Startup with Purpose was conceived in the late 2016 by a group of undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley.  During the preceding Summers of 2015 and 2016 the founders of Startup with Purpose all participated in the European Innovation Academy, a three-week entrepreneurial boot camp that then took place in Nice, France.

During the summer of 2016 the terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais during the Bastille Day celebrations resulted in the injury and death of several program participants. Devastated by the attack, UC Berkeley professor and program director Ken Singer consulted with the program participants to find ways to bring youth a greater sense of purpose in the face of tragedy.

During the following year, the team brainstormed on ways to bring together youth from many countries and cultures in order to find common ground and common purpose.  The team concluded that they should start with a program to create bridges between high school and university students in the Middle East and the United States.  One of the members of the team, Henry Keenan was an alumnus of King’s Academy in Jordan. Mr. Keenan contacted the leadership of King’s Academy and obtained their commitment to sponsor and host the pilot program.

In order to organize and execute the pilot program, the student team partnered with the Applied Innovation Foundation in Silicon Valley.

The January 2018 pilot program at King’s Academy was far broader in scope and impact than any of the founders had imagined in 2016.  The program was host to over 200 participants from over twenty countries, lasting five days. The program also brought together

  • Professors from the UC Berkeley, Stanford University, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School;
  • Successful entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley and Estonia;
  • Jordanian business experts, and
  • Executives from Google and Oracle.

The program proved to have a significant impact, with over 80 percent of the participants stating that they were seriously considering changing their career paths at the end of the program.

Based on the success of the pilot, the Startup with Purpose Foundation was formed with Mr. Keenan as its Executive Director.  The Foundation received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in April of 2018.  In addition to running additional programs in Jordan, the foundation plans to expand its operations into other parts of the MENA region and is in the planning stages of a program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.