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This Startup is Fixing Health Kabul AlemHealth was built in a war zone. Its founder is thankful for that.

By Jessica Holland

This story appears in the August 2016 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Siddharth Siva
Aschkan Abdul-Malek on a stopover in Dubai.

Aschkan Abdul-Malek had come to Afghanistan to solve problems. He was working for a consulting firm, and in 2013 was helping the World Bank study healthcare constraints in developing countries. One day, as he was home talking to his cook, he learned how personally devastating the healthcare problem could be: The cook was spending six times his annual income to fly his wife to India for medical care, because she couldn't find the doctor she needed at home. Many Afghans were in similar positions: Despite an average annual income of about $680, locals spend nearly $300 million a year on what's called medical tourism.

Abdul-Malek wondered if he could fix this.

Entrepreneurship was new for Abdul-Malek, 34, a son of Iraqi and Iranian parents, who was raised in the U.S. He holds a law degree and an MBA from Vanderbilt University, worked in investment banking and strategic consulting and spent time with an NGO in Northern Iraq. But corporate life never suited him, he says: "At no stage was I ever that guy that would just get lost in a crowd." He races cars at 160 mph for fun. When a bomb goes off near the office, he checks that everything's OK and gets back to work. He performs well under pressure. A Kabul startup was his kind of challenge.

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