A native of Katsina, Nigeria, Yammama saw the hurdles for farmers in his country and came up with the idea of Verdant, an app for rural, smallholder farmers. “I had a shamble of a startup,” says Yammama. “I had an idea around farming and agriculture and an idea to provide help on a mobile phone.”
With this idea, Yammama joined the second class of the MIT Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, an intensive, week-long new ventures leadership program in Brisbane, Australia. “In the bootcamp, I learned to approach my business from a disciplined and tactful eye,” says Yammama. “I knew what I wanted before I went to the bootcamp, but I only got a concrete blueprint of how to actualize what I envisioned after I left. [The professors] said they saw the passion in what I was doing but that I needed to narrow down and treat a particular problem rather than trying to solve all of the problems. I took their advice quite literally.”
After completing the program in 2015, Yammama, who had been living in London after completing his master’s in creative technology at Middlesex University, moved back to Nigeria. “I decided to live with the farmers to experience their problems firsthand. Ever since I did that, everything changed.”
Verdant’s mobile platform provides agricultural data science, market information, managerial support, and access to financial services. Since most rural farmers in Nigeria do not have smartphones, the platform is designed to work through simple text and voice. The platform currently has more than 10,000 users and with the 500,000 All Farmers Association of Nigeria planning to join soon, Yammama’s goal of 20 million farmers in 2018 is starting to look viable.
Nasir was recently named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Africa and received the Queen’s Young Leader award. In collaboration with Oxfam and GIZ, Verdant is currently running a project to support 25,000 farmers. “I believe the bootcamp was instrumental in the forward trajectory I’m going towards right now,” says Yammama. “I came in with some capacities but I left as a totally different person. I came out as a better entrepreneur and a better technologist.”
The Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, which started in 2014 as a way to bring online learners together in MIT-run sessions at varying locations around the world, has had great successes. In addition to global entrepreneurship, they also run bootcamps around Internet of things, food innovation, education, and sustainability. Students who completed the bootcamps have created high impact startups—like Yammama—and many have enrolled at MIT programs.
Jakub Chudik ’20 and Jin Wu, who both excelled in entrepreneurship online courses on MITx on edX, completed the bootcamp and went on to enroll at MIT. Chudik is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree and Wu is pursuing a master’s degree in Integrated Design Management.
After completing the bootcamp, Yen Pei Tay continued the pursuit of his app, Simplify, and his company was named one of the world’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2017 by Fast Company.