Zahedi, 30, is a Web programmer from Kabul who runs TechSharks, which develops software for media companies, nongovernmental organizations and governments. He learned programming in Iran, where he attended high school and lived as a refugee.
TechSharks, which has six employees including Zahedi, works on about two projects a month. Those projects earn $1,000 to $6,000 each.
Zahedi is part of a program called Bpeace (Business Council for Peace), which each year picks up the tab for about a dozen entrepreneurs to travel from Afghanistan to the United States, and sometimes from Rwanda and El Salvador.
The visitors spend three weeks learning everything from how to build the legal framework for a partnership, to how to treat customers, to finding investors for their companies. Bpeace continues to work with these foreign entrepreneurs over a period of years, helping them to build a business.
Other Bpeace-sponsored foreign entrepreneurs this year are visiting companies across the country, including Microsoft in Seattle, Redmond Minerals near Salt Lake City and Bumble & Bumble beauty company in New York City.
The idea is to send them back home after three weeks with enough practical business knowledge to build their companies — and to build wealth, too.
“When businesses are creating jobs in a community, people are earning income, they have hope for the future and they are less likely to join groups that are disruptive,” said Toni Maloney, Bpeace’s chief executive.
New York-based Bpeace has trademarked its own version of the West Wing line: “More jobs means less violence.”
Maloney, a former public relations person for American Express and for big Madison Avenue ad agencies, loves the business game and is one of five businesswomen founders behind Bpeace.
Her nonprofit organization has a $1.2 million budget. About 15 percent comes from the State Department and the rest from fundraising.
Getting sponsored is no snap. The application process includes 100 questions and in-person interviews.
For that, Zahedi gets airfare, hotel, interpreters and three weeks to learn how to solve some business problems. It’s worth about $6,000. He is going to grind it out in sessions with Jess3 and Threespot.
Zahedi has said he needs to learn more about managing and pricing his projects, organizing deadlines, and knowing what to charge for his services. He also wants to know how to keep good employees.
“During the years . . . we faced some problems on project management,” Zahedi said in an e-mail. “I understood Bpeace is a good chance for me to solve the business problems I have here in Afghanistan.”