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Student & Alumni Spotlight of the Month

July 2013

Samir Ibrahim (BS ’11)

Samir Headshot

When Stern alumnus, Samir Ibrahim (BS ’11), packed his bags for Kenya soon after graduation to run his start-up company SunCulture, which sells solar-powered irrigation products and agricultural services to local farmers, he was actually fulfilling a lifelong dream. “My original plan was to transition from real estate finance to infrastructure investment, and then use those skills to move into development. When my friend and co-founder Charlie Nichols approached me with the idea for SunCulture, I realized I could skip a few steps and move into development right away. It’s never too soon to start pursuing your ultimate goals.”

The concept for the company originated in August 2011 over dinner when the two friends began discussing the upcoming NYU Social Venture Competition and Charlie’s notion to use solar water pumps for agriculture. “We both recognized a huge need for efficient and affordable irrigation systems in Kenya and the product we envisioned would satisfy that need,” Samir explains. “We developed the SunCulture AgroSolar Irrigation Kit, which uses a submersible solar-powered pump to propel water to an elevated tank and then release it through drip irrigation lines. Our method delivers water directly to crop roots, increasing yield by 300% and reducing water usage by up to 90%. Once we realized we could make a significant impact on the way food is grown in the developing world, we didn’t think twice about moving forward with SunCulture.”

Samir and Charlie entered the competition, which provided an opportunity to have their concept critiqued and improved upon. “Access to seasoned entrepreneurs, a network of resources in New York City, and a platform to introduce our company were just some of the advantages we gained from being involved in the competition.” Although the pair didn’t win, SunCulture took home the award for Audience Choice. “Being selected for Audience Choice actually pushed us even harder to deploy a pilot and fully commit to the company. It definitely gave us more drive to launch and move abroad.”

Today, Samir describes life in Nairobi as vibrant. “It’s a booming city filled with skyscrapers, rooftop bars, and malls. Yes, political instability, violence, and corruption are also prevalent here, but the transformation from ‘developing country’ to ‘developed’ is apparent.” Reflecting on SunCulture’s trajectory from concept to culmination, Samir offers some words of wisdom to anyone with entrepreneurial ambitions. “My advice? Go for it! Every company started somewhere. Start it, build it, and make it great. If you don’t, someone else will – why let others have all the fun?”

March 2014 Update:
cnbc
Samir Ibrahim featured on CNBC in a discussion about SunCulture.