“We’ve got to make sure that everybody has a fair shot to reach their potential — we can’t leave more than half the team on the bench.” President Obama’s words on the final day of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) held last month in San Francisco are still fresh in my mind.
I have been reflecting on the summit where I was one of 700 entrepreneurs from all over the world and one among 150 women and youth specially selected for an enhanced experience dubbed GES+. As Undersecretary of State Richard Stengel explained, GES+ was focused on youth, as they are the future, and on women, because they are under-represented. The intensive one day program was curated to provide unique mentorship and skill building opportunities for exceptional youth and women entrepreneurs.
The energy at GES was electric and super-charged. Possibly it had something to do with the location —Stanford University, the centre of innovation and entrepreneurship. Or it could have been the heady mix of networking, sharing of ideas, exploring collaborations and possible investments. There were lots of people with amazing ideas, trying to solve problems ranging from climate change to education for all, from apps to help differently-abled people to reducing food security.
For every two entrepreneurs there was one investor or mentor. There were industry greats like Mark Zuckerberg, Travis Kalanick, and Sundar Pichai to government stalwarts like Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Ambassador Cathy Russell and Megan Smith, US CTO.
As I think back to the four enriching days that I spent at GES, I realised there were several common messages shared throughout, spoken by different leaders. These included:
a) Be Bold and Fearless - It is not easy being an entrepreneur; the challenges are many, especially accessing funding, and more so for women. But an entrepreneur is a risk-taker and goes all out to establish one’s idea. The world needs an entrepreneur’s creativity, energy and innovation to solve its problems.
b) Be Prepared – As one of the speakers said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”. Be prepared for opportunities, persevere and share your passion.
c) Go to the User – It is important to keep in mind your end customer and design from his/her perspective. Understand what your user needs, hear their stories before you market and relentlessly optimise for the user.
d) Get a Mentor - As Brian Chesky said quite aptly, “The key to entrepreneurship is learning really fast… and learning how to learn faster”. With the help of a mentor, you have access to experts and can quickly navigate the many decisions you have to make in a short period of time without having to be a subject matter expert.
e) Team sport – Entrepreneurship is a team sport. Pick your team carefully. Be inclusive and diverse. Hire for complementary skills. Be open to collaboration.
f) Failure is critical – Failure is part of the process and must be embraced. Learn from it and pursue your dream relentlessly.
As we gear up for the next Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India in 2017, I would hope that the Indian Government takes up President Obama’s legacy of creating an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, puts more tools and resources into the hands of those trying to make that change and ensures that women and youth entrepreneurs are not left behind.
ElsaMarie D’Silva is the Founder & Managing Director of Safecity that crowdmaps sexual harassment in public spaces, and is an alumni of US Department of State’s Exchange Programs. You can follow her on twitter @elsamariedsilva
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