged - patience, thoughtfulness, and intuitive listening.
What advice would you give yourself when you first started this process?
The most important advice I would give myself would be to “not take things personal - even when it is.” The startup world has no room for sensitive people. You waste a lot of energy processing perceived notions and it doesn't fuel progress.
What is missing from the startup community? What do you wish existed?
Our team has learned to be resilient, patient, and open to constructive feedback. I am disappointed in the investment community and tech ecosystem. Investors are very dismissive of social impact tech companies- deferring them to social impact capital, grants and other methods of capital. Investors and global competitions alike have been very dismissive of our efforts- “great idea, great business model- but it won’t scale like the other companies in our portfolio.” Or “it’s too complicated.” So do we want easy ideas that come with easy solutions? There is a huge debate about this across many verticals and I’m involved with many thought leaders who want to change this mentality.
Where do you see Vendedy in ten years? Feel free to reflect on your accomplishments thus far.
In the next ten years we expect to be the #1 travel mobile network connecting street vendors to travelers across 100+ cities. We aim for the day when people know that in order to buy great local products while they travel that they advise that people "Vendedy it."
What role did your IVY League education play in empowering you to launch your company?
During my undergraduate career, I traveled extensively. Besides traveling to the twenty-two countries mentioned earlier, I also lived in three countries for exchange programs (Mexico, South Africa, & Trinidad). Participating in those exchange programs gave me the second lens I needed to make Vendedy a reality. I have an intuitive connection to the street vending industry due to my upbringing, but the travel experiences during college helped me understand the travel industry and the consumer segments best needed to transform localized markets.
Are there any articles and videos about Vendedy that you would like for us to link to in your IVY Startup Mag interview profile?
Thank you Christine & the rest of the Vendedy team for the interview! We wish you the best of luck and look forward to using Vendedy soon.
.::Ivy Startup Mag::.