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Stanford Plucks Oxfam VP For Seed Director

A student getting ready to be awarded her diploma at Stanford GSB's Class of 2017 Commencement. Seed Stanford Executive Director

A student getting ready to be awarded her diploma at Stanford GSB’s Class of 2017 Commencement. Photo by Nathan Allen

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business announced today (June 28) a new director of its Institute in Developing Economies — also known as Stanford Seed. Darius Teter, the vice president of programs at poverty fighting nonprofit Oxfam America, will officially start his role as executive director at Stanford Seed on Aug. 22. Stanford Seed is about six years old and is the GSB’s effort to bring “Silicon Valley innovation and entrepreneurship” to the developing world, with offices in Ghana and Kenya and one opening in India days after Teter begins in August.

“Darius is passionate about promoting global economic prosperity, making him the ideal leader for Stanford Seed,” said Jonathan Levin, dean of the GSB, in a statement. “As Stanford Seed continues to grow and evolve, Darius’ deep experience will help guide the institute to its next level of success.”

Darius Teter be Stanford Seed Executive Director starting August 2017. Courtesy photo

Darius Teter will lead Stanford Seed starting August 2017. Courtesy photo

A FOUR-FOLD APPROACH TO STARTING AT SEED

Teter brings decades of poverty fighting experience to Stanford. A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School and Yale, Teter has consulted for the World Bank and has held leadership positions at USAID and the Asian Development Bank before joining Oxfam in 2011. Oxfam also has offices in Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya, where Stanford Seed began working in 2013 and 2016, respectively. Teter says he’s known of Stanford Seed’s work and describes the opportunity as “once in a lifetime.”

Though Teter has worked extensively in developing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, he has yet to work directly with entrepreneurs trying to make economic change. He looks forward to and welcomes the challenge. “The deck is so stacked against entrepreneurship in so many countries,” Teter concedes on a phone call with Poets&Quants.

The beginning plan for Teter is four-fold. First, Teter says, he wants to simply listen to faculty members and others involved with Stanford Seed. “I want to be very clear about the humility I’m approaching with,” Teter says. After listening and learning, Teter says he wants to focus on continuing to scale, which will take research and understanding of what specific industries work best for job creation in the regions they operate. “If our ultimate mission is to reduce poverty by job creation through entrepreneurship, do we have a good idea of those industries that can tackle the problem,” Teter reasons. “We want to support the industries and entrepreneurs that are most able to help people rise out of poverty.”

Next, Teter plans to further develop Seed’s relationships at the GSB and the greater Stanford campus. Many graduate departments are already involved with Seed, which is housed at the GSB, but Teter wants to develop and grow those as well as corporate partnerships. Lastly, Teter says he wants to continue to fundraise, something he says he has experience with during his six years at Oxfam.

SEED TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM TO SETUP SHOP IN INDIA THIS AUGUST

After a founding endowment in 2011, Seed has continually scaled. In 2013, Seed deployed its first class through the Transformation Program in Accra, Ghana. The marquis program for Seed gives high potential businesses and entrepreneurs yearlong training from some of the world’s best business leaders. “The Seed hypothesis is that you can take skills and learning from big organizations and deploy them across industry sectors in the developing market,” James Crotty, a Seed coach, told Poets&Quants last May. “That’s the hypothesis, but then you have to come out and see if you’re actually going to be able to make it happen. And there is no question that it works.”

After building in Ghana, the program expanded out of the West African country’s borders to East Africa in 2016, when Seed established a Transformation Program in Nairobi. And just last month, the school announced a new Transformation Program in Chennai, India.

“The impact of Seed in West and East Africa has been astounding, with nearly two-thirds of participants reporting increased revenue and job creation,” Jesper Sørensen, an organizational behavior professor and former executive director of the Seed Program, said in a release from the school last May. “We are five years into our journey, and just getting started. We believe — and have seen first-hand — that this unique model can help some of the most dynamic business leaders in these regions drive the kinds of firm growth that underlies sustainable regional prosperity. We are very eager to see its impact in India.”

According to the school, the Transformation Program has trained or mentored 565 entrepreneurs. Participating companies have generated a combined $11 million in funding and have grown their customer base by 79%.

TETER TO WORK CLOSELY WITH FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Teter will work closely with Sørensen, who served as executive director of Seed from 2015 to 2017, the school says. Another key faculty member working with Teter will be Raj Chellaraj, the associate dean for finance and administration at the GSB, who also served as chief operating officer of Seed from 2015 to 2017.

It won’t take long for Teter to get a taste of the Seed program. Within his first week on the job, Teter will travel to the new center in India for the opening.

“I’m going to get completely immersed from the get-go,” he says. “That’s a brilliant start.”

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