The World Forum of The Hague is filled with young entrepreneurs. Waiters are serving starters on tables surrounded by startup minds. The blue stage is shared by US Secretary of States Mike Pompeo, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutt and mayor of The Hague. All three are cheesing for photographers prior to their opening remarks. The city of the international courts is home to 1,300 entrepreneurs from 140 countries for three days of June. Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) has started as Mike Pompeo approaches the mic.
“All throughout the free world the progress of nations is driven by those who are willing to take a big risk to put their own capital out there, to fail sometimes and then fail again until one day, success follows. The government has to stop strangling business. Let’s everywhere in the world make entrepreneurship great again,” with these remarks US Secretary of States Mike Pompeo embarked on 9th Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
The future now
The opening is followed by a man versus machine contest. More than 2,000 participants witness a spectacular drum battle between a human drummer and the robot drummer ‘Stick Boy’. They represent the theme of GES 2019: the future now!
They will unearth more platforms where man and machine could coexist in days to come. The gathering will be focused on five important sectors, agriculture/food, water, connectivity, energy and health. To take a deep look at the ecosystem of entrepreneur world, it takes a quick flight from the Netherlands to the United States.
The tale is as old as 1871 — the year when Chicago caught fire. The Great Chicago Fire reduced the city to ashes. However, people converted this disaster into an opportunity to rebuild the city. Today, the city of skyscrapers nests non-profit digital startup incubator named after the year, 1871. Founded in 2012, 1871 was created to support Chicago’s digital startup community.
“When entrepreneurs come here with an idea we surround them with what they need. We give them free legal and financial advice. We also have a technical support team. Our community embraces 500 mentors, 100 cooperate partners and seven university partners. This nexus creates density and space for an entrepreneur,” says Ms Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871.
Visa free world for entrepreneurs
Let’s zoom out from Chicago and stretch it worldwide. Entrepreneurs are shaping their community and network.
“About 30 countries have already adopted “startup visa policy”. All economies should consider it,” Mr Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Network wants to continue but…
Wait…. What about the political differences and cross border disputes?
“Many nations do not recognise other nations. There are a lot of political factors involved. Our proposed solution is to increase the role of entrepreneurs. They can work together with their governments and help identify whether such visitors are useful for their economy or not,” concludes Jonathan Ortmans with a calculated smile on his face.
Can entrepreneurs be the migrating birds of this neo-ecosystem? We take this query to US Ambassador Peter Hoekstra to the Netherlands who is busy making arrangements for GES 2019.
“After WWII, our participation with Europe and parts of Asia has led to prosperity and overall peaceful climate. Europe — hit by two world wars — is now stable because of the work we have done together, militarily and economically. That model fits for the other parts of the world,” answers chief diplomat posted in Amsterdam.
What is there for Pakistan?
This is the second day of GES 2019 and it is Eid in the Netherlands. Sadaf’s hands are sweating despite henna on them. She grabs a bunch of papers instead of a bowl of sheerkhurma. Sadaf is rehearsing her pitch instead of taking Eid-selfies. She is one of the entrepreneurs from Lahore.
“I am working on reproductive health. We have developed an online platform where women can easily buy their feminine-hygiene products,” says she. “This particular shopping is considered taboo in our country. Sometimes shopkeepers react in strange ways. Through our portal, females can pick and choose their own period box. We deliver them within 24 hours,” says Sadaf.
Right next to this lounge is a cafe. There is a lad, his eyes panning for investors, his restless thumb scratching over business cards he wants to distribute. His name is Abrar Saeed, he is founder of Azaad Health.
His story does not start with think-and-go. It is a product of a tragedy. Azaad was Abrar’s elder brother who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015. During his treatment, Abrar was lost in a pile of medical record and test reports especially when he would move Azaad in emergency care. Azaad’s liver only fought one more year and succumbed to cancer. Abrar did not. He would fix it for all.
“Azaad health shares patients’ data among hospitals with their (patients’) consent. Patients can be given access to their data and empowered to share it with other medical facilities. Patients find it too difficult to keep all medical record up with them,” said Abrar, “We have applied it in Bahrain. Middle East is our next station,” Abrar hands me one of his business cards before reaching out for the next investor.
Only Abrar is not eager to work internationally but world is also eager to join hands with Pakistan. Kyle Wiley is a senior advisor in US Department of Energy. He talked to TNS about possible US-Pak partnership in this regard.
“We would love to work with Pakistan. That is something we really enjoy working on. MoUs are very helpful. We would like to involve our international office that is growing as we are making more of a global presence,” said the advisor.
5 quick tips for entrepreneurs
While the summit continues, we talk to some of the founders of startup businesses and ask them about five quick tips for entrepreneurs.
1. It has to be something you eat, breathe and sleep.
2. Start up and then scale up.
3. Failure is an opportunity.
4. Find others around you on the same path and connect.
5. Keep track: how much does it cost to make, sell and service the product?
Millions of dollars worth of investments are promised throughout the summit as it drew to an end. Stage for closing ceremony is shared by President Trump’s daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga. Wearing white floral dress, Ivanka says, “Women are critical to the growth of every country. If women are empowered in an environment that is not enabling, the empowerment will not last. It is unsustainable,” she says.
A feminine voice emerges from the speaker, echoing, “And the Outstanding Entrepreneur from Emerging Economy Award goes to…. Abrar from Pakistan.”
Proud Abrar tells TNS that he has been offered business incubation by GIST (Global Innovation through Science and Technology). Moreover, the US government has asked him to establish his company in the States.
Till we meet again
Usually less crowded, The Hague hosted one of the gatherings of its own kind. Its trams remained crowded and hotels were booked. Now birds are returning to their nests only for another long flight soon. Life will come back to its normal after few showers and rainfall in The Hague. But here embarks new beginning that will shape the future. The Future Now!