A Journey from Kabul to Global Changemaker

Yama Saraj, originally from Kabul, Afghanistan, is a visionary entrepreneur and former amateur boxing champion whose life journey symbolizes resilience, innovation, and social impact. Fleeing war, persecution, and poverty, Yama and his family settled in the Netherlands in 1998, where he encountered the dual challenges of cultural adaptation and harnessing his potential in a new world.

Yama’s early life in Kabul profoundly influenced his aspirations. Witnessing marginalization and poverty firsthand, he developed a passion for engineering and science, driven by a desire to make a tangible difference. His move to Eindhoven, the Netherlands’ Silicon Valley, further fueled this ambition, offering him a unique perspective on technological innovation.

Determined to bridge the gap between advanced technology and developing nations, Yama pursued Industrial Engineering at Applied University in Eindhoven, followed by Economics with a focus on development, at Tilburg University. His academic journey culminated at Tilburg University with a Master’s in Strategic Management, where his thesis explored the innovation history of the Eindhoven Brainport region.

Yama’s entrepreneurial spirit was kindled early on. He founded the NGO Young Social Entrepreneurs for Afghanistan, aiming to mobilize the Afghan diaspora for peace and private sector development. His journey wasn’t without challenges – he faced barriers as a migrant entrepreneur in the Netherlands, including limited access to capital and societal biases. Undeterred, Yama expanded his horizons to Munich and Paris, gaining valuable experience and support at Station F and Ecole 42, and a French certification in Innovation and Technology Management from Ecole des Ponts.

In Paris, he founded SensAI Technologies, a revolutionary venture combining his love for boxing with technology to address trauma in a destigmatized way. SensAI Technologies, backed by Ecole Polytechnique’s innovation lab, exemplifies Yama’s vision to democratize mental health, especially in conflict-affected communities like Afghanistan.

Yama’s commitment to social good extends beyond his entrepreneurial ventures. His road trip to Afghanistan, where he helped build a micro-hydro water plant, left a lasting impact on local communities. This experience cemented his resolve to work on ‘tech for good.’ He takes pride in building a school in Afghanistan and in SensAI Technologies’ model of selling wellness programs to finance sports for development in underprivileged communities.

A firm believer in leading by example, Yama draws inspiration from Muhammad Ali’s role as a community changemaker. His philosophy intertwines entrepreneurship with social change, advocating for proactive, risk-taking leadership that fosters community building and authenticity.

As a mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Maastricht University, and previously with TERN in London, Yama emphasizes soft skills, networking, and the importance of being authentic and courageous. His personal experiences in Eindhoven and abroad have made him a staunch advocate for inclusion and diversity in the tech and innovation space, addressing systemic biases and promoting equitable opportunities.
Yama’s journey, documented as a blueprint for others, is not just his story but a testament to what can be achieved with resilience, innovation, and a deep commitment to societal impact. His keynote speech at Maastricht University’s academic year opening and his role as a fellow with Included.VChighlights his influence and dedication to shaping a more inclusive and innovative world.

Key Topics

Social Innovation & Collaboration:

Driving change through community engagement and innovative partnerships.

Ecosystem Leadership:

Building supportive environments for entrepreneurial success.

Entrepreneurship Education:

Mentoring and guiding upcoming entrepreneurs with practical insights.

Innovation Policy:

Influencing policy for technology and innovation-driven growth.

Diversity and Inclusion

Championing inclusivity in the tech and entrepreneurship sectors.

Mental health advocacy

Promoting mental well-being through sports, particularly boxing, as therapeutic interventions.

Member or Fellow of

Talks and speeches

Some perspectives, idea’s, and visions I have presented in the corporate, academic, or civil society scene

Sports Tech Vision at Global Sports Week 2022,
Global Sports Week Paris
Newcomers in Business: Empowering the Entrepreneurial Potential of Refugees and Migrants
Impact Shakers Summit

Role of knowledge institutions in brain-gain of developing countries.
Credits : Brian Candies

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