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Karim Samra: ‘I’m feeling empowered’

The turning point might have been over a heated discussion with the founder of the Hult Prize Foundation. How, wondered Karim Samra, could students realistically create growing, sustainable businesses with only social good as their goal?

For Samra, a 2007 alumnus of The Consortium’s orientation program and 2009 graduate of New York University’s MBA program, the notion was ludicrous. As a go-go, driven young business leader, he came out of school like a rocket, with high-powered jobs in the private sector. He had the salary, the expense account, the frequent travel. Just five years out of school, he was part of the COO team at a private-sector firm.

“In the private sector, they were all about growth and scale, but they were less interested in social impact,” Samra said. “What was missing was alignment with the community, the creation of shared value. It felt unsatisfying to me, when I’m looking at my daughter and explaining to her what I do.”

Samra is now the chief operating officer for the organization he once scoffed at. “I was wrong,” he said. And now, his job is promoting the foundation, which runs an annual venture capital competition for social entrepreneurs — with a $1 million prize at the end of the line.

“We’re already the largest social venture competition in the world,” Samra said. “My objective when I was hired was to take this to the next level.”

Karim Samra
Karim Samra

Samra spends a lot of time talking about The Hult Foundation and its mission, helping to organize local chapters on college campuses and working on fundraising — with a goal of creating secondary prizes for finalists that make it through the rigorous early rounds in the annual competition.

He notes that MBA students are all familiar with Michael Porter and his “five forces framework” for analyzing industry competition and developing corporate strategy. Fewer, Samra said, know enough about Porter’s notions of “shared value”: “The purpose of the corporation must be redefined as creating shared value, not just profit per se,” Porter has said. “This will drive the next wave of innovation and productivity growth in the global economy.”

These are the notions that have driven Samra to change the trajectory of his career, which he documented in a post published by the Huffington Post in January, and another on his LinkedIn profile in March.

“I’m feeling very fulfilled,” Samra told us. “It’s not just my weekends that fill me with purpose. That sense of purpose, for me, I can feel it every day. And that for me is unusual. I’m feeling empowered.”

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