Who is Jaye Connolly-LaBelle?
Jaye Connolly-LaBelle serves as chairman and chief executive officer of RippleNami, Inc., a global technology company working in developing countries. With over thirty-five years of experience, Ms. Connolly-LaBelle is a fearless leader and was not afraid to dip her toe in the sand when she set out to do good. She had a vision of connecting 5 billion unconnected people with an easy-to-use traceability and transparency solution that leverages the cell phone’s mass adoption. Ms. Connolly-LaBelle knew that if she could take this technology solution into developing countries, the world would forever be changed. First stop off to Africa.
As a single working mom, Ms. Connolly-LaBelle was and still is full of “tenacity.” Ms. Connolly-LaBelle did not let any difficulties stop her; her resilience, strength and determination drove her to work and study hard. She thrived in her early career in Oil & Gas, Mining, Healthcare, Mergers and Acquisitions, which led to three-time CEO of technology companies, leading to successful exits. Still, her most significant accomplishment is raising a powerful, intelligent daughter who is a fierce litigator giving those a fair voice in court.
Ms. Connolly-LaBelle serves on several non-for-profit boards focused on empowering women and children: Promises2Kids board supporting foster care children; Athena board empowering women in the STEM community; and WemblyMo Foundation board supporting orphans throughout Uganda. She is a graduate of Texas Tech University and the FBI Citizen Academy. As a member of the Alumni Association, supporting the FBI’s community outreach efforts. Both Ms. Connolly-LaBelle and her husband, Dr. James LaBelle (cancer survivor), work with organizations fighting cancer when they are not climbing mountains or exploring the world.
Ms. Connolly-LaBelle realizes empowering women and children will make the world a better place. Ms. Connolly-LaBelle saw something in RippleNami she knew would impact the world and wanted to be part of the sea change; it had the potential to affect. Ms. Connolly-LaBelle travels the globe witnessing circumstances she never dreamed of imaginable. She is quickly advancing the adoption of RippleNami’s technology to solve problems & change lives in unconnected nations by connecting those in need with essential data.
What’s the story behind RippleNami?
We start with the meaning behind the Company’s name. We often get asked, “what’s with the name?” In RippleNami’s case, everything. A Ripple of Data turns to a tsuNami of Information.
Big Data Turns to Smart Information. RippleNami® Inc. is an international technology company based in California working with Presidents throughout Africa to deliver innovative solutions that solve critical problems. In today’s age of hyper-connectivity, there’s so much “big” data that it is easy to get lost in it, all resulting in a data management problem.
The mass adoption of mobile technology in developing countries has challenged Western market growth standards with its truly exponential innovations. With the rapid and ever-growing mobile services and the technology leap beyond mainframes and Information Technology (“IT”) system management, developing countries have inadvertently created an enormous data structure void. This data management gap is becoming more apparent as vast amounts of data are being generated but are not structured into an actionable system.
Simply put, while an endless volume of data is available, truly little of it is being utilized. A significant reason for low utilization is Silicon Valley drives big data, and that market has been focused mainly on the USA. To effectively adapt to often / conditions, organizations need a platform that enables them to quickly collect, organize and interpret data relevant to their operations and utilized by people in need and employees across the enterprise. When big data is visualized, analyzed with artificial intelligence, securely traceable in blockchain and transparent with all stakeholders, it finally becomes Smart Information.
A global game-changer, RippleNami offers the industry-leading easy-to-use intuitive artificial intelligence blockchain visualization platform allowing anyone to visualize big data with full traceability and transparency across anything such as people, animals, agriculture, resources, etc.
What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?
RippleNami works tirelessly to develop the African market because we know the consequences of ignoring over a billion of unconnected citizens are dire and simply unacceptable. A profound purpose drives RippleNami to empower these region’s people, society, and independence through technology and our commitment to end poverty.
There are challenges conducting business in Africa, including political instability, loose regulations, disease, death threats, attempts on life and internal country conflicts. For example, while trying to close a contract with an African leader, Ms. Connolly-LaBelle was poisoned by an internal government agency that did not want the contract to go through. She rose above the incident and closed the deal despite the attempt on her life.
Our team’s indifference to the high risk of exposure sets us apart from other organizations. Where other companies chose to pivot to less volatile market conditions, RippleNami doubles down.
What are you most proud of regarding your business?
That is an easy question: THE TEAM! The RippleNami team takes nothing for granted working in emerging parts of the world as the need for action is greater than the risk of inaction. Our team is not a group of people just working together. We have a group of people who trust, respect, help and support each other and the people we aim to serve.
What is your vision for the future of RippleNami?
When we close our eyes, this is what we envision. Imagine a world where you have all the data that is important to you at your fingertips, a world where vast amounts of data can be visualized, so it is easily understandable and actionable, and a world where everyone who has a phone will have equal access to the benefits that this technology will bring. RippleNami’s imagination ran wild with the mission to connect a 1 billion unconnected people and execute on their global vision of inclusion.
RippleNami recognizes that people empowered with real-time and easily accessible information worldwide can connect and foster unimaginable change. RippleNami developed its cutting-edge traceability and transparency technology that consolidates big data while providing information that matters most to users. By enabling critical decision making and enhanced collaboration, RippleNami enables clients to chart their world, streamline communication and solve critical problems.
What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?
Think outside the USA box! While it is common knowledge the challenges — real and perceived — of conducting business in Africa, what’s often overlooked by entrepreneurs and enterprises alike is the tremendous untapped potential for companies willing to venture into the commercial landscape of this economically emergent continent. Africa’s continent consists of 54 sovereign African countries with over 1.3 billion people, of which 41% are under 15 years old. By 2030, African will be the largest marketplace in the world. The African continent has a landmass area to fit in the US, China, India, Japan, Mexico, and many European nations within it.
Now that we have your attention, here are seven tips to navigate starting or expanding a business in Africa successfully:
- Business is always personal. A critical cultural difference in Africa compared to the US is that there is no separation between professional and personal life. Before locals engage in any business activity, they must like and trust you on a personal level. Invest extra time in getting to know people you’re hoping to do business with and genuinely take an interest in their families, hobbies, cultures (including tribal interests) and aspirations.
- Stand firm on corruption. Despite economic advances, corruption still has a widespread presence in many regions in Africa. According to a recent Transparency International report, corruption in Africa is rising, with nearly 75 million people in the Sub-Saharan region estimated to have paid a bribe in the past year. Be clear from the beginning that your Company will not engage in corruption and adopt a policy of transparency regarding your Company’s intentions with all concerned stakeholders.
- You cannot compete against free. Africa has been receiving supplies and services from nonprofits and foreign aid agencies for decades. As a result, locals are accustomed to receiving certain goods for free. Therefore, your product or service must be differentiated enough to warrant the price. Partnering with a public agency or NGO so that the “buyer” is someone other than the end-user is a strategy some companies have taken to overcome this hurdle.
- Know your surroundings. Africa has a reputation of being a wild, largely uncharted frontier, and in many ways, this is still an accurate description. Many buildings, land plots and other resources are not mapped. However, it is critical to have an accurate and thorough understanding of the regions in which you’re hoping to conduct business. RippleNami is a custom mapping platform that enables companies to integrate data from countless sources to visualize the most critical information to their operations in a geographically relevant way. For example, a telecommunications company could plot and track cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, customer kiosks, employees and other assets—all in one view.
- Leave assumptions at the border. Arrogant individuals venturing into Africa, thinking they are smarter or savvier than the locals, will fail miserably. There are highly educated and seasoned business professionals in all regions in Africa, so do not make any presumptions and always bring your “A” game to every meeting.
- Be persistent and present. When attempting to advance business objectives in African countries, you must physically be in those countries regularly. You cannot conduct business from the US or even a neighboring country, or locals will perceive you as not being serious or genuine in your dealings. Negotiations can also take longer than in other regions, so persistence is vital.
- Leverage the local young population. With more than 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population of any continent globally. What’s more, youth in Africa are hungry for technology, eager to engage in meaningful work and willing to work for very reasonable wages. Tap into this resource as your Company expands in the region and hire locally rather than relying on ex-pats who are not only costly but will not have the benefit of local cultural competence, personal relationships or a vested interest in growing the local economy.
Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.
RippleNami is a technology company leveraging artificial intelligence, data visualization (mapping) and blockchain to create an end-to-end traceability and transparency platform.
What books do you have on your nightstand?
You mean on her Kindle, right? As a tech CEO, Ms. Connolly-LaBelle leverages technology not only in her business but also in her personal life. Currently, three books are being read, including:
- What is Africa’s Problem? written by His Excellency the President of Uganda Yoweri K. Museveni, published in 2000.
- The Silk Roads: A New History of the World written by Peter Frankopan, published in 2017.
- Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of The Dyatlov Pass Incident written by Donnie Eichar, published in 2013.
Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.