Mountain View Voice

News - May 4, 2012

Young Afghan tech exec shadows local firm

by Daniel DeBolt

Afghanistan is often described as war-torn and one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, but at least one tech startup hopes to help change that.

During a visit to the Mountain View company Outright last week, young Afghan CEO Hassen Poreya said he's been encouraged to hire women, and despite sometimes horrific conditions for women in his home country, he says there is a similar proportion of female computer science students to the U.S. at the only such program around, at the University of Haret.

He's hired three women so far to join his 10-person team. "We are looking for women students who are willing to join us," Poreya said.

Poreya is only 22 but he's already founded Microcis, a bootstrap startup which aims to provide accounting software to small Afghan businesses. Born and raised in Haret, which he says is relatively isolated from the ongoing military conflict, Poreya is part of a crop of young tech entrepreneurs in Afghanistan made possible by Haret University's computer science program, which was started eight years ago.

"We didn't have computer science engineers or software engineers in Afghanistan" before that, Poreya said.

Poreya has been given a hand by the Business Council for Peace, a nonprofit that aims to reduce violence by helping women find good jobs or start their own businesses in Afghanistan. The nonprofit got a sponsorship from the U.S. State Department for Poreya's trip to the United States and has encouraged him to hire more women.

Outright is a good fit for Poreya's visit because Outright also provides accounting software to small businesses, said Laura Messerschmitt, the company's vice president of marketing. She said the difference is that Outright sells an online tool for online businesses, while the internet isn't available to most Afghan businesses.

Poreya hung out in the Outright offices at 191 Castro Street all week, taking pointers from the company's engineers, executives, marketing team and programmers and communicating using the English he learned from Hollywood movies. Seeing how engineers and managers communicated was a key thing, he said.

"The idea is we'll continue the communication on an ongoing basis," Messerschmitt said. "We are happy Mountain View can give back and have a sister relationship across the ocean."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

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