By Victoria L. Petitjean
I met Guillaume and Victor at a friends’ dinner, in Paris, a year and a half ago. The 3 of us were about to go and live in Cambodia, separately but all working on development projects. I have been following G&V’s incredible project and adventure ever since. Project Alba is the result of two stories together combining incredible talent, hard-work and total commitment with passion, social awareness and global humanism.
Both have graduated from one of, if not the most prestigious French University: the Ecole Polytechnique (with a specialty in Economics). The two friends and business partners are also dedicated entrepreneurs and have been so since they were young teenagers – at 16 years old, G was already planning the development of a French Silicon Valley with a High School friend from his hometown in South-West France.
With furiously inquisitive minds, passion for solving conundrums and real social butterflies, they quickly realized they didn’t want to “just do” business: they wanted to “change the world through” business. Both share amazing social experiences in 3 of the world’s continents: Africa (Ghana), Asia (China) and South America (Guatemala). Like many young people of their generation, G and V came back from these journeys with the realization of the world’s inequalities. And above all, they came back with the conviction that these inequalities are actually an indicator of an incredible untapped global potential, including amongst the poorest on this planet, farmers.
After hours of discussion together, with friends and with colleagues over drinks and games in Paris and the world’s cafés, they came up with their vision and plan. Started 2 years ago, Project Alba is the fruit of hours of dialogue, reading, modeling, international touring amongst investors, social entrepreneurs and universities (including in California, “a Life-changing experience”), mentorship from the world’s leading figures in management and social development, and finally setting up of G&V’s pilot project: in Cambodia. Motivated by their love and eagerness about Asia, strict development selection criteria, and several trips and many discussions locally, Cambodia is the first country in which G&V have decided to commit all their energy, passion and dedication.
Their aim is fiercely set: to find and develop a precise, efficient and convincing approach to countries’ development path.
Cambodia was chosen for its representativeness of developing countries where G&V then want to expand Project Alba. The country, with 10% annual growth rate, is a perfect example of economically thriving countries but where inequalities are mounting. In the country’s capital (Phnom Penh), $1,200 is the average annual income and in villages it is of $350. And it is in rural areas that individuals and communities are facing multiple barriers to develop their economic activities, despite the fact that local and international urban consumers have a great demand for products, which could be produced in the country’s rural areas.
G&V’s response: an action model linking Cambodia’s farmland producers to local and international urban consumers. Project Alba plans to have increased the annual revenue of more than 10 000 Cambodian producers, from $400 to $1,200, by 2015. And this, by nurturing their amazing potential, remaining under-exploited today. G&V plan to do so by bringing technicians to the contact of local producers, to whom they will offer an all-encompassing production environment (from monitoring and follow-up, to technical training, quality control, and financial aid) as well as the purchase of their productions (before reselling them to local urban consumers and international actors).
Only 2 years after G&V started planning Project Alba from the Ecole Polytechnique’s campus, they have very successfully completed their first fund-raising round and this over 3 continents, drawing incredible interest and respect amongst world and local leaders in the business, university and NGO sectors.
Project Alba is also now in full recruiting mode – looking to hire dedicated and hardworking young people, and from everywhere in the world, no less!