Global Entrepreneurship Summit – staging Pakistan

The 7th Annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was a 2-day event packed with presentations and conversations aimed at highlighting the entrepreneurial space across the globe including best practices of the smartest business builders.

The GES received 5000 applications out of which 686 entrepreneurs and 328 investors were selected to represent 170 countries.The countries attending the summit included; Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Singapore, Pakistan, India, United States of America (USA) and Australia.

The prominent members of GES steering committee were David F Demarest, Vice President of Public Affairs at Stanford University, Elizabeth Gore Entrepreneur in Residence at Dell Inc and Jonathan Ortmans – Chair, Spark President for Global Entrepreneurship Network. Also, U.S Government officials joined these entrepreneurs, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, members of the Small Business Administration and USAID.

President Barack Obama while addressing the audience on importance of the global interdependency said

“I believe we are better off in a world in which we are trading, networking, communicating and sharing ideas.”

Another prominent speaker at the event was Mark Zuckerberg, who in order to promote the spirit of entrepreneurship shared

“entrepreneurs care fundamentally about the change they are trying to create in the world and they are not just in it to build a company.”


GES also featured prominent speakers from the Sub-continent, such as Jehan Ara – Director of The Nest and President of the Pakistan Software Houses Association for IT & ITES, who was invited by the White House for a panel discussion on Investing in South Asia: What’s Next for Entrepreneurship in India, Pakistan and Beyond.
Amongst other speakers were Radha Ramaswami Basu – CEO iMerit, Rikin Gandhi, CEO Digital Green and Shola Akinlade – Co-founder and CEO of Paystack, which is an online payments company aiding E-commerce in the African region.

A contingent comprising of 21 entrepreneurs carried Pakistan’s baton at GES, 2016, which served as the largest international delegation at the Summit. The Pakistani delegation included Saima Hanif and Waqas Muhammad, the finalists in the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I competition, along with other renowned entrepreneurs, such as Hira Batool Rizvi – founder of She’Kab, Shamir Khan – founder of Travly and Mavra Bari – Director of Islamabad’s WECREATE Center. The Summit also featured Dr Umar Saif – Chairman Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) and Dilawar Syed – President at Freshdesk, who is currently the head of the software company’s North American business.

American Ambassador, David Hale was inspired by the spirit of Pakistani entrepreneurs and said that he was very impressed by the energy of the group.

This Summit serves as a milestone for entrepreneurship in Pakistan as a result of the achievements of Pakistani entrepreneurs at a global stage. However, the wider media in Pakistan did not provide a detailed coverage of the Summit to enlighten the masses about the importance of such forums.

A member of Islamabad Policy Research Institute, Asiya Mahar, states that out of a total population of 50 million Pakistani youth,55% are between 18-29 years of age. Given these statistics large-scale media coverage of the entrepreneurial landscape would lead to a change in the societal mindset and may help engage the youth effectively.

Its important to highlight the impact of events like GES and the conversations regarding innovation as Howard Tullman puts it “Innovation isn’t a bubble, it’s a massive, expanding balloon and when you press against it locally or impede its progress, that action doesn’t stop its forward motion, it just shifts and migrates the progress, which continues to move forward elsewhere. Other players, parties, countries and competitors will grow, gain and benefit while we fall further and further behind the curve.”

While addressing world leaders and governments on developing the culture of innovation President Obama said,

“It is hard to foster and encourage an entrepreneurial culture if it’s closed and if information flows are blocked. What we are seeing around the world oftentimes is governments wanting the benefits of entrepreneurship and connectivity, but also thinking top-down control is compatible with that, and it’s not.”

According to Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Pakistan is amongst the eight fastest growing economies of the world. The important thing for Pakistan at this point is to create a strategy for its entrepreneurial ecosystem, a policy for developing and hosting dialogues with the global community and a culture that allows exchange of information.

During his panel on entrepreneurship, President Obama announced that the next GES will be held in India and new members would be joining the program.

Hosting events like this can create a ripple effect in the knowledge economy and may bring the global expertise necessary to empower the startup culture. To begin with, the emerging market status and Bloomberg’s analysis on how its stock market dominates Asia puts Pakistan at an outstanding spot for developing dialogue spaces like GES.

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