The 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Kenya
On the 22nd of July I left for Nairobi, Kenya to attend the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) co-hosted by the Governments of the United States and Kenya. The summit made history with President Barack Obama co-hosting the Summit while visiting his father's home country of Kenya for the first time as the leader of the free world and it marked history being the first time a sitting U.S. President had visited Kenya.
The US Embassy in New Zealand nominated me to attend the summit and the U.S Department of State selected me as a delegate. Thanks to the Embassy and the Business and Law School of University of Canterbury I was able to get to Nairobi, Kenya to attend this amazing event. There was one other New Zealander delegate at the Summit, Bonnie Howland, 19, who is also from Christchurch, but living in Wellington working on her startup Indigo & Iris. Bonnie and I had never met but quickly became good friends.
While I did not have a current running startup at the time, the US Embassy saw this as a great opportunity for me to discuss with investors and other entrepreneurs my Candidate application and the Virgin Voter Collective (more information on those can be found in my previous posts). Over my time at the summit I met some encouraging individuals who showed an interest in Candidate and launching the application in their countries for the elections.
In this post I will discuss the Summit, President Obama, what I learnt, the people I met, the cultural experience and what I plan to do now.
The summit was the first GES held in sub-Saharan Africa, and it highlighted the entrepreneurial dynamism of the continent. The summit brought together about 1,000 mostly young entrepreneurs and investors from across the world for dynamic, outcome-oriented sessions; mentoring; and opportunities to present and pitch their work. There was a strong focus on African-based solutions, and the summit showcased how investors and entrepreneurs from other regions of the world can connect with Africa in new ways.
The official GES ran on the 25th - 26th July 2015, however on the 24th there was a separate event focusing on Youth + Women. Both events were held at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. The main focus of the Youth + Women day was to celebrate youth and women succeeding as entrepreneurs and learning what the US Gov and the UN are doing to encourage and support youth and women. The Women and Youth day was incredible, I heard from a number of amazing speakers from around the world and attended workshops and panel discussions. By the end of the day I had made some amazing friends from countries such as Pakistan, Namibia and New York. Hearing what other young people and women were doing around the world was so inspiring.
One speaker who was very inspiring was Akon who discussed his music label that he created after spending time in jail. Akon discussed unity and how it is key for young people and women entrepreneurs to work together; to dot each others I's and cross each other's T's. This day was a perfect opportunity to hear other women and youth from around the world tell their stories of success and struggle in the entrepreneurship world.
Andy Rabens the Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues discussed youth and their potential and he said that freedom fighters like Nelson Mandela are the best entrepreneurs, as entrepreneurship is about human freedom and choosing your destiny which Andy said is something that the U.S. Department of State supports. I also met and spoke with Courtney O'Donnell who is the Global Head of External Affairs at Airbnb. Airbnb is an amazing company and Courtney is such an inspiring woman. Her and I discussed the launch of Airbnb in New Zealand.
Catherine M. Russell the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, spoke to the group about women and their potential, she was very inspiring. I was lucky enough to meet Cathy and discuss what she could do for Women entrepreneurs in New Zealand. Bonnie and I plan to send an email to Cathy very soon with suggestions on how this could happen. In her speech Cathy discussed investing in women entrepreneurs and how it is generally good for everyone, “It is an opportunity we can't afford to miss”.
Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, was also at the Summit. Ahmad was a keynote speaker delivering a spark talk on “Providing Solutions: Leveraging entrepreneurship to solve social challenges”. He encouraged us to engage through our entrepreneurial endeavours in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He also announced that the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is working to develop a global platform for engaging youth in the implementation of the SDGs. This will offer a gateway for youth engagement in the expected 17 goals of the Sustainable Development Goals and will provide various services to ensure that youth are playing an active role in translating the global development goals to reality. This was amazing to hear in person and seeing the passion that Ahmed had for this topic was very encouraging to all of us. I was lucky enough to meet Ahmad and discuss my application with him.
One of my favourite panel discussions during the Youth + Women day was when we heard from Shark Tank investor and founder of FUBU, Daymond John, Julie Hanna the Executive Chair of the Board at Kiva and José Andrés, founder and chef at Think Food Group. The moderator of this panel was Secretary Penny Prizker, U.S. Department States of Commerce.
I took away from this panel that first it is okay to accept that you don't know everything and that you have fears, José said that is part of becoming an entrepreneur, accepting the risks and your fears. Secondly that we are only as good as the people we have around us, our team must have the best interests at heart. José said that when you are developing your team, it is important to recognise your weaknesses and find people that will fill those gaps and help you move to the next stage.
Daymond said that as an investor on Shark Tank he is looking for someone who has made mistakes and learnt from them, someone who treats the company like their baby, and someone who recognises that power is going back to the people now due to technology and social media.
Julie Hanna said that we are all entrepreneurial, we all want to create a better world, and we all have dreams. She said we must use this, we must find our deepest passions and then find a way for it to be universally relevant. We must translate our dreams into reality, which comes down to being able to visualise it and focusing on the problem that has that universal relevance, we are infecting people with that vision and our dream.
Points to take away… the psychology of success as an entrepreneur and becoming investor ready
- Where the energy is focused? Limitations v.s. seeing the opportunity
- Knowing what you don't know, you don't have to know everything, then surround yourself with those who do know.
- Leadership being flipped and inverted. Servant leadership is the type that works best. Thinking like that changes the way you look at the way you run your business.
- Building trust and credibility. Early stage funding is so hard to find as it involves a lot of risk. Building key relationships with investors, they are investing in you, not just your product. Begin with your closest network of people that already believe in you. Which is where the idea of crowdfunding was developed, finding those people who believe in you and getting small amounts.
I attended many other panel discussions and workshops, hearing and learning from so many inspiring and powerful people. However my complete notes are over twenty pages long... too long for a blog post. I have been invited to speak to some different groups around Christchurch on what I learnt at the Summit. If you would like to hear more, please feel free to contact me.
The second day was bigger and once again incredibly inspiring. The Youth + Women day was attended by about 200 people whereas on Saturday and Sunday the UN Office doors were open to over 1000 entrepreneurs, investors and government officials. President Barack Obama and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya opened the 6th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit and announced new commitments to promote entrepreneurship as a driver for economic growth, social inclusion, and secure communities. President Obama in his speech called on leaders to embrace women and young entrepreneurs, and asked U.S. investors to reward those efforts, as he announced more than $1 billion in new private and U.S. government commitments for startups. President Kenyatta also discussed the importance of young people stating that “the youthful sons and daughters of Africa are our incredible resource; they are reaching for a new future in which their innovation and curiosity will transform the world”.
While President Obama spoke proudly of his heritage, he described himself as a "Kenyan-American" President, he did not avoid addressing crucial issues in Kenya such as corruption and gay rights. His discussion on the treatment of women was really touching and eye opening for a lot of people listening. He did not shy away from using appropriate mince words, "Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition".
Both Presidents speeches provided new confidence for the women and young entrepreneurs in the audience and was definitely a highlight of my trip. President Obama was exactly what I expected he would be in person, relaxed but professional and you truly believed every word he spoke.
Before traveling to Kenya I had never been further than Australia. So just the 12 hour plane ride was a life changing experience. It is hard to describe the effect that this trip had on me and the way I see the world. I truly learnt so much about myself, other cultures and the world. Literally the world. I was meeting people from so many different countries… and I am ashamed to admit that there were many cases where I had not heard of where they were from. Due to this at the top of my to do list when I got back to New Zealand, was to buy a map and put it on my wall, and every day make a effort to look at it and find a country and learn about it.
I met so many inspiring young people and learnt about their home countries which really opened my eyes to how other people live and their day to day struggles as a young and/or woman entrepreneur. A friend I made was Arusha from Pakistan who has developed a company called SMAC Factory. MySmacEd is a cloud service that enables real time information sharing between the key stakeholders in the educational environment i.e. teachers, parents, students and the institute itself. The platform is amazing and I truly believe in it and I think it would do well in NZ Schools. Arusha was an amazing women who taught me so much about her culture and country over the three days we spent together at the summit. I plan to visit Arusha in Pakistan sometime in the near future.
There are too many people to mention but I did make some amazing friends and learn about their amazing entrepreneurial ideas and companies. Some honorable mentions: Eliane Kr, 26, originally from Peru but lives in New York, Eliane has a company called FTheSun. FTheSun sells sun-protective apparel and products as a way to raise awareness about skin cancer and protect against the sun. Our goal is to promote a positive, healthy, and protective attitude towards life and skin care. A percentage of the proceeds are dedicated to cancer patients in need around the world.
Jasir Shahbaz, 20, from Pakistan who founded an organisation called Dream to Education for All Where they ‘Dream’ to bridge the gap between privileged and underprivileged class in Pakistan, and inculcate in them feeling of responsibility towards community. Their aim is not only restricted to educate a child but to educate masses because we believe that each person affects the community in which he lives in. Jasir also taught me a lot and I hope to visit him in his home town soon and visit some schools with him through his organisation.
Where to now…
Hearing from so many success entrepreneurs and then young entrepreneurs who are just starting out, I was inspired to come back to New Zealand and take action, find something I was passionate about and work to make it happen.
That is all, I hope this gave you some understanding on how life changing my trip to Nairobi, Kenya was. Please get in touch if you wish to hear more… as I could go on for hours! Follow me on twitter (@HannahDuder) to see my posts while I was there!