Satellites are not the solution to everything

Edition 128

Hi! I’m Anjali Ramachandran, Director at Storythings and co-founder of Ada’s List.

What’s Up

A few things first: at Storythings we’ve just released the latest two video stories in our series on financial inclusion and identity for Experian, Identities of the World. Learn about the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous community in rural Peru and how they’d like to protect their forests through experiential tourism, and how access to financial knowledge might change the lives of women who weave to make money and preserve their culture. Also, if you’re into collecting objects of any kind and have an iPhone, we’d love it if you could test this Augmented Reality app we’re working on for a pilot project with Discovery Channel.

I’m a trustee of Chayn, an open-source feminist technology non-profit, and they’re hiring a Movement Builder, and two Tech Leads, as well as looking for an investigative journalist to work on a podcast about gender-based violence. Remote candidates who can work to a UK time zone are fine - please share if you know any suitable folks! If you also know of any organisations based in the Global South who might want to work with Chayn on a funding proposal for Bloom - remote trauma support - to implement it in their region, please give me a shout.


For fans of Star Wars and the Mandalorian (or even if you’re not!), you’ll chuckle at this: Baby Yoda has become a Latin American LGBTQ+ icon because of one Mexico City restaurant replacing the traditional Baby Jesus with Baby Yoda in the traditional Rosca de Reyes cake!

Quite hard-hitting: a long read about how one woman returned to China to sign some papers after 10 years in France, and was imprisoned in a re-education camp for Uiyghurs for two years. She got out.

The media maelstrom around WhatsApp’s privacy concerns have hit India hard, and how. This Reddit user gamed a number of Indians into downloading Signal as an alternative, by circulating the fake news that Signal was built by a ‘poor villager’s son’ to inspire them to download it as an act of patriotism!

How Wildberries, Russia’s answer to Amazon intends to go about business, according to Tatyana Bakalchuk, one of its owners and Russia’s richest woman: “… she sees no need for investors, who would require more detail. Instead, Wildberries is opting for breakneck growth and, increasingly, cultivating relationships with top Russian officials.”

The best way to fight misinformation on a platform is to use it against itself: enter WhatsCrap Africa on WhatsApp, a podcast with information can be shared as an audio file within WhatsApp by subscribers on the continent who want to debunk any claims.

Last week, I wrote about Indonesia’s alternative approach to COVID-19 vaccinations by giving them to the younger, working-age population first. This time: as part of the government’s communications strategy, social media influencers are part of the first group to get the vaccine. Not particularly well thought-through: one influencer was seen partying hours after getting his first shot. 🤷‍♀️

Fascinating long read on one of the newer emojis introduced by the Unicode Consortium: the one representing a Hindu temple, because of the Hindu fundamentalist-tendencies it depicts in the process: “The red swallow-tailed pennant that flies from the top of the temple emoji is also quintessentially Hindu-supremacist. It isn’t necessarily the case that most temples have flags, and the temples that do have flags rarely have a flag of this kind. The pennant in the emoji, however, looks exactly like the bhagwa dhwaj, the banner of the RSS.” 🛕

Ride-sharing app Ola has partnered with Siemens on the construction of a factory in Tamilnadu, India, that will build electric scooters. The factory is expected to generate almost 10,000 jobs and will cater to its customers in India (its main market) as well as those in Latin America, ANZ, UK and EU.

Interesting Twitter thread by Jaap Grolleman with observations on life in Shanghai, China. To those in Asia, probably not so surprising, but worth reading nevertheless.

Sara Menker started Gro Intelligence in Kenya in 2014, an agricultural data startup which builds predictive data models for the food industry. She has just raised $85 million in Series B funding.

Female Founder Spotlight

A long time ago I used to highlight female entrepreneurs from across the world in this newsletter. Despite being popular, that section tapered off for various reasons, but I’m pleased to bring it back! Without further ado, meet Lucy Lloyd, Co-Founder, Mentorloop.

Q: When did you launch Mentorloop?

Lucy: Mentorloop is a platform that helps people find life-changing connections - a dating site for mentoring if you will. We've been working on it for years, but we launched as a company in mid-2016.

What motivated to you start it? What problem were you trying to solve?

My co-founder Heidi and I have known each other forever, and over a wine one night 6 or 7 years ago we were discussing our quite different careers and the choices we were making. We wondered aloud why there wasn’t a dating site for mentoring relationships, a way to find and connect with that future version of yourself to help you navigate the next steps.

Mentoring captured our imagination, and it fit in with the working trends we could see all around us - people feeling isolated, people being more likely to switch careers, and the rise of automation removing the human connection from people's daily lives. So we worked on it as a "side hustle" for a while, and then just over 4 years ago - after we'd had really promising responses from our earliest customers - we bit the bullet and went full time.

The companies that are going to win the next couple of decades are the ones who will put their people first - Mentorloop helps these companies build a mentoring culture for better productivity, engagement and retention.

What geographies do you operate in?

Because we're an online platform we're global - we have clients in Asia Pacific, Asia, Europe, and North & South America

How many people do you currently employ?

12, but we're always hiring.

What did you do before Mentorloop?

I kind of fell into digital project management, and software product management - and my last "real" job, working for someone else, was digital director of an advertising agency. I helped brands use digital strategies and cloud-based tools to build better business processes, access and win new markets, and connect more closely with their customers. 

What are some of Mentorloop's biggest achievements?

When we started Mentorloop we based it on our own recognised need, but as time's gone on we've realised that by virtue of doing what we do - connecting people in more meaningful ways for personal and professional development - we always work with fantastic clients, who truly put their people first. It's a happy side-effect of the nature of our work, and I'm always very proud of the relationships we build with people leaders.

For me personally, I'm most proud of my relationship with my co-founder, Heidi. As time has gone on it's become clear that our trust and mutual respect is a superpower for our business.

What's next for Mentorloop?

More considered and active international expansion - e.g. setting up our UK-based office, and getting more involved in markets beyond our doorstep here in Australia. From a product perspective, it's continuing to build an experience that allows fabulous, organic mentoring connections to flourish.

What do you wish more people knew about when it comes to what you do?

That mentoring - connecting people in meaningful, outcomes-based, mutually-beneficial relationships - is the most powerful (and cheapest!) thing a company can do to supercharge their engagement, retention and productivity.

Thanks, Lucy!

Jobs and opportunities

Sporjo, which aims to grow sports as a profession in India, is looking for a recruiter to be based in Mumbai.

Cranfield University, in partnership with the British Council, is offering six fully funded scholarships for female students from the Americas’ region (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru or Venezuela), for Masters degrees in various STEM courses, to start this September.

Snap is looking for a Head of Japan Market Development, based in Tokyo.

The First Annual Conference of a Platform Governance Research Network has announced a Call for Proposals for a three-day online conference in late March 2021, seeking to bring together an interdisciplinary group of researchers who produce work on platform governance across a variety of fields. Deadline: February 15th.

The Walt Disney Company is looking for a Publishing Manager, based in Mumbai, India.

DFS Lab, hosted by the Central Bank of Egypt and working with the Financial Regulation Authority and FSD Africa are inviting applications for a COVID-19 Innovation Sprint to develop fintech solutions that address the pandemic in Egypt.

The Centre for Internet and Society in India have a role for a three-month project for a researcher on online caste-based hate speech, law and content moderation. Deadline: 31st January.

Octagon is hiring a Creative Director in Singapore.

The title of this newsletter

…is from this BBC piece that looks at the various projects looking to provide broadband to communities around the world. Many are failed projects, like Facebook’s Project Aquila and Google’s recently shuttered Project Loon, but are precursors to satellite-based projects that continue, like Elon Musk’s Starlink, and its competitor OneWeb, funded by India’s Bharti Airtel and the UK government.


As always, if you’d like to share this newsletter with friends, please do!

Share Other Valleys

And if you know any female founders in the Global South who might like to be featured here, please email me, and feel free to fill this in if you know of any news or projects that could feature in future editions.

Till next time,


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