Tech startups and business angels are not what comes to mind when thinking of the Czech Republic (CR). Instead, this small central European country is known for its beer, scenic bridges crossing the Vltava river, and existential writers. Not so easy to add “vibrant entrepreneurial hub” to the list as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia. Nevertheless, that's exactly what the CR policymakers intend to do.
CR has what it takes to be an entrepreneurial hub for Central Europe
According to the UN, women in conflict-ridden countries are disproportionately affected. They are actively targeted as a tactic of war to humiliate, terrorize, punish, or forcibly displace them. In fact, women and girls are disproportionately exposed to sexual violence during conflict. And, as more men die, more women and families are left destitute. The World Bank Group is committed to doing more to prevent this cycle of violence against women, as set out in this IEG report.
UNHCR story, the business is small, but the women are earning money to feed their children and take care of their families. These women are vital role models in their communities and give others hope to rebuild their lives.Take the example of Chorty a war widow who successfully banded together with other war refugees from South Sudan to open a hair salon in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to the
The Digital Youth Summit (DYS) is a technology focused conference that takes place annually in Peshawar, Pakistan. In the lead up to the summit, we bring to you the first of our Speaker Spotlights featuring Zaki Mahomed. The upcoming DYS is on April 27-28, 2018. Register now here.
Zaki Mahomed (ZM) is founder & CEO at Pursuit, a new startup based in San Francisco. Pursuit helps people build the lives of their dreams through easy access to skilled immigration programs. Having lived in Karachi, Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco before turning 30 has given him a global perspective on the art and science of building great companies.
Tell me a little about what you are working on now? How did you get started?
ZM: I recently founded and am the CEO of Pursuit. We help highly skilled immigrants access global job opportunities with companies that will sponsor their work visas. We want to live in a world where borders are not barriers to opportunities and employers can seamlessly hire perfect candidates from anywhere in the world.
I started Pursuit because I’ve lived and worked in 5 cities over my career. One of the most satisfying experiences of my career has been hiring immigrants who took a risk on my ideas and companies and moved their entire lives to join us. While fraught with risk, I’ve rarely regretted giving an opportunity to an immigrant and always gotten a committed and loyal worker in return. We want to make it easy for other businesses to be able to provide such opportunities to the type of talent they desperately need!
Specifically, through Pursuit, qualified skilled workers can apply for their immigrant visas and upon approval, get matched with vetted employers looking for their skills. Currently we work with Software Engineers and Developers and we primarily operate in Canada, which is our first market.
What do you think is the future for youth in the tech industry?
Start-ups in emerging markets are disadvantaged when it comes to accessing mentors and mentorship programs. The infoDev Climate Technology Program has been working to fix this challenge and recently launched two mentorship pilots in partnership with Climate Innovation Centers in Ghana and the Caribbean.
Successful entrepreneurs from developed technology hubs often engage mentors so that they can learn from experienced industry veterans, solve unfamiliar problems, and navigate blind spots. In emerging economies, great mentors are harder to come by, founders are less familiar with what to expect from a mentor, and support programs and networks are less established.
Let’s be honest. The Middle East and North Africa is burning, and in some areas it is literally burning. Conflict and fragility have long warped what once was the cradle of civilization and the inspiration for the many inventions we can’t live without today. However, in the midst of that fire hope rises, a driver of change that is transforming the ugly reality into a bright future.
After I fled the war in Iraq in 2006, I was pessimistic about what the future was holding for that region. Year after another, the domino-effect of collapse became a reality that shaped the region and its people. Yet, fast-forward to 2017, I have witnessed what I never thought I would see in my lifetime: the new renaissance in the Middle East and North Africa.
I have just recently come back from attending the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa at the Dead Sea in Jordan. This year, the Forum and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, partnered to bring together 100 Arab start-ups that are shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
There, the positive vibe was all around; no negativity, no pessimism. Instead there was a new sense of optimism and enthusiasm, hunger for change, and the will to take the region to a whole new future, away from conflict and the current norm of pessimism.
Pop quiz: Which of these statements do you agree with?
- If you build “IT” they will come.
- Poor people don’t need mobile phones. They need clean water and food instead.
- Digital skills are only relevant for people who work in the ICT sector. The rest of us don’t need them.
Heading back from a recent mission to Ghana, I felt really proud of what we have accomplished: training 20 of the most promising local clean-tech entrepreneurs through the Green Innovators Bootcamp. The words used to inaugurate the event are still in my head: “This bootcamp is not an end in itself. It’s the beginning of your journey as entrepreneurs.”
Indeed, bootcamps for startups and SMEs – as well as close cousins like Hackathons, Start-up Weekends, and Business Plan Competitions – are an increasingly popular activity used to catalyze innovative ideas and provide entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to launch their ventures.
In Ghana for example, infoDev -- a global innovation and entrepreneurship program in the World Bank Group -- organized a two-day training event to help a group of 20 early-stage entrepreneurs assess the feasibility of their business concept, identify their customer base, and refine their business model.
Organizing a bootcamp can be very challenging and time-consuming, but, when done properly – read “7 things you need to do to prepare for the perfect bootcamp” – the payoff is big. "Bootcampers" find these initiatives very useful to identify new solutions to the challenges they face to launch their businesses -- mostly access to finance, product development, and marketing. Furthermore, "pitching competitions" and "business contests" offer new entrepreneurs an excellent and safe stage to refine their business pitch -- a key tool of every successful entrepreneur.
One of the goals of bootcamps and pitching competitions is to bring together different stakeholders – from entrepreneurs to investors and policymakers – to facilitate the creation of ecosystems in which entrepreneurs can grow and thrive. But is it realistic to expect that bootcamps and similar training initiatives are enough to enable promising entrepreneurs to reach their full potential? The answer is simply: No. Make no mistake: Bootcamps are an exciting tool to create buzz and interest in countries that have little entrepreneurial history and culture. In most contexts, however, there is no follow-through with effective action plans that can keep the momentum going. This not only limits the value of these initiatives, but can also cause harm to a nascent ecosystem.
Ennovent and WWF Switzerland announced the winners of their Tropical Forest Challenge this past Monday. The winners came from two categories: company and startup. Launched in May 2012, the WWF Switzerland Tropical Forest Challenge is a global initiative managed by Ennovent on behalf of WWF Switzerland to discover the best for-profit enterprises from around the world that have a positive impact on the conservation of tropical forest biodiversity.
The winners are endorsed by WWF Switzerland as best solution providers and are awarded global visibility, networking and capacity building opportunities from the challenge partners such as, Good Company, Sustainatopia and Thomson Reuters Foundations’. These Challenge rewards are important as many early-stage entrepreneurs face resource gaps – such as networks and training – that inhibit their ability to scale high potential ventures.
I met Roselynd Laubhouet in 2004 when, as a recent graduate, she accepted an assignment as a Junior Professional Associate with the World Bank's Africa Region in Washington, D.C. From day one, it was evident that Roselynd was special. Being an entrepreneur at heart, she was filled with dreams, aspirations, and a passion for her home country of Senegal (and her continent) that set her apart.
When Roselynd and I reconnected in Abidjan last December, eight years after our first meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only had she moved home to Senegal, but she had also started a successful international business. The journey from bureaucrat to entrepreneur was not easy, but it was clear that--having returned home--Roselynd was realizing her dreams.
I was curious to learn the secrets of her success, to understand the challenges facing returnees, and gather any advice for other Africans in the Diaspora considering a return. Roselynd was kind enough to share her experiences with me in the hopes that other young women in the Diaspora might be inspired to follow in her footsteps.