WHEN SONIA CHOKSHI cofounded social media company Kip Solutions in 2011, she dreamed not of becoming the next Internet billionaire, but of improving the lives of regular people in need and helping grass-roots organizations. A rising junior at Tufts University and a double major in international relations and French, the 19-year-old believes Twitter, Facebook, and other online tools can be used to produce social change around the globe.
The company’s first client? Tambe Agbor, a son of farmers in the African nation of Cameroon. When growers would show up with their harvest at one marketplace, buyers typically were at another. Agbor complained that the farmers often had to abandon their produce to rot or be scavenged. “It was frustrating for him,” Chokshi says, “because he knew people were going hungry.” On his own, Agbor launched a text-messaging platform to guide producers to the right markets, and Kip Solutions stepped in to help him improve and win funding for it. “We also created a website for him and Facebook and Twitter accounts. So now farmers can connect directly with the markets and the people who need their food.”
The company has worked with 12 clients worldwide, offering both paid and pro bono services, and Inc. magazine named it one of “America’s Coolest College Start-ups 2012.” Still, Chokshi is pretty grounded. “We’re not fancy,” says the Tampa native. “We have four people on staff — two of them college students — in different parts of the country. We have no office space. We’re just doing what needs to be done. If you can’t use this technology to actually help people, is it really that special?”