All posts by Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.
ohw-whereareyoutoday

Shuttering the Doors to Oh Hey World (aka the Real Eulogy)

Oh Hey World has been a long, hard journey.  I wrote the “Almost Eulogy of Oh Hey World” a few months ago. Following another 9 months of neglect for the product due to lack of resources/money as well as further Facebook API deprecations causing login functionality to cease, the decision to pull the plug was made.  Thus, today is the real eulogy of Oh Hey World (OHW). The final chapter. The shutting of our digital doors.

Note: Legally, Oh Hey World, Inc lives on in Horizon.

While OHW found its mark helping travel bloggers update their current location on their travel blogs more efficiently — ultimately, it didn’t solve an urgent or frequent problem for a large enough addressable market to grow and survive in the world.

For that, I’m incredibly sad.

That said, I’ll forever be grateful for the experience — I wouldn’t trade the journey, experience, learnings, hardships, stress and friendships for the world. It goes without saying — without OHW, there would never have been a Horizon. On that front, we’ve recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable supporters to fund continued product development of the best community building tool that’s ever existed. If you’re a community builder with an interest in strengthening a global membership base, manage a home stay network with email and spreadsheets, host or stay with trusted connections regularly, or simply believe life’s magical moments occur face to face, not staring at a screen — please head over to support our Horizon Patreon campaign.

Back to OHW…

Thank You

Thank you, Eric Roland. It took me 7 months of searching to find you — but your skill and efficiency was worth the wait. You made engineering seem easy; sorry I forced us down the path to building a bloated piece of software. Thanks Will Moyer for designing the gorgeous application that OHW was. I’m still bummed the iOS version you designed never saw the light of day. Thanks Shannon O’Donnell for your faith in the company’s mission throughout. Thank you Jessica Na for your design work to bringing my initial concepts to light.

Thank you to all our advisors — Jeff Turner, Spencer Rascoff, Jerry Ostradicky, Andrew Mattie, Matt Duncan, Matt Zito, Ian Ord, and Todd Sampson. A special thank you to Seann Birkelund and Eric Marcoullier for pushing me through the rut. Without all your support, well…I have no idea where I’d be, and Horizon would likely never have been created.

Thank you to all OHW’s passionate supporters — specifically Anna Zalazar, Annie Cheng, Jessie Spielvogel, Dave Dean, Lori Bee, Jan Riedel, Peter Parkorr, Mike Derzko, Martin Bergstrom, and Kristin Henning.

To all my friends & family, and specifically Brandon Matson, thanks for constantly putting up with my thoughts, updates, and ups & downs. Thank you to my mom and step dad for putting me up with food, shelter, and support throughout the early journey.

Shutting it Down

From selling/swapping candy, baseball cards, and used nintendo64 games to offering services such as mowing lawns, house demolition and website creation — I’ve been an “entrepreneur” my whole life. In the “digital” world, I’ve embarked on lots and lots of projects, mostly blogs (Geek Estate, Carnival of Real Estate, myKRO.org, ESM, etc). Oh Hey World was the first real functional “startup” that I forced upon the world.

When I FINALLY finally clicked the delete/cancel account in EngineYard (our website host), it certainly was a weird feeling.

ohw-engineyard-cancel

How does it feel? Frankly, I’m at a loss for words. It feels like a small piece of my soul just died. Like I abandoned my first (startup) baby because they couldn’t grow up. Sad I couldn’t provide the direction and capital needed for my baby to reach adulthood.

Why Now?

I grew weary of the $150-$200 per month burning a hole in my back pocket every month continuing to push my credit card farther in the red.

Weary of the mental stress and bandwidth associated with OHW existing in the world.

Weary of asking myself, “Should I keep OHW going next month?”

Weary of not knowing whether a developer would come along to put new energy into the product.

Weary of contemplating which company might acquire the assets.

Weary of wondering who might sponsor the site (with little traffic).

That combined weariness, and stress, could only go on so long before insanity crept into the equation. At some point, I had to decide enough is enough.

RIP, Oh Hey World.

screencapture-ohheyworld-1493677596372

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Social Entrepreneurs: Future Cities Accelerator

The Unreasonable Institute and Rockefeller Foundation’s are working together on the Future Cities Accelerator, offering 10 grants of $100,000. The goal is to help organizations serving poor or vulnerable populations in U.S. cities scale/grow.

Social entrepreneurs: what are you waiting for?

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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The (Almost) Eulogy of Oh Hey World

Over the past few years, I’ve worked on two travel apps – Oh Hey World (OHW) and, more recently, Horizon.

This post pertains to the earlier product, OHW. I shared a lot of learnings in my 12 months of learnings on Pando in late 2013. That post was written while still trying to figure out a viable strategy around “community” pages — and before ever deciding take another shot at making community accessible everywhere, for everyone with a complete re-brand to Horizon.

Specifically, I want to fill in the blanks in the story and address:

When is enough, enough?

Filling in the Gap

By the time I wrote the Pando recap, we were already out of money. The rest of the team was doing consulting work while I was trying to find a product/strategy that could scale. I’d say late fall 2013 was the low point of my professional life.

We finished “community” pages (see here) and showed them to individual travelers as well as organizations such as Kiva and Peace Corps. What we ultimately ended up hearing from individuals was “What do I get out of connecting? Why should I connect?” From organizations, we heard “how do you get enough people using this to enable people to actually find other community members nearby?” Turns out, outside of entrepreneurs and sales/biz dev professionals, few people have an any desire to connect for no reason. People generally need a very specific reason to ever go out of their way in the real physical world to meet someone.

Oh Hey World was a powerful offering but it lacked a “why use it” people cared about. Connect.com has raised $16M+ and thus have created a better product, but if you compare feature by feature, you’ll find they are virtually identical product offerings.

My next idea was to solve the why use it with “to consume email newsletters and de-clutter your inbox”. I spent several months validating a mobile, social email newsletter reader. The conceptual feedback was amazing from publishers (the thought of analytics on email newsletter consumption is extremely enticing), but I couldn’t identify a large enough “problem” on the consumer side. Cleaning out your inbox is a pain, sure… but there were already existing solutions (that the tech industry knew about and used). There’s also the whole “most email newsletters are spam that get deleted within seconds” reality to fight, and thus I wasn’t sure a better way to consume email newsletters would be of interest to a large crowd. If there’s one thing I learned from building OHW, it was I wasn’t going to build another product that didn’t address a very clear pain point experienced by a lot of people — so I canned the concept prior to ever developing anything.

The breakthrough that ended up leading to Horizon came when a high school friend of mine, Annie Cheng, clued me into a large (19,000) high trust community she belonged to that was interested in a “private couchsurfing” for their members. A strategic deal never ended up coming to fruition, but those conversations provided proof there were very large networks in which private hospitality exchanges would work. I then started to investigate fraternities, colleges, non profit volunteer networks, and religion organizations. From several months of customer discussions and research, I finally got enough validation that enabling private hospitality exchanges inside existing communities was a product strategy with strong potential, and enough of an incentive (free or cheap place to stay, friends, community) on the consumer side to scale.

We were originally going to morph Oh Hey World into this new hospitality exchange product, but thought better of it and realized we should cut our technical debt and start over from scratch — both from a tech and a brand perspective.

With Horizon, we solved the “why use it?” question with “to find a place to stay” — which is something every single traveler has to solve, otherwise they will never go anywhere.

Money

I’ve heard from several people they really want to know the nitty gritty of startups; how much money does it cost?

There is close to $70,000 invested into OHW — pretty much all of it my personal money (some of it was consulting money Eric, Will and I made working on various projects). That’s in addition to the hundreds upon hundreds of hours of research, customer validation, product work, writing, pitching, etc.

Building an equivalent product at market rate (aka a development shop or with developers making a regular salary rather than extremely equity heavy deal) probably would have cost three times as much — or more, depending on the development shop or how senior the engineers were.

Every month, it costs about $200 just to let OHW run. That includes the server (which is on Engine Yard), and core services such as SendGrid and Twilio. Multiple $175 or $200 x 45 (we’ve been paying for Engine Yard since October of 2012) — and you get another $9,000.

Call it a very, very expensive personal learning experience.

Current Status

Why haven’t I just shut down OHW?

The site still gets users on a daily basis. The domain has 6+ years of domain history, links, and a lot of great content (aka SEO). Every person using OHW is someone that could be using Horizon.

Lastly, I still believe there is a really compelling product sitting inside OHW. Maybe not for the masses, but certainly for heavy travelers or for the enterprise.

For instance, what if, as an American citizen, it automatically notified the State Department of your whereabouts? The State Department’s “STEP” program doesn’t exactly look like a consumer friendly offering.

What if Microsoft could communicate with their global work force based on current location? What if the Red Cross could rally both their donors and volunteers with location context?

The Opportunity

travatarWhat’s the big opportunity still lurking that Oh Hey World can capitalize on?

Travatar.

Think Gravatar (a “globally recognized avatar” which I’ll wager 80% of people reading this blog have) — but for location.

The question is how to monetize, short of selling it to the likes of Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, or Hipmunk. Which, inevitably, is a big risk.

Read more about that opportunity here.

Another post to get you thinking: The Starting Point to Real Time Travel Advice: A Location Based Content Delivery Platform.

Go Forward Strategy

The near term goal is to get OHW generating $1,500 per month.

How?

First, strip down the product to the core “check-in”, and then add external partners for related services.

If you go to www.ohheyworld.com, sign in, and then check-in to a city – you’ll end up what I call the “post check-in screen”. Compare what you see there today, to the following wireframe:

PostCheck-in-ownview

Second, add a home page sponsorship.

Third, offer a sponsorship of the Oh Hey World WordPress plugin. This would come with the possibility of many, many links from a wide variety of domains (the holy grail of SEO). Below is what it looks like now:

ohw-wordpress-widget

Fourth, promote the partners on the Oh Hey World blog.

Partnership / Development

OHW can’t continue without development to get it to revenue. That could come in the form of an individual who wants to take on an open source project on the side of their consulting work, or it could be an organization with a development community with an interest in maintaining/growing an open source project.

What an individual developer would get out of taking over OHW:

  • A user base of several thousand to start with
  • Existing brand & design assets
  • Working product
  • Financial upside, without needing to take significant financial risk to build something from scratch
  • Strong SEO

What a college program, coding academy, or accelerator would get:

  • Everything listed above
  • An open source project for their students/entrepreneurs to work on
  • Branding/marketing. Everytime the open source project is talked about, covered by the press, forked, etc – the brand of the organization would be part of that story
  • Ecosystem of jobs with the companies using the open source code base over time

Example organizations that would make sense: Code Fellows, UW Science and Engineering, Start-Up Chile, or TravelStartups.co.

Another option would be a development firm that sees the opportunity to build brand/community as well as a robust location based platform available to be utilized on numerous client projects in the future.

The other option is to find a partner who wants to sponsor the entire site to the tune of $1,500 per month for at least 6 months – and allocate some of that to a developer to spend some of their time growing the product.

Context as to what I/Horizon wants out of a partnership:

  • Recoup the money I’ve put into the product (not necessarily looking to maximize revenue)
  • Help covering server costs of OHW/Horizon in the near term
  • Enable OHW users to find Horizon from the app
  • Long term SEO for Horizon

I’d be willing to do a profit split for ohheyworld.com — likely about 75% – after all monthly services for OHW/Horizon (servers, email, accounting software, etc) are covered (currently about $700 per month).

In the event of a sale of the ohheyworld.com brand and assets to someone like Amadeus, Travelport, Concur, TripAdvisor, etc – there would be a sliding basis of the split. 10% of sale price up to $50,000, 30% of the incremental between $50,001 and $70,000, and 70% of incremental above $70,000.

If you’re a developer or organization interested in an agreement in the realm of what’s outlined above, shoot me an email at drew at horizonapp co.

To Pull the Plug, or not Pull the Plug?

Anyone that has slaved away on a startup knows how hard they are. Hundreds of hours. The stressful nights (& resulting grey hairs). The weekends spent in front of your computer while friends are out having fun. It really is like nurturing a baby (from what I’ve heard from those who have done both).

There comes a point where you’ve got to just move on. Shutting down your first “startup” is a tough decision. There’s so many hours, and so much money, that were thrown into it that you want to see it live on to see another day.

Where’s there’s a will, there’s a way.

Ultimately, unless that will is shared by someone with development chops to own and grow the product, OHW will need to see it’s last day soon.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Travel Founder Interview with Frederic Simons From WorldCraze

worldcraze-logo

Today we’re speaking with Frederic Simons, founder of WorldCraze. A little bit more about him and his startup from his own mouth…

1) What do you do?

frederic-simonsI am Frederic, and I created WorldCraze with my co-founder Guillaume in December of 2012. WorldCraze is a french start-up that connects travelers and consumer worldwide! We believe in the fact that WorldCraze can change the world consumption to make it more accessible and collaborative. I worked hard and today we are a team of 6 people, working on our concept, on our app, and on our website to make it better everyday for our users.

The concept of WorldCraze is simple and useful. It allows everyone to buy products that only exist in another country or is cheaper there, thanks to the help of travelers, that can bring it back to earn a bonus. For exemple, a brazilian can ask to a traveler coming back from USA to bring him back a new iPhone for cheaper, and the traveler will earn a bonus for this service.

2) Why do you do what you do?

Coming back from holidays in USA, I noticed a huge difference of price in many products, such as a pair of jeans Levi’s. I was sure there were something to do about it, because this is an unfair difference that is not justified for a same product. Besides, I also found out that many products existed only in other countries and that it was very complicated for people to offer some in another country without huge shipping costs. Also, thousands and thousands of travelers are traveling worldwide everyday in all destinations.

I had the idea to connect those travelers with consumers, through a secure and safe website. I talked about it to my partner and we launched this concept in December 2012. We already had experience in start-up that helped very much to build WorldCraze. So we began the adventure with Guillaume and we are now growing up worldwide!

The concept appealed many people that are now using it, and thanks to the low competition in this domain we can lead the european market, and are now hoping to go further.

3) What are you most excited about right now?

We saw that our concept interested many people in France and Europe, so we are now opening worldwide. We are opening in the USA and in Brazil. One member of our team is currently in Brazil because this country represents a huge opportunity since all imported products are expensive there and because they are more than 200 millions. I am very excited to expend this concept worldwide and to get many new crazers to increase our community. It is exciting to see each day new travelers with new destinations and a demand of product from all over the world increasing. It is also exciting to see that people are very satisfied with WorldCraze and to communicate with them truly, considering their advice and comments. We want to create a real connection with them, to guide them as well as they can guide us to better suit their needs.

4) What’s next for you?

I find my inspiration in successful start-up such as AirBnB or Blablacar, that had a great success worldwide and transformed the economy for a more collaborative one. I believe that WorldCraze has the possibility to transform the e-shooping into crowdshopping and to create a huge community that will help consumers, but also travelers that can earn money by bringing back products. This is a win-win concept that solves a problem many people are facing. It can change habits of consumption and help travelers as well to earn money using their empty suitcases. We have big ambition for WorldCraze so we are now working hard on it to improve it and communicate about it worldwide.

5) What cause you’re passionate about and why?

I want to make our world more fair and products more accessible to each individual in the world. With more and more travelers that have very diverse destinations, products from everywhere can reach any destination at the better price, which represents a real transformation for the world.

I am also passionate about traveling, and that is why helping travelers to earn money and to meet people thanks to WorldCraze is really important for me. WorldCraze represents an opportunity for travelers and I am working with the team now to build a blog with many destination and tips for them in different countries, to encourage them to travel more and to discover the world.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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COWORKATION

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Interested? Be the first to know about their launch over at their website.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Temporary Story

The story of a 6 month journey, over 3 continents, in 13 countries — stretching across the United States, Canada, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Bolivia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Epic!

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Southwest Collective: a Coworking Retreat in Portugal

I came across Southwest Collective, a one week coworking retreat later this year, and since readers here are generally the digital nomad type, I thought I’d share.

Where: Guia, Portugal
When: 11-18 September 2016

The house attendees will stay at:

southwest collective house

More info and application, head over to their website: http://southwestcollective.co/

Having spent 2 weeks at StartUp Abroad in Bali in 2012, I can confidently say a co-working retreat is good for the soul.

PS: Coliving is one of the public groups we’ve added to Horizon’s web version (http://api.horizonapp.co/groups/). For those interested in coworking/coliving, I recommend you join.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Looking for a Rails Engineer to Take Over Oh Hey World

OHWiconWe open sourced the entire Oh Hey World platform in early 2014. Since then, we’ve been working on Horizon, which is our 2nd attempt at making community accessible everywhere. (a 18 month recap can be found here)

We know location sharing is not a “problem” to the masses (one of our big learnings from the time spent building OHW) — but Oh Hey World is still a valuable offering to frequent travelers (digital nomads, travel bloggers, entrepreneurs, business travelers, and those on sabbatical or extended backpacking trips). It still gets new users every week who use it to track their locations, update their current location on their travel blog with our WordPress plugin, or text their loved ones upon arrival.

We’ve been on the lookout for the right full stack engineer to maintain and improve Ohheyworld.com.

Changes to be Made

Like many startups, we overbuilt. Oh Hey World is an amazingly powerful platform — but many don’t know what to do with it due to its complexity. The primary goal in the near term is to simplify the user interface to be 100% about the “check-in” and link off to partners/sponsors for everything else a traveler may need (finding friends nearby, things to do, hotels, hostels, vacation rentals, etc).

Revenue

I believe many people would pay for a native iOS or Android app that handles tracking their location with the correct privacy considerations. The travel bloggers using the OHW WordPress plugin may be a niche crowd, but they are the content creators of the entire travel industry – there is considerable value to getting new travel products in front of them.

Alternatively, a development firm could be built on top of the Oh Hey World platform. Considerable effort by travel startups (especially B2C) is spent getting the basic aspects of a travel offering up and running: user accounts, locations, social graph, city searches, and information tagged to those cities. Ohheyworld.com has built all that already. It could turn into a great developer showcase for the big travel tech companies such as Concur, Amadeus, TravelPort, or Sabre.

Long Term

In addition to the “travatar” opportunity (Gravatar, for current location), see my thoughts on how an open source project such as OHW could serve as a catalyst for a location based content delivery platform.

Why keep Oh Hey World running at all?

That’s certainly a legitimate question, given our focus is on Horizon. To be very transparent, the interest in keeping OHW running is the URL has good domain (aka SEO) juice built over 5+ years — as well as additional opportunity with increased distribution of the WordPress plugin. Lastly, every user who finds OHW is likely someone who would utilize Horizon’s offering to find people to stay with.

Who would be the ideal fit?

  1. A self taught Rails engineer (or one currently or recently enrolled in a bootcamp) looking for a real world product with users to work on as a portfolio/learning project.
  2. An engineer with a passion for travel looking for a side project with income potential down the road.
  3. Someone who wants experience overseeing & working on an open source initiative.
  4. Someone who believes in the power of travel, ands wants to be involved with Horizon team long term.

Are you an interested engineer? Shoot me a mail if so – drew at horizonapp co

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Kricket: Refugee Crowdsourcing

kricket-logoI came across Kricket recently, I believe via the Techfugees Facebook group. I spoke with Tom Nassr a couple weeks ago (turns out he’s also a SigEp) to learn more, and he mentioned they were working on a Kickstarter campaign — which is now live.

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How does it work?

Kricket is a map-based network for crowdsourcing information. The goal is to help refugees find safety, resources, and better travel routes. This platform is designed for NGOs, volunteers, refugees, and you, to contribute information to a single map that everyone can see & access, in realtime.

A few more details:

  • Everyone is looking at the same map of the worl

  • Everyone can “tag” their current location with an icon/photo and a comment

  • The tags on the map are “live” for 24 hours, then they are removed from the map

  • Everyone is anonymous

  • An Admin Panel can be accessed by Kricket & verified NGOs

  • Admins have the ability to update/ add / edit tags they create

  • This app is available on iOS, Android, and Web right now

I urge you to head on over and back the campaign.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Gemma Sisia’s Tanzanian story – The School of St Jude

I came across the story of Gemma Sisia, founder of the School of St Jude in Arusha, Tanzania, the other day. It struck a chord with me, because I spent a week painting walls at Saint Monica’s, a school just outside Nairobi that my friend Racquel Turner runs. (see my the blog posts here, here, and here).

You can watch Gemma on ABC’s ‘Australian Story’ here:

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I love learning more about individuals doing such fantastic work. Thank you to Gemma and staff/volunteers for making the world a better place.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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