Karim Sy

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Karim Sy was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Karim is creating collaborative working spaces, called Jokkolabs, where budding entrepreneurs can come together to share their best ideas for new ventures with each other—and with a larger, virtual, open source community—breaking the assumption that success is most ensured when good ideas are cultivated in secret. Through a process of open exchange, or coworking, these entrepreneurs are able to source valuable input and resources from the Jokkolabs community and use that to quickly improve the quality of their individual ventures, and even come together to launch enhanced joint ventures.

The initial insight driving Karim’s collaborative innovation hubs is that bringing entrepreneurs together in a supportive community is crucial in a region that does not have a pronounced culture of entrepreneurship. In fact, entrepreneurs are often considered crazy for engaging in such risk taking, and are generally discouraged. But, perhaps more importantly, Karim also recognizes the opportunity to embed entrepreneurship within the region’s traditional values which emphasize interconnectivity, and as such, break down the idea of the isolated entrepreneur in order to create a new, more productive way of working. Indeed, Karim’s work is rooted in the African proverb: If you want to walk fast, you walk alone; if you want to walk far, you go together.

Karim has not only used this collaborative ethos to help propel the launch of dozens of entrepreneurial ventures to-date, but has been able to infuse it in the very nature of the ventures that are launched. Jokkolabs entrepreneurs, or Jokkoworkers, operate from a belief that the best businesses are those that help tackle one of society’s toughest problems. Whether a social venture or private venture, Jokkoworkers are always thinking about how their work can create new opportunities for others in society.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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