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In 2016, Solomon Ayalew founded Touranb (Tour Africa and Beyond) to connect tourists with African travel companies. The web-based platform fills the gaps between a travel agencies, tourists, and local African travel companies. “Being from Ethiopia, I saw a need that could be met with the use of technology and communication… now more people can explore the destinations of Africa with our platform,” explained Ayalew.

Partnership Formed

Ayalew grew up in a rural area of Ethiopia and earned his bachelor’s degree from Addis Ababa University in electrical and computer engineering. After graduating from college, Ayalew came to the United States in 2012 to pursue a master’s degree from Michigan Technical University. During his time at MTU, Ayalew met the co-founder of Touranb, Akula Tafesa, who is also from Ethiopia. “It was ironic that both Akula and I were from Ethiopia and attended the same college there…. but we didn’t officially meet until we were both at Michigan Tech,” said Ayalew.

After graduating, Solomon Ayalew has worked as a software engineer at a few companies including Microsoft in Fargo, North Dakota. In 2014, Solomon Ayalew visited his home country and experienced firsthand the difficulties of traveling to Africa. “I searched online for rental car information and was shocked that I couldn’t find even a phone number for a travel company in Ethiopia,” explained Ayalew.

This frustration prompted the conversation about Touranb between Tafesa and Ayalew. In 2009, Tafesa had returned to Africa to operate a tour company and had learned what worked in the travel industry. “With my knowledge of computers and his knowledge of the travel industry, we could not help but create an easier platform to visit our home country,” said Ayalew.

The Web-based Platform

In 2017, Touranb desires to be the premier travel company for African destinations. Ayalew operates the web-based business from Fargo, North Dakota, which now connects tourists to 5 African countries. These countries include Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya. “Most African tourists use brokers or travel agents as a middle man, but our goal is to be the one location for all hotels, cars, and tours for Africa,” explained Ayalew.

Currently, there are over 50 African tour companies associated with the Touranb platform. With each tour booked online, Touranb receives 10% of the purchase. As a Fargo-based company, Touranb is participating in the Innovate North Dakota venture capital program with a goal of raising money to expand the company’s marketing and sales. “I am excited about the future of Touranb as we raise capital, expand through strategic marketing, and look to add a software engineer to our team,” said Ayalew.

Learn more from Solomon Ayalew and Touranb as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, November 8th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal