Matt DeSantis – Founder of MyBhutan

I rarely consider the present. I use the present as a tool to design the landscape of the future. If you are too busy trying to fix the present, you will quickly become stuck in the past.

Matt DeSantis is a business strategist and IT specialist by trade but after leaving his job as a consultant for Accenture and moving to a remote SE Asian country to consult for the Royal Government of Bhutan, he began to delve into the sphere of socioeconomic development.

This career move evolved into the formation of MyBhutan, a series of philanthropic social enterprises designed to establish a global platform to develop local working communities and aid the philanthropic activities of local nonprofit organizations in Bhutan.

MyBhutan’s first social enterprise is Bhutan’s only one-stop travel portal – an industry-wide services platform that provides the fastest, most cost-effective way for tourists to visit the Land of the Thunder Dragon. The platform assists the tourism sector by enhancing industry sustainability, quality of services and customer demand. The enterprise aids the Tarayana Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Her Majesty Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck to protect the vulnerable communities of Bhutan.

While developing these enterprises Matt and his team found themselves volunteering within the local community and spending a significant amount of time on projects not covered by the MyBhutan scope. Matt quickly realized that MyBhutan had inadvertently developed a non-profit wing and to better fit the needs of his staff and their initiatives, established MyBhutan NGO alongside the flagship MyBhutan. The work of the NGO concentrates on providing a platform for the youth and local working communities of Bhutan to connect and develop global relationships, networks and opportunities.

Matt is also an advisor to Bhutan Philanthropy Ventures, founded by His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, and the co-founder of the Bhutan National Baseball League.

Where did the idea for MyBhutan come from?

The idea for MyBhutan was conceptualized by questioning, “what existing factors are capable of inhibiting the future healthy progression of communities in developing countries?”

MyBhutan works to provide a solution for developing a framework to prevent growing inequality, while still promoting trade liberalization and globalization. As this model proves to be effective in Bhutan, we plan to extend its application internationally. We will offer our assistance to interested developing nations in establishing similarly inclusive economic growth models. Eventually we envision governments implementing policies that provide incentives or tax breaks for businesses that follow our model.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There is no typical day. My days can range from holing up in a coffee shop developing business strategies or IT solutions for our travel portal to filming an event promoted by MyBhutan. However one constant, is my commitment to staying actively engaged in the community; interacting with each individual I cross to become more integrated in the local market to ensure that the initiatives MyBhutan is employing are relevant and needed.

How do you bring ideas to life?

As with any successful startup, if you are the sole person to believe in your idea, you will never establish the foundation to succeed. It is essential to be surrounded by visionaries in support of the idea. The team must work together towards a common vision with a relentless sense of perfection to reach the goal. A team of motivated experts is essential in converting the idea into a practical solution.

I try to surround myself with leaders. I believe in the importance of creating an environment where these leaders have the ability to mold the shape of our overall vision. The MyBhutan team consists of some of the most exceptional visionaries I have ever met. Together, our team is inspired to create a model that the country, as a whole, will need in the future; not what we, as individuals, need now.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Having previously worked in traditional corporate settings that drive their KPI’s based on output of their standard work processes, I have witnessed the decline of productivity and creativity influences by a stagnant work environment that does not provide avenues to support personal growth.

An interactive environment and culture inspires innovation. I am a devoted advocate of dynamic platforms that focus on building a community over the workplace. By providing opportunities to better wellness, education and relationships, a company will attract great people, enhance motivation and increase retention rates.

MyBhutan is a family. We strive to serve as the model for a new paradigm of innovative and supportive work environments in Bhutan and hope that our efforts here will trickle into the workforce abroad.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I rarely consider the present. I use the present as a tool to design the landscape of the future. If you are too busy trying to fix the present, you will quickly become stuck in the past.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

My least favorite job was coincidentally my highest paying job. I accepted the position for the financial incentives. After leaving this job, I decided to trek across a mountain range for a couple months. While in the mountains, I quickly learned the importance of pursuing your passions. Since, I have always considered my passion for a project as the preliminary factor in considering whether to become involved.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would have hired even more employees who had previously worked for startups. Professionals who have already been exposed to the startup community serve as an exceptional form of internal consulting to advise strategies based on their prior accomplishments and failures in the related industry.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Read. Similar to my belief that your idea will not breathe life without the support of a group of inspired individuals, ideas are best developed when they are shared. It is important to utilize the expertise of others to better design your concept. Reading will not only help you realize what is broken in the world, but will also provide you with guidance as to how to fix it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Inclusive growth. MyBhutan has established a business model that boosts local employment, increases the quality of the local labor force, drives demand to local businesses and expands local economic opportunity.

Our equitable policy framework ensures that bull industries encourage, rather than suffocate, cross-industry growth. We nurture local working communities, creating new opportunities that allow them to compete in thriving markets.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I focused too much of my time on my profession and temporarily neglected my personal life. As an entrepreneur, it is a constant struggle to appropriately manage both. It is important to remember that some of your biggest supporters are not the ones who shake your hand, but rather the ones who hold it.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As globalization expands and modes of transportation become increasingly more reliable, faster and cheaper, people worldwide will begin to expand their exploration into the more remote areas of the world. This effect will multiply notable tourism destinations and international business relations.

Providing tourism services or other industry products or services in developing countries will become increasingly more popular. Find a country that you love and discover something unique to its natural identity that you would like to share with others.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We recently hosted a campaign, in collaboration with a local Bhutanese non-profit, RENEW (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women), and US based LetsFaceItPeriod to strike conversation to devise methods to continue to break menstruation taboos. The campaign resulted in our Bhutanese non-profit organization, MyBhutan NGO, to break ground in a project to provide menstrual cups to the more vulnerable communities of Bhutan.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I recommend that all startups use both Slack and Trello. These products will both improve communication amongst your team and manage and prioritize your work items.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Essential Rumi’.

Rumi was a poet who courageously set himself apart from general expectations to discover the beauty that most connected him to his being. Though he faced public scrutiny for his decision to incorporate poetry, music and dance into his religious practices, he is now revered as a visionary of his time.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Meriwether Lewis; a fearless adventurer and scholar who volunteered to journey through some of the most unexplored territories of his time to study the livelihood of local inhabitants, nature and the nation’s geology.

Lewis’ life serves as a constant reminder never to lose your connection to your inherent curiosity.


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