Our Entrepreneur-in-Residence has more Twitter followers and warzones under his belt than you
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“You’re officially part of the #camelbackfam. We won’t let you fail.” | Coming to you (relatively) live from #NewOrleans: the first day of the first Summit for the 2019 Camelback Education Fellows. This behind the scenes vid made by our new friend @muhammadlila. Stay tuned for more 📽this week ✌🏾 . . . . . . . . . . . . #entrepreneurship #entrepreneur #diversity #community #nola #startup #education #edreform #ruthlessforgood
At our first Summit in New Orleans this year, the 2019 Education Fellows met our usual portrait photographer (holla @ Harlin Miller) and were shadowed by another man with a still and video camera. That person was Muhammad Lila, our 2019 Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Towards the end of last year, Aaron received a cold email from a stranger. The body included:
“A while ago, I made a decision. Instead of just reporting on the world's biggest problems, I was going to help solve them Instead of just reporting on the world's biggest problems, I was going to help solve them instead. I'm not an engineer, developer, or previous founder. Have never scaled anything before (unless you include raising kids while flying off to warzones). I'm just a brown-skinned, bearded, Canadian Muslim named Muhammad who somehow became a correspondent on CNN during the Trump news cycle…. I would love to talk and learn. Your #RuthlessForGood* mission matches perfectly with what I'm doing. And as an under-represented founder, you have no idea how hard it is getting funding from mostly white-VC's.”
Fast forward, and the Camelback team welcomed the thought-provoking, Ruthless for Good*, Canada-kind, media-creating Muhammad Lila to our crew.
We are inspired by Muhammad’s dedication to telling joyous stories of thoughtful, positive individuals and their communities. Muhammad is helping Camelback share our story, as well as those of our Fellows. Film is a powerful medium, and we love the potential of using these videos as tools to share the work of our Fellows and the impact they have on their communities. We have long seen the value of investing in communications; narrative helps efficiently and effectively inform potential funders and entrepreneurs about our work. It also bolsters awareness of what we do, why we do it, and who we support. At the end of the day, this all goes back to impacting and empowering communities. Furthermore, Muhammad himself is an entrepreneur so we wanted to support him while he got his business off the ground; we can leverage his expertise in sharing stories while we support him with our experience in social entrepreneurship.
Muhammad, thank you for joining in this experimental role, and for sharing your vision with us.
watch muhammad’s mini documentary on camelback fellows
MEET MUHAMMAD LILA
CBV: As an international traveler and storyteller, how does America stand out from a narrative perspective, good or bad?
ML: America’s going through such a crucial time. You see established communities breaking down, lives changing, and talk of walls being put up. But then you look around and see how new communities are building built in creative and exciting ways. Money and technology are radically changing the way we live. Maybe it’s the Canadian in me, but I think the challenge is going to be how to harness those things to make America better so that nobody gets left behind.
CBV: What do you wish more people knew about your work?
People might look at me and think all I do is cover warzones. It’s not. I do so much more. I’ve sailed down the Ganges, made elephant coffee in Thailand (don’t ask), and worked in shelters with abuse survivors. Those are the kinds of things that excite me, the things I wish people knew.
I also once rapped an entire live ABC newscast to a Snoop Dogg track. I’m not gonna lie. It was fun.
CBV: You reached out to Camelback last fall. What excited you about the org; why did you decide to reach out?
ML: As soon as I saw Camelback’s #RuthlessForGood motto, I knew it was something special. It’s not everyday you come across people who are super down to earth, but also hell-bent on making the world better. In a lot of ways it matches how I approach journalism, because the first question I like asking is “how can I help?” When I met Aaron, it was a slam dunk. He’s razor-sharp but also humble and the idea of taking on an Entrepreneur-in-Residence role came about so organically.
CBV: What are you ruthless for?*
ML: I believe everyone has a special gift. You could be a great chef but don’t know it yet. Or a great musician. Or a scientist. For me, my gift is storytelling. It always has been. I’m ruthless for using my platform to make the world a better place.
CBV: What are you most excited to work on with Camelback?
ML: There isn’t just one project, but I’d say I love working with the new class of fellows. They remind me so much of me: young, passionate, and ambitious to make the world better. It’s so rewarding to help them take their storytelling to a global audience. I really do think they are going to change the world.
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If an entrepreneur goes to a workshop and there are no post-its, did it even really happen? 😜 Seriously though loved being in awe of the shared brilliance of our 14 Education Fellows during our design thinking sesh last week in Summit. @muhammadlila captured these bad ass lewks mid-workshop. Miss the newest members of the #camelbackfam already. ⏩ swipe for all Fellows . . . . . . . . . . . #neworleans #nola #entrepreneurship #startup #diversity #workshop #education #edreform #entreprenuerlife #poc #peopleofcolor #peopleofcolorintech #blackpreneur #leadership #portrait
CBV: You were at Summit 1 this year in New Orleans; what’s stuck with you?
ML: You know, what impressed me the most after the first Summit in New Orleans is how chill and down to earth everyone is. It’s a kind of energy that surrounds everything. It’s like “we’re gonna be ruthless to make the world better, but we’ll still make time for coffee and ice cream. It’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect in the world of venture capital, or even philanthropy, where everyone just cares about making money. Making money is great, but the cool thing about Camelback is that they want to make change just as much.
CBV: For you, what do you feel will make this year with Camelback a success?
ML: First and foremost, I want to see the founders succeed. They’re out there in the grind, doing work that America and the whole world needs. When they succeed, everyone wins. On the personal side, I’m soaking up as much as I can learn about the worlds of technology, venture capital, and social impact. I think of it like getting an unofficial MBA, except I get to do it through hands on exposure to people and companies that are changing the world.
*Ruthless for Good is Camelback’s manifesto. Read it here.
To follow our progress with Muhammad and our evolving work, sign up for our newsletter. You can also connect with Muhammad on Twitter at @muhammadlila.
Muhammad’s recent coverage of “Super Fan Nav” shares the story of Nav Bhatia, a Canadian immigrant who has been to every Toronto Raptors home game since 1995, and during that time has spent $300k+ to send brown and immigrant children to Raptors game so they may “feel like they belong.” Muhammad’s joyful coverage has continued and reached 20M+ people. Explore his Twitter and this Globe & Mail feature for more stories like this, as well as follow Camelback’s Facebook and Instagram to see his features on our Fellows.