A Conversation with Raj Kumar, Co-Founder and President of Devex
If you work in the field of international development, chances are you have heard of Devex. What I bet you didn’t know is that it is a social enterprise – this was news to me as well.
Raj Kumar, founder and President, evolved from political consultant to entrepreneur when he identified a gap in the development market. In 2000, Kumar launched Devex as a student project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Today, Devex has become the largest provider of business intelligence and recruitment services to the development community – serving a majority of the world’s leading donor agencies, companies, NGOs and development professionals.
Intrigued, I had an opportunity to snag a few moments with Co-Founder and President Raj Kumar. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
[Editor's note: Conversation is paraphrased – this is not a transcript.]
How would you describe Devex in your own words?
We are the online community for aid workers and international development professionals. Since our founding, we have become one of the primary sources for news, business information and recruiting services for the international development community. Our ultimate goal is to unite the entire aid and development community, and provide services to make their work more efficient. That is why our motto is "DO GOOD, DO IT WELL". What we want is to build a global, merit-based marketplace for talent in our industry – helping companies and organizations find business opportunities, and connecting individuals to projects that are happening right where they live.
What is the "story" of Devex?
When I was studying at the Kennedy School, I was interested in how the Internet could be applied to the field of international development. Through research and numerous conversations, I and a friend identified a gap in the market: connecting passionate professionals to jobs in international development. In March 2000, we ran the idea by Brian Atwood (former head of USAID under Clinton), who was a Kennedy School professor at the time – and he was on board. A group of four of us pursued the venture (Kami Dar, Alan Robbins, and Jason McNaboe). On July 18th, 2000, we incorporated and launched Devex out of our apartment. We raised USD$1,000,000 in the first half of 2001 and have grown tremendously since then … we now have 100 staff globally, and a community of 500,000 people. Our ultimate goal was to democratize the way the industry worked, and we wanted to do it in a way that improved the system, while generating a profit.
Devex is described as a "social enterprise bringing efficiency to international development through recruitment and business information services." Why recruitment and information?
We felt there were specific inefficiencies in those areas. In the realm of recruitment, it was hard for professionals in developing countries to connect with jobs and opportunities in their own countries. Accurate and timely information within the community has become increasingly overwhelming and difficult to keep track of. Over the last decade, development has been become a global industry, which has created a more open and competitive market that should lower prices and improve results. We think we are a catalyst for these improvements.
What are your hopes for Devex over the 10 years?
We would like to continue on the track we are on, but we can do more. The development community is larger than what we have touched. We want to expand our reach and deepen our relationships. We also hope to connect more with professionals working on the ground to keep a pulse on what is happening locally. Most of all, we want to grow and strengthen our community by engaging with them, and creating a two-way conversation – online and in person.