If you haven’t heard from us in a few weeks it is because we have been racking up a series of firsts!
Let’s start with the team.
We have the honour of announcing the first person to sign an employment contract with COOKO GmbH. Deep Parsana, from Gujarat, India comes from a family with a strong, multi-generational construction legacy. Not content to step into the family business seat that was kept warm for him, Deep struck off at a young age to start an entrepreneurial path. First launching a food export business from India and then furthering his skills and qualifications on a European adventure.
With a Masters from Kaunas university in Lithuania under his belt, Deep engaged with construction projects in Spain which ultimately brought him to Berlin, and COOKO. As chairman and founder of the NGO “The group of creation, foundation Ahmadabad” Deep has demonstrated a central commitment to giving back and developing a holistic view on making a contribution to society.
At COOKO, Deep has quickly taken charge of structuring our planned launch in Ntui, overseeing the engineering project with a keen set of pragmatic and world tested insights and skills.
A few days after Deep, we had the privilege of welcoming Maram to the cooko family. As an urban design masters student at the TU Berlin, Maram brings a systemic view on economic processes and how they manifest in physical space. Her 7 years of experience in architecture means that Maram has the eye for detail and design skill to express the vision in form and function.
This has been an immense help in understanding how our presence in local communities will best support the farmers, their families and the cocoa fermentation process.
Coming from Amman in Jordan, Maram has followed her curiosity and free spirit, to not only launch a small wooden jewellery business but also engage extensively in community projects. From organising events to support the digital empowerment of women in Berlin, to driving awareness campaigns for children with cancers and rare diseases. Maram has a clear and inclusive social mission.
This is also reflected in her professional work as shown in her thesis project: “Localising Infrastructures of Consumerism: Digitalization and its Socio-spatial Impacts.”
We look forward to the wonderful insight and design talent Maram brings to the team, which will extend beyond the physical sites to the digital experience.
Then there is the land.
Augustine has done exceptional work in negotiating a 100 year lease with the local community. The negotiations were complex, tense and revealed a deep level of suspicion, disappointment and hope.
The villagers have seen many projects, NGO’s and good ideas come and go. The structures of decision making always seemed to favour the few at the expense of the many. After many hours of intense debate Augustine was able to move the discussion beyond a transactional mindset, towards an inclusive and higher level goal.
Our “farmers first” mindset was clearly evident in our plans and this level of trust and support is helping us proceed at lightning speed with the construction of our first prototyping centre.
We’ve also seen the first wireframes, system architecture and user journey for our technical solution. Our strategic partner Pixida (through PI Labs) have jumped in with their global team to support us in bringing 1st Mile traceability to the farmers as soon as possible.
In a detailed workshop in Munich we have mapped out our plans for the next five years, from prototype to scaled production and we are very humbled to have such an experienced and respected partner at our side. Markus, Matthias, Bernhard and Hans have taken the social mission of COOKO to heart and thrown the full weight of their company behind it.
And then there is the upgrade
You might remember the first Hilux that Augustine used to drive deep into the jungle on the first mission. Well, we now have our very own vehicle in Cameroon. The first official COOKO company car.
The roads, loads and labours ahead will surely push this happy chap to the limits of its “Indestructible” reputation. Good thing it has had a few structural African upgrades.
And last but not least, the money.
Our financial partner FinBest have developed a detailed cashflow and business plan to ensure we have the guard-rails to manage our spending. Their extensive database of business model financials has served as a robust background to our planning. Thomas, Eric and Simon have brought long standing social project engagements to bear on the insights and nuances of our plan.
And where it comes from
This week we have landed the ship on our first funding round. There will be a more detailed announcement coming out soon with the individuals and their perspectives.
If living in the start-up and social enterprise world has me anything, it is to ensure you only take money from values aligned backers. The right group of investors will change the landscape of your business beyond your wildest expectations as they bring their talent, network and drive to the project. I am happy to say that we have been blessed with an exceptional pool of “friends and family.”
This is the 1st Mile of our mission to bring 1st Mile traceability. We are immensely grateful for the encouragement, welcome advice and open doors we encounter. The COOKO mission ignites people’s imagination in a way we could not have anticipated.
They say you can judge the character of a person by the quality of their friends. COOKO has been blessed with making amazing friends at this crucial stage!