Our Team

 
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Paul Birkelo

Managing director

Paul Birkelo has spent the last six years working with young innovators in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Kenya. He led the viability study that contributed to the founding of Gearbox Kenya, where he served as the Head of Operations for two years, designing and managing functions from reporting and financial systems to procurement, facilities, staff training, and partnerships with established makerspaces globally. Before that, he worked as a monitoring and evaluations consultant on rural entrepreneurship programs in Ethiopia, received his masters in international development from the University of Edinburgh, and served as a project manager and carpenter for a custom fabrication shop in New York serving fortune 500 companies. He has been a member, volunteer, and served on the board of makerspaces across the US, Europe, and Africa.

 
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Kate Gage

Board of directors

Kate Gage has spent the last 8 years working in the Obama Administration on the intersection between technology and global challenges. Most recently she worked in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy with the President’s Science Advisor and the Chief Technology Officer on the White House’s international science and technology priorities. She was one of the founders of the U.S. Global Development Lab at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which was created to lead the U.S. Government’s work to develop and scale technologies to address global development and humanitarian challenges.  Prior to working in the Administration, she worked at the International Rescue Committee, and on the Obama campaign in 2008. 

 
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Erik Hersman

Board of Directors

Erik Hersman is an entrepreneur, writer and speaker on the boundless spirit of technology innovation in Africa. He is the cofounder of Ushahidi, which allows users to share breaking news through text messaging, and continues to revolutionize and empower journalists, watchdog groups, and everyday people around the world.  He also founded the iHub in Nairobi, the innovation hub for the technology community, bringing together entrepreneurs, hackers, designers and the investment community and built as an epicenter for Kenya’s booming tech industry.  He is also the founder of BRCK, a new connectivity device that serves as a backup generator for the Internet, and is a general partner in the Savannah Fund, which conducts seed investments in Africa's tech startups.

Hersman, a TED Senior Fellow and PopTech Faculty Fellow, grew up in Kenya and Sudan and keeps two influential blogs: WhiteAfrican, where he writes about technology on the African continent, and AfriGadget, a group blog that celebrates African ingenuity.

 
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David Li

Board of directors

David Li cofounded Maker Collider in 2015, a platform to develop next-generation IoT from the global Maker community. He is also the director of the Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab, and has spearheaded many initiatives to connect African entrepreneurs to the Shenzhen manufacturing ecosystem. He also cofounded Hacked Matter, a think tank on makers and open innovation. He is interested in urban farming and is an enthusiastic proponent of aquaponics, bringing the spirit of open source to farming and gardening.

Over the past 20 years, David has started several open source software projects and contributed to many others. In 2010, he co-founded XinCheJian, the first hackerspace in China to promote hacker/maker culture and open source hardware. He has been contributing to open source software since 1990, and is a member of the Free Software Foundation, a committer to Apache projects, and a board director of ObjectWeb. 

 
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Emeka Okafor

Board of Directors

Emeka Okafor has a diverse, interdisciplinary background focused on developing, building, and deploying initiatives across Africa. He curated the only full TED Conferences held on the continent in 2007 and 2017, and cofounded Maker Faire Africa, which held events in five African countries from 2009-2014. He is also the co-founder of the acclaimed TED Fellows Program launched in 2009. Emeka has advised organizations including the X-Prize Foundation and Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE). He was previously a board member for Samasource and a Global Poptech Fellow. His current interests include the founding of Kichin, a food and beverage accelerator, and a related Food/Beverage startup currently in stealth mode.

Emeka is also the author of the publicly acclaimed blog Timbuktu Chronicles, which covers the confluence of entrepreneurship, science, and technology in Africa, and Africa Unchained, a blog examining issues that include governance, policy, education, and institution building in Africa. He is also a contributing author to the book: Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century.

 

Advisors

 
 
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Anna Waldman-Brown

Researcher, MIT work of the future initiative

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Kamau Gachigi

Executive director, gearbox kenya

Miguel Granier

Managing director, invested development

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Mark Hatch

General partner, network society ventures

 
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Jeff Muthondu

Creative director, brck

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Micheal Murphy

executive director, mass design group

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Emily Reichert

CEO, Greentown labs