Bio

Aurora Chisté

 
 

Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s perspective to ignite a profound change. From working with tech companies in the Silicon Valley to artisan workshops in Ghana, Aurora Chiste has learned what it takes to make radical changes and challenge the status quo.

In order to generate a real and tangible impact, an indispensable  shift is needed to create an economy that invigorates a better society and a new idea of wealth. The economy exists to serve people, not the other way around. 

As a global shaper at the World Economic Forum, Aurora understands the different perspectives of the story.  She uses her company, Maakola, to enact social change. With her  technology background, she is poised to revolutionize the fashion industry and create a new kind of prosperity.

Redefining wealth, rediscovering beauty

 

Aurora started the global fashion brand, Maakola, from the perspective of a social entrepreneur with the desire to close the gap between heritage, social values, and a profitable business model. The fashion industry is long overdue for a progressive transformation. Caring about the environment is the bare minimum. Ethical and transparent manufacturing, the environmentally-conscious use of materials, and circular consumption are all cornerstones of the company Aurora is building.

Maakola’s garments represent the interdependent and interconnected relationship between humans, culture, and the planet. In other words, the value chain is shaping bigger systems instead of the other way around. With Maakola, Aurora goes beyond sustainability toward collective evolution by rediscovering an indefinable idea of beauty.

As the driving force behind the enterprise, Aurora designs clothing of a subtle appeal. She has built the Collective Evolution framework and Conscious Beauty toolkit to deliver her promise. She develops products that tell the stories of everyone who has had a part in their manufacture and the interactions between them. By implementing a digitized and blockchain-certified supply chain, every person and resource along the journey of a Maakola garment is acknowledged. In this way, Aurora has turned clothing into a tool to build stronger communities, shape culture, and replenish the planet. 

Early years in business

 
 

Born in Venice, Italy, Aurora moved to the Silicon Valley during her undergraduate studies. Upon gaining a bachelor’s degree in communication, she started her professional journey at Beintoo, an Italian social gamification platform. Based in San Francisco, California, Aurora played a key role in the early stages of the business in the United States. Beintoo was eventually sold to Mediaset, the largest commercial broadcaster in Italy. 

The experience not only built Aurora’s resilience, but it also sharpened her interest in business development and change. She also began to question the value offered by startups and corporations alike.  Growth and innovation were certainly exciting, but do they contribute to what actually matters? Do they help build the world she wants to live in?

In Silicon Valley, Aurora saw first-hand how technology can advance industries and shape people’s choices. She also learned —through communities of entrepreneurs such as The Glint and 500 Startups —how innovation finds its roots in a specific culture through communities of entrepreneurs. It formed an insight that led her to the next venture.

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But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful.

Bridging the innovation gap

 

In 2012, while still in San Francisco, Aurora founded the nonprofit, Hack for Big Choices. Bringing together tech, innovation, and communities, the company was  intended to bridge the innovation gap by using the power of entrepreneurship to overcome development barriers and supporting grassroots initiatives.

Hack for Big Choices worked with government agencies and partners like Facebook, WordPress, and Luxottica. It operated in grassroots communities in Mexico, Columbia, San Domingo, and Ghana, where together with her team, Aurora organized the largest hackathon in Africa in 2015. 

Empowering 550 young talents to overcome local challenges through innovative products, the  hackathons also helped to launch 48 startups worldwide. Meanwhile,  in the same year, Aurora became a global shaper at the World Economic Forum.

Learning to make a real difference

 

In 2015, seeking change, and thirsty for discovery, Aurora  found herself based in Ghana. Here she became an advisor at Impact Hub Accra, and a year later, she co-launched the Health Innovation Center in the city. 

This was the first time that she realized the limits of capacity building. Despite the desire to innovate and generate solutions in Ghana—one of the fastest-growing economies in the world—Aurora saw new businesses closing before they could break even. The region lacked the basic infrastructure for business development, and there was only so much a non-profit could do. 

Silicon Valley had taught her that innovation can result in several cycles of failures and reiterations, and that success comes from a cumulative process of learning and investing. When new challenges led her to re-evaluate her nonprofit expectations, Aurora set about finding an alternative path.  Knowing that one person alone couldn’t change everything, but believing that a flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem was urgently needed, Aurora decided to help build one.

Her next step was to join BlueSPACE Africa, which provides financial technology integration. Aurora dedicated herself to helping small and medium businesses (SMEs) develop new financial solutions and facilitate inclusion and trade. 

Although Aurora soon realized that data infrastructure was fundamental to driving business and innovation and that Ghana clearly lacked such tools. In response, she launched a spinoff of Orb Intelligence—a San Francisco-based firmographic data provider—to bridge this gap. Orb Intelligence, later acquired by Dan & Bradstreet, had a database with over 100 million businesses but only a small fraction of them were African. So, she set about building a B2B database for Ghana, starting with healthcare facilities, to integrate into the Orb Intelligence platform. 

And while this was too early a move for the market, the experience helped Aurora to define her next steps.

Refining beauty while expanding solar energy

 
 

It was during this period of change and innovation in 2015 that Aurora founded Maakola as a side project. She was growing and empowering an entire community, but nothing in her closet matched her values and personality. Could Ghanian tailors have something to offer? Yes, they did!  She thoroughly enjoyed the work process and loved the clothing they made together. A single new item, custom-made to fit her needs, refined Aurora’s perception of beauty, shifting the focus from appearance to experience. Shortly after, Maakola moved up on Aurora’s priority list to become an ethically-produced, woman-empowered, and responsible business with the ambition to redefine the very foundation of fashion.   

In 2018, Aurora brought everything she’d learned together to launch Ray Power Africa. The company would use energy as a driver of change through business model experimentation and by developing the market for such essential services. The company uses off-grid solar home systems and water pumps to create distributed networks of electricity that facilitate the beneficial transition to renewable energy, thereby mitigating climate change and providing accessible digital services, electricity, and connectivity at the same time.

Working with communities

 

To create an impact at the local level and meaningfully support for local communities of changemakers, Aurora serves as an advisor to Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area. Using its global connections, the Hub currently focuses on advancing action to reach sustainable development goals in the post-pandemic world. It does so through programs designed to help impactful ideas take off. Aurora works closely with the leadership team to build capacity and identify entrepreneurs’ needs while ensuring effective fundraising and creating revenue models that contribute to a truly green recovery.

Highlights

 

– Founded Hack for Big Choices, a nonprofit that harnessed entrepreneurship to tackle issues hampering development (2012)

– Organized Africa’s biggest hackathon in Accra, Ghana (2015)

– Founded global fashion brand, Maakola (2015)

– Founded in Ghana the energy company Ray Power Africa (2018)

– Became a global shaper at the World Economic Forum (2015)

– Advisor to Impact Hub Accra and Impact Hub New York Metropolitan Area

– Designed two outfits for American Presidential Candidate, Tulsi Gabbard