Ambassador Néstor Osorio
Former Executive Director of the ICO &
Colombian Representative of WTO
President, Everest Financial Corp.
It all started in fall 2017, when Alexander grew tired of working all day and studying all night to complete his MBA. He sold nearly everything he owned, booked a flight, and landed in Medellin, Colombia with three large suitcases and a heap of naivety.
The goals? Research Colombia’s economy, learn Spanish, and not work for an entire year. The success rate? Two out of three is below par for Alexander, but we’ll cut him some slack this time.
His third week in Colombia, he joined a small group of students to do a three-day immersion language course in Jardin, Colombia, a small coffee town where colonial buildings nestle under soaring green mountains. Along with learning Spanish verbs and practicing his pronunciation, this “with-cream-and-sugar” coffee-drinker was about to learn more of one of Colombia’s most important economies.
While in Jardin, he visited his first-ever coffee farm – or finca – and then joined the family for a home-cooked lunch. After eating a traditional bandeja paisa, with his teacher as an interpreter, he took the chance to ask the farmer some basic business questions about how he sold his dried and processed coffee (something he later discovered was called parchment). However, he wasn’t able to get the answers he was looking for. Alexander left the finca a bit confused that the farmer had no influence over the pricing of his product and that there seemed to be a disconnect between the farmer and the coffee supply chain. Maybe it was just an outlier, he thought.
But on every farm he visited, he heard the same story: producers were not connected to the supply chain as an equal stakeholder and had no control over the selling price of their crop.
Alexander had trained as an architect, not as a coffee professional or programmer. Yet the situation reminded him of a case study about the fishing industry. To make a long story short, the introduction of the mobile phone in 1997 allowed for a better exchange of market information, which in turn made markets more efficient. Everyone benefited: on average, fishers’ profits rose by 8% while consumer prices fell by 4%.
So, this gringo asked himself: why not design a mobile app that connects producers to the coffee supply chain and thereby empowers farmers, roasters, traders, and consumers alike?
He made a good attempt at taking a year off work. In fact, he made it about six months before he started designing iFinca. And for Alexander, that’s not bad.
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