Shiza Shahid may be only 30, but she has already had several careers and accomplishments that few others can boast of. The social entrepreneur, investor, speaker, and women’s rights advocate spoke at the University of Redlands during a talk hosted by Associated Students of the University of Redlands (ASUR) Convocations and Lectures on Oct. 15, addressing an intimate group at the Orton Center.
Her journey in the public eye began even before she co-founded the Malala Fund, which is devoted to getting girls access to education around the world, with Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. Shahid led the organization as CEO at the age of 22.
As a student at Stanford University, she first reached out to Yousafzai when she found out the preteen was blogging about an education campaign for the BBC. During a break from Stanford, Shahid created a camp for girls in Pakistan with Yousafazi and several classmates. Today, many people know the Taliban tried to assassinate Yousafazi for advocating for girls’ rights to education. Not many know that Shahid was instrumental in helping the then-teenager broadcast her story to the world.
In 2017, Shahid left the Malala Fund as its CEO and launched NOW Ventures in Silicon Valley with venture capital platform AngelList. “Since I was 12 years old, I’ve been working in social impact: volunteering and organizing,” Shahid said in an interview before her talk. “As I’ve grown, my thinking on how best to have an impact has matured. I believe we have to harness the power of markets to make a difference.” She adds, “I also realized I like to build things. I like to start things and then hire a great team [to run it], otherwise, I’d be at the thing I started at 22 until I was 80, you know?
NOW invests in mission-driven startups, furthering Shahid’s goal of leveraging philanthropy, venture capital, technology, and the media to make the world a better place.
“We’re living in a unique moment in history, where businesses don’t just exist to make money and nonprofits don’t just exist to do good,” said Shahid, who wants to inspire young people to think beyond the traditional options. “You can structure a life where you’re learning a lot, you’re building a career, and you’re also doing good in the world. You don’t have to choose.”
As an example, Shahid talked about Our Place, a direct-to-consumer online startup she co-founded, which is funded by NOW Venture. The company sells kitchen essentials, and also supports nonprofit organizations, such as initiatives to fight hunger. Her other projects include founding The Collective, a community of entrepreneurs that come together to build collaborative change. She also works as the host of USA Today show “ASPIREist,” which inspires millennials to take action on the issues that matter most.
Speaking to students close to her age is part of Shahid’s goal to make the world better: “[I came to Redlands because] I think speaking to students is a really impactful way to make a difference. At this juncture, students are deciding who they are, what they want to do, who they want to become, what impact they want to have.”
Alex Ries, associate director of Student Involvement and Success, witnessed the impact of Shahid's message firsthand: "A student stayed to meet with Shiza after the talk, and she broke down in tears letting Shiza know how impactful and inspiring the presentation was for her," he said. "They shared a long hug and had a good chat. It was moving for me to see."