CAbikes: Barefoot until age 17 to PhD at Berkeley -with Christopher Ategeka [Inspiration]

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Christopher Ategeka was Voted a Forbes top 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneur.

Chris founded which helps people in rural Uganda to receive critical health services. They are focused on building and distributing locally made bicycles and bike-ambulances to reduce maternal and child mortality.

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We are going to hear more about how and why he started his non-profit Cabikes, while finishing his PhD in engineering at Berkeley.

What will you learn in this interview?

- How did Chris function and survive living in a village with no electricity and no running water?
- How did he manage to live in a small house along with 9 other family members?
- How did would you feel the first time you buy your first pair of shoes at the age of 17?
- How did his younger sibling inspire him to start cabikes.
- How did he manage to take care of his 5 siblings at his young age after his parents died?


He can run a 3:58min mile.
He wore his first pair of shoes when he was 17
The first time he was on a flight was when he was 22 coming to the US from Uganda
He speaks 9 languages

Business Mentors, Tools, Books mentioned:
Kira Adams

A little background about Christopher Ategeka:

Chris Ategeka, is the founder and CEO of CA bikes. He is an engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur at heart. Chris is the eldest of five siblings, and was orphaned after losing both parents due to HIV/AIDS.

Chris’ father died of a common cold at 33, and his mother followed thereafter due to an HIV/AIDS epidemic and when he was only about 7 years old. He became an Orphan and being the oldest of the five children, he became the head of the household and caretaker of his younger siblings at that early age. Within a year, while still getting used to these adult responsibilities, his brother died while walking him to the hospital. These personal tragic losses taught him that with low cost emergency vehicles, these lives may not have been lost and also many lives could be saved. He spent many years, in poverty in his native rural Uganda struggling and laboring in fields. Chris got picked up by an orphanage in his native Uganda that later connected him to his adoptive family in California. Through many life events, Chris ended up in engineering school.

CA Bikes is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization built to connect individuals and communities in rural Uganda to critical health and education services by building and coordinating the distribution of locally made transport vehicles, such as bicycles, wheelchairs, and bike-ambulances.

Honor and Awards:

• Echoing Green Fellow 2013 • Segal Family Foundation Award 2013 • Featured of the Front page of San Francisco Chronicle 2013 • Radio Appearances: NPR, KQED, VoiceAmerica (Impact Africa) • US Embassy (PEPFAR) Community grants award 2012 • UC Berkeley BigIdeas Winner 2012 • Gave a TEDtalk 2012 • UC Berkeley’s Chancellors Award for Public Service 2012 • Student Speaker at the college of Engineering graduation Ceremony May 2011 • Recipient of the prestigious Judith Lee Stronach Award 2011 • Chevron Award 2011 • Student Speaker at the Charter Gala 2011; the University of California, Berkeley • The Achievement Award Scholar 2011

Chris has been awarded several awards for his work at CA Bikes, including the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) award, a Chevron award, and the Judith Lee Stronach award. He spoke at TEDxSacramento in 2012 and delivered the commencement student address at UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering graduation ceremonies in 2011. Chris holds a BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and is currently taking time off from pursuing his Ph.D at the same institution to concentrate full time on CA Bikes.

Chris hobbies includes Flying (student pilot with Oakland flyers), running marathons, dancing, singing, writing (working on a memoir), photography and Manufacturing.

Thank you to LaunchTower and Alex Champagne to their great design and development company who reached out and told me about Christopher and what he was doing.

Please Leave a comment Below on one thing you found Most Inspiring or Helpful
**(I read and respond to all comments personally)**



  • AlexChampagne


    One of the most insperational stories I’ve ever heard… Christopher’s persistence in the face of hardships is overwhelming.

    This story makes you really ask yourself why you’re making excuses instead of making things happen.

    Always glad to suggest truly insperational guests.

    Thanks you both for making this happen,

    - Alex

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Well said Alex!
      You are exacty right– if he has no excuses for accomplishing what he has with limited resources we have to do a gut check when we make excuses for not doing something.

      Thanks for listening Alex AND thanks for telling me about Chris’s story.

  • Red Rose

    It’s shocking how many ‘basics’ we enjoy (and feel entitled to) in the US when compared to countries like Uganda. I LOVE inspiring stories of people overcoming adversity, but this one hit home in more ways than one.

    It’s not the “pulled from 3rd world poverty and got a top US college education” that’s so incredible – although that IS pretty amazing. It’s that Christopher’s accomplishments dwarf those of millions of Americans (myself included) that grew up with volumes more opportunity, resources, connections, etc. than he did.

    He’s taken full advantage of the gifts / blessings / help (whatever you prefer to call it) that he’s been given and intelligently multiplied them many times over thru focus, dedication, and hard work. Awesome… simply awesome!

    And the gratitude Christopher shows is deeply moving. Not just because he’s heartfelt in verbally expressing it, but because his actions and success are a direct reflection of it. That he’s so matter of fact about it is the best part!

    Any life experience, story, or lack of (fill in the blank) that I’ve ever used as an excuse for not setting and hitting personal goals has always been total BS, but Christopher’s story is just the sledgehammer of reality I wish I’d heard 15 years ago… and every day since.

    Thank you Jeremy for doing this interview and introducing me to Christopher. And thank you Christopher for sharing your story and living your life in such an inspiring way. You both rock!

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Thank you Red for watching and for your thoughtful comments!
      I love what you wrote..”Christopher’s story is just the sledgehammer of reality…”

      You are so right that he has taken full advantage of the gifts he is given and he is overflowing with being grateful.

      Your comment is so eloquent I should put it in the actual body of the post :)

      Thank you again for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • Marty

    Amazing story!! Thank you for bringing it to us, Jeremy and thank you to Chris for living it!! I would write more, but Red Rose has pulled the words right out of my head and beautifully captured the essence of this magnificent story in her comments. Time to go make a difference!!

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Thanks Marty for watching/listening!

      Chris’s story does make me want to up my game and make a much bigger difference.

  • Dwight from BackersHub

    From his first pair of shoes, to his first experience on an airplane to his first bike being made – this is an AMAZING story of struggle, persistence and inspiration. Jeremy, I don’t know where you find these people, but dude GREAT JOB! Truly enjoyed this! Great work Chris.

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Hey Dwight!
      Thanks for listening!

      Yes, you are exactly right on how amazing the story is…struggle, persistence, and inspiration!

      I find guests from listeners and people like you who refer great people and stories to me..any other suggestions ? :)

  • David

    My first thought after listening to this interview was “OK, what’s your BEST excuse now?” We all have setbacks and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes the best motivation is to be told a story about someone who overcame their most glaring challenges.

    GREAT excuse-crushing interview.

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Hi David,
      thanks for listening. Yes, that was a big take home lesson for me also. If he did not make excuses and Chris forged ahead despite all odds then what excuses do I have.

      definitely inspiring.

      thanks David!

  • Christopher Ategeka

    Thank you so much Jeremy for putting together the story. I also appreciate all the kind notes below. I really do! I consider myself a very lucky person. One thing I always like to share is that with the right amount of passion, hard work and determination, anyone…I mean anyone can accomplish anything.

    • Dr. Jeremy Weisz

      Thanks Christopher! I really appreciate you sharing your story with the audience.

      Your persistence and positive attitude is contagious.
      You are a remarkable person and a true inspiration.

      People like you and your story is the reason I began