Interview with Rachel Cook '06

Posted on 4/4/2013. Interview by Howie Rhee

Tell us about yourself

I'm a former Futues/Equities Trader who left that world to direct and produce The Microlending Film Project, a global documentary exploring the impact of microloans on women, shot on four continents with an award-winning team.  When filming in Nairobi, Kenya I became aware of the sophisticated mobile money transfer infrastructure in place there, and the idea for Seeds was born.


Tell us about your time at Duke, what were you involved in?

I loved film and tried to take advantage of every opportunity Duke had in that arena.  Also had a passion for writing.


What's your major/program and when will you be graduating?  Tell us something about your educational experience at Duke.

English, minor in Economics, and a certificate in Film/Video.  I tried a lot of things and learned a lot about what I didn't want to do while at Duke, if that makes sense.  And I think that's as valuable as understanding what you do what to do.


Tell us about your idea.

Seeds is a mobile game and API that equips other games so that players can make microloans directly to the cell phones of borrowers in Kenya, and eventually everywhere.  Our big ambition is to transform the definition of gaming, embedding the Seeds API in all games ever made to harness the 3 billion hours spent per week playing games for for-profit reinvestment in social good.


How did you come up with your idea?  When did you come up with it?

The idea came together after we finished shooting my documentary, The Microlending Film Project, in Kenya in May 2011.  I was thinking more about other industries that mobile microlending could connect to, and gaming made sense because the average social gamer is a 43-year-old woman, and women tend to make more microloans, and certainly benefit the most from them.


How did you meet your team members?

Mostly through Duke - Seeds wouldn't exist without Duke's help.


How has the Duke Start-Up Challenge been helpful to you?

It's allowed me to access some fantastic advisors, investors, and teammates.


The Duke Start-Up Challenge provides a lot of feedback from over 100 judges.  Can you talk about that experience of reviewing the feedback?

It's valuable - I met a wonderful advisor who happened to review our application.  She invited me to Boston and spent the day with me, taking me around to pitch contacts of hers in the city.  She really helped to validate the idea and is working with us to take it to the next level.


What advice do you have for Duke alumni / faculty / staff entrepreneurs that are thinking of starting a company?

Just do it, and do it now.  You're going to make a ton of mistakes and fail a lot - which can be hard for Duke kids, who have often never failed at anything in their lives, to have to navigate.  But the point is to be resilient.  That's the best advice I can give to anyone launching a company, or for that matter, trying to live a life that is true to him or her rather than in line with some outside expectation.


Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks so much for this!



Want more? Watch the videos and read the other interviews for all of the Round 3 teams in the Duke Start-Up Challenge

And join us for the Grand Finale with David Cummings ’02 for the 14th Annual Duke Start-Up Challenge on Thursday, April 11th, 2013 at 7:30pm ET at Fuqua’s Geneen Auditorium. RSVP on Facebook

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