Mobis, founded by Diana Engel Gerbase ’16, is a nonprofit social venture devoted to spreading democratic civic education to Brazilian high schools.
Why We Love Mobis
Mobis aims to awaken young citizens in Brazil and ensure that young people understand and participate in public life and have control over their country’s future by participating in democratic societies. Civics education does not exist in Brazil and, as such, Brazil’s 2 million high school students do not understand how government works and, specifically, the electoral process. Mobis is growing rapidly, working with one new school each semester. They are also developing an online platform which will contain more than 50 hours of educational materials.
Diana’s Entrepreneurial Journey
Diana’s background is in strategy consulting and business development. A native of Brazil, she was both frustrated with the Brazilian economy and the lack of interest in changing things because civic participation is so low. While at SIPA, Diana raised money through 2 fellowships and a grant to pilot Mobis. Despite the fact that it was an experiment, 89% of pilot participants rated the program highly. Diana then knew she was on to something. After graduating, Diana joined the Columbia Startup Lab to work on her idea and only returned to Brazil once she had a sense of how to move forward. Her next step was to set up at an incubator at a local University, raise money, start to brand her idea and build a team. While still very much a start up, Mobis is poised for expansion later this year.
Running a High Impact Business
Diana uses several formative evaluation techniques to assess Mobis’ impact. For example, pre and post assessments on interest in democratic participation via Focus Groups. She has already seen a change in participants who are more engaged in the school community, in political protests and who are more articulate when discussing political issues. In addition to hard data, Mobis uses testimonials to articulate how participants feel after being exposed to the program.
Diana says the hardest part about being an entrepreneur is that you are put on the edge so many times and you need to have a strong backbone to navigate through the uncertainty and to deal with the frustration so common in start ups. On the positive side, the feeling of satisfaction she gets in being her own boss and running something that is changing lives is unparalleled. One simply can not put a price on the pride that your organization and team’s impact brings.
Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs
My advice is to follow your passion, work hard and make sure to do your homework! Be resilient but, at the same time, understand your limits. You need to build an appetite for risk if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. You need to know how to deal with uncertainty and ramp up your problem solving techniques!
Favorite Place on Campus
Engineering Building Library.
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