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MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


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Arun Iyer

2022 - 2023
Financial Services

Arun knew from the age of 9 that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. His interest in insurance and investing was cemented after he read Warren Buffet’s biography at age 9, and invested in his first stock, also at age 9. Arun started his first business when he was 13 years old and in high school. He started selling cassette tapes imported from India, realizing that there was a massive arbitrage in the prices at which Sony and other music producers sold their original tapes in the Indian market vs the African market. When he was 14, he co-founded Virtual Internet Africa (originally known as Ace Technologies), a web design and e-commerce firm, seeing the future potential of the internet to change our lives in a dramatic way.

In founding and then scaling Alpha Direct, his vision was to build a technology driven insurance business that fundamentally changed the way insurance was consumed, and this journey led to the creation of a first-in-the- world tangible packaged retail insurance products focused on getting people in Living Standards Measure (LSM) 4-6 (lower middle class consumers in Africa to experience the benefits of having insurance protection for their assets. The creation of these products and the digital technology behind them resulted in the company receiving a South African patent and several other awards and accolades including the Grant Thornton Private Business Growth Award and the African Insurance Award for Innovation of the Year. Alpha Direct was built with a community focus, and the company’s vision statement and values embody the founder’s vision to “make the communities we serve better.”

Botswana as a country presents a unique opportunity to establish and grow a business venture into the African continent. The country provides a fertile ground in terms of no exchange controls, an easy to do business environment with limited to no red tape, the lowest tax rates on the African continent, and a government-financed technology eco-system that is committed to world-class technology companies being built in Botswana and scaling into the continent.


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