Daniel Salcedo, Founder of PEOPLink
In the late 1970's, Daniel Salcedo, a young Colombian/American, was living in Guatemala and working for the United Nations Institute for Nutrition for Central America and Panama. He puzzled at how such hard working people with such productive creativity as expressed by their crafts could suffer such high levels of malnutrition. He concluded that this intolerable deprivation was the result of generations of international trade, devoting the best lands in these "banana republics" toward meeting the consumptive whims of the U.S. breakfast tables (bananas, coffee, sugar), at the expense of the basic needs of the local population (corn and beans). He realized, however, that the culprit was the undemocratic access to the land rather than trade itself.
In response to this realization, in 1978 Dan founded the non-profit, Pueblo to People with the purpose of using international trade to benefit the poor majorities of people in Central America. The mission included educating U.S. consumers of the now all too familiar folly of attempting to justify a destructive war on these poor people, based on an implied threat to our homeland.
With a handful of dedicated, like-minded colleagues, Dan threw himself into working with talented artisan groups first in Central America and later in all of Latin America. Pueblo to People quickly became a well-known beacon of success with its attractive and informative mail order store, with peak annual sales of $7 million (in today's dollars) on a circulation of a million. This endeavor gave him a deep insight into the potential for SMEs in emerging economies to reach export markets. In the years that followed, Dan served as Peace Corps Country Director in the Dominican Republic.
In the early 90s, Dan was managing projects on exhumations of mass graves in Haiti (see image at left) and Guatemala as well as statistical analyzes of genocide at the Washington DC headquarters of the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest scientific organization in the world. His colleagues at the AAAS were at the forefront of analyzing the far reaching implications of this new phenomenon called "the Worldwide Web". With his technical background (Ph.D. in Operations Research at 22) and experience helping crafts SMEs export, Dan immediately grasped the huge development potential for what only later would be called "e-commerce". While the application of science for human rights was compelling, Dan felt it was "looking back at what went wrong". E-commerce for SMEs is "looking forward at what needs to be".
The culmination of those formative years and research experience led to the founding of PEOPLink in 1995 as an on-line version of Pueblo to People. Its key goal was to help bring the benefits of e-commerce to 85% of the planet's six billion people that live outside First World countries.