The De La Vega Global Entrepreneurship Award recognizes outstanding young entrepreneurs within the JA network. The winning team from each regional JA Company Program competition (known as Company of the Year, Gen-E, Young Entrepreneurs Celebration, and National Student Leadership Summit) in Africa, Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, MENA, and the United States was automatically entered for the award.
Founded in 2021 by tech-legend Ralph de la Vega, former President and CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, the De La Vega Global Entrepreneurship Award celebrates the best young enterpreneurs in the world. The 2023 competition included teams from Greece (JA Europe), UAE (INJAZ Al-Arab), Mexico (JA Americas), Guam (JA Asia Pacific), Zimbabwe (JA Africa), and the U.S. state of Ohio (Junior Achievement USA). Today, JA Worldwide CEO Asheesh Advani announced the winners via livestream.
Ultimately, JA Zimbabwe’s Hekima Inc. from Maranatha Christian School in Harare triumphed for its educational app, Study Buddie. The team won a cash prize of US$15,000, as well as an entrepreneurship course from the institution of their choice. The five other JA student companies also won US $5,000 each, courtesy of the de la Vega Family Foundation.
About Hekima Inc.
A software development company, born out of the JA Company Program in Zimbabwe, Hekima specializes in education-specific technologies with an aim to make education accessible and available to all. Study Buddie gives students access to educational materials, including e-books, courses videos, lessons, and additional study materials. Users can time their studies, schedule their tasks, form study groups, and connect with teachers in real-time. The app also includes a stress-relief game to help students recharge during study breaks.
Hekima Inc.’s founders—Tinovimba Sagonda, Shingirai Muchingu, Blessing Bvunzawabaya, and Kudzai Katanda—came up with the concept for Study Buddie because one of them often became sick and missed a lot of school. Instead of spending her time in the hospital reading comics and watching Netflix, her friends thought it would be great if she could work on her education from her phone. In addition to witnessing their friend’s struggle, the founders also saw students in their community (and beyond) fall behind in their studies due to pandemic shutdowns and other concerns, such as having to travel long distances to school on foot.
Tinovimba, Shingirai, Blessing, and Kudzai decided to develop a mobile app to make education accessible to all students. But developing an app was not so simple. App development can come at a high price point, and it’s not a task that can be done quickly. Hekima Inc. also needed to differentiate Study Buddie from other apps.
They started raising money for their product by selling shares in their community at US$5 each. With startup funding, they signed up for an affordable online platform that enabled them to develop and maintain the app. They eventually sold user plans for the app at US$2 for the basic plan and US$5 for the premium plan.
In addition to those earnings, Hekima Inc. won cash prizes from the JA Zimbabwe national JA student company competition, the JA Africa Company of the Year (COY) competition, and the signature Tomorrow Foundation Future Tech Award at the regional COY. They’ve also added US$15,000 to their winnings, thanks to the de la Vega Family Foundation.
Although Hekima Inc. looks forward to using the prize money from the De La Vega Global Entrepreneurship Award to further develop Study Buddie, a sizable portion of the funds will be donated to provide textbooks to schools in Harare. As for the founders, they plan to attend university after graduating from Maranatha Christian School. But, they said, Hekima Inc. and Study Buddie will continue. “The beauty of our business is we can continue to run it from wherever we are. So we plan to [keep Study Buddie alive] while we are studying.”
Study Buddie is available for students in Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Tanzania on Google Play and in the Apple Store.