Komal Ahmad is the founder and CEO of Copia, a company that’s bent on solving the “world’s dumbest problem”—hunger.
Copia has designed an end-to-end waste reduction and recovery technology to match businesses with excess food, such as restaurants and supermarkets, to non-profit organisations that need it. The startup provides businesses with real-time sustainability and environmental metrics, itemised surplus analytics to help reduce waste and automated tax receipts and reporting.
“As a first-generation immigrant from Pakistan, I thought hunger was a developing-world problem,” Komal recounted to Kiplinger. “In 2011, in my senior year at UC Berkeley, I met a homeless veteran begging for food across the street from a campus dining hall. He motivated me to ask the dining hall managers what they did with excess food. They told me that, despite trying to avoid it, they threw away thousands of pounds of edible food because they feared liability for harm if they donated it. Online, I learned that the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act protects food donors and nonprofit recipients from liability, except for gross negligence or intentional misconduct. After launching the nation’s first campus food-recovery program, I discovered that coordinating food donation was fraught with inefficiencies. I created Copia to close communication gaps using an online and mobile platform.”
Since founding the company in 2016, Komal has recovered one million pounds of food. While enrolled in Y Combinator, she recovered 14 tonnes of food during Superbowl 50.
Prior to founding Copia, Komal founded Feeding Forward, a non-profit organisation dedicated towards improving the life of the hungry. After fine-tuning her mission, she shifted directions and evolved Feeding Forward into Copia in 2015. She was also a midshipman in the US Navy and a board member for the Oakland Food Policy Council.
Komal has received several awards since founding Copia in 2015, including being named on Forbes’ 30 Under 30—Social Impact, Business Insider Tech Industry’s Rising Star—30 and Under, GreenBiz’s 30 Under 30 and Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business lists. She also received the Nelson Mandela Humanitarian Award and the Social Entrepreneur of the Year award from Open Silicon Valley, among others.
She has a bachelor’s in international health and global development; global policy and practice from University of California at Berkeley.
Originally from Pakistan, she speaks fluent English, Hindi and Punjabi.Tags: food waste, sustainability