Last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week, “the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.” GEW is more than an awareness campaign about entrepreneurship – it’s about unleashing ideas, inspiring events in cities around the world that push people to think outside the box and spur dialogue on related topics.
Invest2Innovate was excited this year to make the GEW 50, a global competition that recognizes 50 of the most promising ventures from around the world. As part of the top 50 finalists, i2i was selected from a range of criteria including strength of concept, growth projections, and knowledge of the market. Although we did not win the top prizes (you can see more about the final winners here), it was awesome to make the GEW 50!
Last week, i2i was also invited to participate in two panels during GEW. On Monday, November 14, I spoke at the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) during an all-day GEW conference on Global Diaspora Engagement. Our panel, moderated by Phil Auerswald, a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and an Associate Professor at the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, was a fun and lively discussion about the collaborative advantage of the Diaspora. Since i2i is currently engaging the Pakistani Diaspora in order to channel capital and resources to early-stage enterprises in Pakistan, this was a very pertinent topic. My fellow panelists were Semhar Araia, Founder & Executive Director, Diaspora Africa Women’s Network (DAWN) and Bill Barhydt, President/CEO of m‐Via, providing financial services to the poor through mobile technology, who were both so inspirational and engaging.
On Wednesday, November 16, i2i was invited to be part of a GEW-related event at the U.S. Department of State – a teleconference exchange between Pakistani entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Pakistani entrepreneurs in Pakistan. Since we are a company that engages early-stage enterprises in Pakistan as part of our pilot, I was more interested in hearing what the entrepreneurs on the other side of the call had to say about their experiences, from the social entrepreneur behind Karo Kuch, an ideas incubator, to a young businessman working on new energy in the country. It was a reminder about how diverse the entrepreneurship space is and can be in Pakistan. The energy in the country is palpable. Needless to say, after having just got back from Pakistan, I’m already excited to fly out again next month.
The theme behind GEW is ‘unleashing ideas’ and the week of panels and events taught me that the potential to have critical dialogue is really high. In markets like Pakistan, where we are working now, entrepreneurship has to be something that is grown by Pakistanis for Pakistanis. It is not an imported foreign solution to longstanding issues. It is not something we can throw money at. If we really want to ‘unleash ideas’ then we need to let that happen locally and organically. And we’re excited to be part of that process.
Kalsoom Lakhani is the Founder/CEO of Invest2Innovate, based in Washington, D.C. She loves traveling, pretending to be a foodie, Jeopardy, and inane discussions about morality in mainstream television shows. If you watch mainstream television shows, you know this amounts to very little discussion.