We are incredibly honored to celebrate the 2023 Innovator of Color winners, CEO of The Center For Black Educator Development Sharif El-Mekki and Founder & CEO of Passage and Co-founder of ApplyBoard Martin Basiri! Each year the ASU+GSV Summit recognizes remarkable entrepreneurial leaders of color whose extraordinary work and innovations in education are making a massive impact and helping ensure ALL people have equal access to the future. These leaders have made a lasting impact through their work, and we are proud to honor Sharif and Martin for their exceptional contributions. Prior to founding the Center, Sharif El-Mekki served as a nationally recognized principal and U.S. Department of Education Principal Ambassador Fellow. His school, Mastery Charter Shoemaker, was recognized by President Obama and Oprah Winfrey and was awarded the prestigious EPIC award for three consecutive years as being among the top three schools in the country for accelerating students’ achievement levels. The Shoemaker Campus was also recognized as one of the top ten middle and top ten high schools in Pennsylvania for accelerating the achievement levels of African-American students. In 2014, El-Mekki founded The Fellowship – Black Male Educators for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to recruiting, retaining, and developing Black male teachers. El-Mekki blogs on Phillys7thWard, is a member of the 8 Black Hands podcast, and serves on several boards and committees focused on educational and racial justice.
Martin Basiri is Founder & CEO of Passage, which helps immigrants by providing financial access, and Co-Founder & former CEO of ApplyBoard, the largest international student recruitment platform. Martin, an inventor from a young age, began his own international student journey in 2010, where he got his Masters in Mechatronics Engineering from the University of Waterloo. Realizing the opportunity international students had at their fingertips, he helped his brothers, Meti and Massi—with whom he cofounded ApplyBoard in 2015—navigate the same complex process of applying to study abroad. Martin served as CEO of ApplyBoard from 2015 to 2022. Under his leadership, it grew to a team of 1500+, helping 500K+ students with their study abroad journey from 130+ countries. During this time, ApplyBoard partnered with 1,600+ schools across Canada, the US, the UK, Australia & Ireland. ApplyBoard became globally recognized with a valuation of $3B+, attracting $500 million in investments. At ApplyBoard, Martin noticed a limitation. There were many deserving students whom he wished to help but did not have the financial means to do so. Driven by his passion for the mission of “educating the world,” he started Passage in 2023. Continuing his work at ApplyBoard, Martin is now building the financial infrastructure for smart immigration so that anyone with the drive and aspiration can radically change their lives through social mobility.