Who We Are

Our Mission

Business Across Borders aims to spur economic growth in the Middle East by targeting high potential entrepreneurs. To do this, we host business plan competitions and pair entrepreneurs with mentors. We believe in the potential of individuals to create companies, motivate communities, and drive innovation.


imgDr. Sameeksha Desai is a Professor at the Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She is one of the first researchers to explore the dynamics of entrepreneurship from the perspective of destructive entrepreneurship, a theory seeking to understand the political economy of postconflict reconstruction. From 2008 to 2009, Samee studied entrepreneurship in Iraq with a grant from the U.S. Army. Her findngs from extensive surveys during these field visits identified local-level policies to support entrepreneurship and have been presented at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is a visiting scholar at the Kauffman Foundation, where she is involved in research on postconflict economic development.

imgDr. David Ager holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, a joint degree granted by Harvard Business School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. He is also a faculty member in Harvard Business School executive education program, Families in Business: From Generation to Generation and he teaches in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government executive education program, Leadership for a Networked World. Dr. Ager also serves as a faculty member in the Rockefeller Leadership Fellows Program at Dartmouth College.

imgEli Sugarman is Senior Director at Gryphon Partners LLC, an advisory and investment firm that counsels leading international businesses and non-profit organizations on market entry, investment opportunities, dispute avoidance, and strategic communications in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the broader Middle East. He previously served as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureaus of Political Military Affairs and International Security and Nonproliferation at the Department of State, where his portfolios covered regional security matters in the Middle East and Western Hemisphere. Eli was formerly a Visiting Fellow at the Foundation for International Relations and Foreign Dialogue (FRIDE) in Madrid and a Fellow at the Stanford Center for International Conflict and Negotiation. Mr. Sugarman is the co-author of multiple texts on law and business dealings in Afghanistan, Co-Founder of the Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP), and an Advisor to Stanford's Rule of Law Program. He sits on the Boards of several non-profit organizations, including the Accountability Lab, the Alliance for the Restoration of Cultural Heritage (ARCH), and Volunteers in Africa. Eli earned his B.A. from MiddleburyCollege and his J.D. from Stanford Law School.

The People Behind Our Mission

Nikhil Sachdev is a Co-Founder of Business Across Borders. Nikhil is currently an MBA candidate at Harvard Business School. Previously he worked in private equity at Bain Capital and as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs. He also spent time in the international banking division at the US Treasury Department. He is a graduate of Stanford University, where he studied Economics and co-founded the first student exchange program in postwar Iraq.

JP Schnapper-Casteras serves on the Board of Business Across Borders, which he also co-founded. After starting the Stanford-Iraq Student Exchange program with Nikhil, he graduated from Stanford Law School and Harvard Kennedy School.

Kelly Peeler is the Executive Director of Business Across Borders. In this role she leads the organization in planning business plan competitions, expanding to new Universities, and developing partnerships. She helped start Business Across Borders in the spring of 2010 with JP and Nikhil and planned the first business plan competition at the American University of Iraq. She has both planned and participated in business plan competitions during her time at Harvard College. She currently lives and works in New York City.

Andrew Trott is the Chief Technical Officer at Business Across Borders and a 2011 graduate in Computer Science from Harvard University. Andrew is interested in economics, entrepreneurship and leadership in the developing world, and works as a Computer Scientist in technical litigation in Boston.

Paul Craft is the Iraq Director for Business Across Borders. He is the Director of Enrollment at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and has been living and working in Iraq since 2010. Paul graduated from Stanford University, where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Journal of International Relations. He is also working with Stanford Law School on an initiative to reform legal education in Iraq.

Noor Alsharif is an international student from Bahrain at The University of Texas at Austin majoring in finance and economics. She interned at the World Bank and worked on developing a Microfinance project in Honduras. Her interests in international economic development and entrepreneurship, as well as her exposure to the Middle East, drew her to join Business Across Borders and plan the business competition at AUC.

Mahdi Kurdi is an American University of Iraq Sulaimani Business Across Borders Ambassador. He is a Business Administration major and an Information Systems and Technology minor sophomore at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. He is a Business Manager of the AUIS Voice, the first independent university student newspaper in Iraq. He has worked as a sales and marketing representative for two years. He was a sales and marketing representative for Amwal Company in Sulaimani in 2010. Now he works as a sales and marketing representative for Smart Company in Sulaimani. He worked with the U.S Department of Defense and helped to develop the "MobiCash" program designed to transform payments through mobile in 2010. His experience with the GSMA, the worldwide mobile congress in Barcelona and the Middle East Partnership Initiative in the United States has encouraged him to help Iraqi youths to improve their leadership skills and their desire to work as teams.