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In the Heart of Afghanistan, Entrepreneurs Innovate for Peace

Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy
October 15, 2012
Fast Company


In 2010, Ahmad Reza Zahedi started a website design business called TechSharks. It was the realization of a longtime dream for Zahedi, 30, a modest, soft-spoken man who sports a short ponytail and who, like so many other tech entrepreneurs, fell in love with computing as a teenager. He recalls with undimmed wonder the summer day 16 years ago when an older brother brought home three boxes. Inside one was a keyboard. Another held a 14-inch monitor. The third, a computer case with everything else. The Zahedi family's first PC "was terrific for me," he says.

Better yet was an accompanying gift just for him. "It was a book about learning Pascal," says Zahedi. "I started learning programming, and I would sit and work on the computer all day long. I never got tired." He improved his coding skills online, and he played games--lots of them. "I love games too much," he says bashfully. "I have finished Crysis, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Battlefield 3, and every version of Angry Birds."

At first, TechSharks's prospective clients shared none of Zahedi's passion or sophistication. Few understood the value of what he was selling. "When we met with customers," he says, "we had to explain the difference between emails and websites, what is hosting, what is a domain." But in 2011, the business nearly broke even. This year, Zahedi has expanded his staff to seven and expects revenue to double, to $50,000. What may seem a pittance in this era of multimillion-dollar funding rounds is, for Zahedi, a triumph. You can't measure his success by Silicon Valley's standards. They don't apply in the valley where he's based, 12 time zones away in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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