Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is 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. It has been three years that AmCham Tajikistan (American Chamber of Commerce) has been hosting GEW. GEW 2015 took place during Nov. 16 – Nov. 22 in Tajikistan. The week consisted of various engaging events taking place in around the country connecting participants to potential investors and mentors.
GEW 2015 Tajikistan started November 16 with a roundtable in Khujand, capital of Sughd Region, named “Entrepreneurship-Innovative Vision on Economic Development,” as part of GEW Cities. The event was organized by AmCham Tajikistan, with the support of the Regional Government Administration of the Sughd Region and Tcell, as well as the financial support of the KfW Development Bank in Tajikistan. More than 50 companies, universities and organizations took part. Key Speakers included: Anvar Yakubi, Deputy Head of the Sughd Government Administration: Kristin Laabs, country director of KfW/DEG and Firdavs Alimov, director of the Free Economic Zone (FEZ) Sughd. As a result of this roundtable, KfW will begin financing local entrepreneurs.
On November 17, 2015, as part of GEW Youth, there were three events taking place simultaneously in various cities of Tajikistan in honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Speed mentoring events that took place in Khorog, Kurgan-Tyube and Kulob brought together local entrepreneurs and prospective student entrepreneurs from universities. American Corners in eight different cities of Tajikistan hosted a videoconference with IT entrepreneur and investor Sergey Gribov (USA/Israel/Russia). During this webinar, Sergey talked about his experience as a tech entrepreneur and his tips for aspiring startups. Furthermore, students had a chance to share their aspirations and to ask questions directly to Sergey.
November 18 was marked by a spectacular event, the International Entrepreneurship Forum, taking place at the National Library of Tajikistan. The morning began with an exhibition of the products and services of the member companies of the American Chamber of Commerce in Tajikistan. The main event consisted of opening remarks by Nigina Anvari, deputy chairman of the State Committee on Investment and State Property Management of the Republic of Tajikistan, Leslie Hayden, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy, Hugh Philpott, UK Ambassador in Tajikistan and Gulanor Atobek, chairman of the board of directors at AmCham Tajikistan, and continued with speeches of the key speakers from the U.S., including Vanessa Beary, senior advisor on youth entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of State; Alex Long, country lead, public policy and government relations at Asia Pacific Region Google; Karin Shipman, CEO of EGI; and Daniel Zaretsky, director of GEW 2015 in Tajikistan.
Zaretsky discussed the AmCham and GEW networks and talked about future plans for the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and for GEW Tajikistan, and also presented the first draft of the mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Tajikistan. In the break, GEW hosts showed the welcome video from Jonathan Ortmans, GEN president.
After the opening remarks, three panel discussions were held: 1) Women: Leaders in Business (GEW Gender); 2) Youth, Startups, Innovation and Technologies (GEW Youth); 3) Investment into Startups: Angel Investment, Seed Investment, Startup Support (GEW Investing). During these panel discussions, international experts, leaders in government, leaders of development organizations and leaders in business discussed their vision on the development of entrepreneurial activity in Tajikistan and proposed their recommendations.
The aim of the event overall was to support entrepreneurial activity and tech entrepreneurship. By inviting international experts in youth entrepreneurship, the tech sector and the international development sector, an exchange of ideas took place, which then helped to identify key areas of policy to improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The International Entrepreneurship Forum was organized and funded by AmCham Tajikistan, the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan, UK Embassy in Tajikistan, KFW Development Bank, OSCE, Tcell, AITE, Asia-Plus, and EFCA, among others.
In addition, separately, CESVI, with other partners, held a conference on entrepreneurship in the handicrafts sector and then organized an exhibition of local handicrafts.
On November 19, startups of Tajikistan presented their projects to both local and international mentors and investors, in an event organized by AmCham Tajikistan and the Association of Innovative and Technological Entrepreneurship (AITE). This event took place at the Sheraton Hotel and brought the most active young entrepreneurs together with international experts. At the end of the session, startups and investors had an opportunity to communicate and had a chance to obtain feedback from mentors and investors.
In addition to this, two master classes took place in different locations in Dushanbe. Alex Long gave a presentation at the Tcell Conference Hall. Based on his experience working at Google’s headquarters, and several additional offices over the past five years, Long introduced Google’s innovative organizational culture to youth, including entrepreneurs, IT specialists and guests, with a total audience of more than 150 people.
Ozodkhon Davlatshoev, the CEO of Tethys Petroleum in Tajikistan, gave another master class at the Sheraton on “Startup Risks and Ways of Attracting Investment into your Startups."
Later on that day, Vadim Abanin of EducationUSA and American Corners, lead a webinar with the Fisher College of Business-Ohio State University. The webinar touched upon topics such as business and entrepreneurship education in the United States.
Finally, in the evening, the UK Ambassador Hugh Philpott hosted an event at his residence for AmCham members and GEW speakers and organizers.
The last day of Global Entrepreneurship Week was a remarkable one as well. The Women’s Business Forum and Entrepreneurship Expo organized by the US Embassy in cooperation with the State Committee on Investment and State Property Management of the Republic of Tajikistan, USAID, OSCE, UN Women, OSI, etc., took place at the Ismaili Center. The event consisted of opening remarks by members of the government’s State Investment Committee, State Women’s Committee and the Charge d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy and a panel discussion involving a keynote address by Karin Shipman, CEO of EGI Develoment, and talks by leading female entrepreneurs in the country, followed by a discussion. The event continued with a training pavilion where experts gave master classes, a fashion show and entrepreneurship expo, highlighting products produced by women in the design, handicraft, textile, agro-produce and IT sectors. The aim of the event was to support female entrepreneurial activity, especially in rural areas, elevating the level of awareness of such activity to heads of diplomatic mission, international organizations, local and foreign investors. As a result of our event, the government of Tajikistan has decided to start a fund that will invest in female-owned businesses.
The last day also featured study tours for students to FINCA Tajikistan, Tсell, and the Sheraton Dushanbe Hotel, where students studying in the banking/finance, IT and hospitality/tourism sectors had an opportunity to visit the companies and get an overall understanding of the firms’ operations and organizational atmospheres and to learn about possible career opportunities and internships.
The executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Tajikistan, Ilhom Aliev, spoke at the closing ceremony of GEW, summarizing the whole week and thanking all those who contributed to the celebrations. There were more than 80 guests, including the organizers, all the partnering organizations and member companies of AmCham Tajikistan.
In addition, after GEW, we arranged for the showing of the film "Crocodile on the Yangtze," about Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, both at the Tajik State University of Commerce and at American Corners. The film was followed by discussion.
Jahonnamo, a leading national TV station, filmed during the whole of GEW, and will be presenting a documentary sometime in 2016.
Key achievements included:
- Raised more than $50,000 for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2015 for weeklong events
- 14 events throughout the country. This is the first time GEW Tajikistan had events, both virtual and online, that reached outside of the capital, Dushanbe.
- Approximately 30 events overall (some events taking place simultaneously by webinar around the country) with approximately 20 distinct events and 15-20 different entities organizing events
- Approximately 2,000 participants
- At least 500 unique visits to the website
- Women made up more than half of total participants
- At least 20 media mentions and partner and participant organization press releases, a substantial increase over last year:
- Published in all key newspapers: Asia-Plus, Khovar, Ozodi
- Broadcasted on all key channels: 1st Channel, Jahonnamo, MIR, Safina
- Special Global Entrepreneurship Week TV Program prepared by Jahonnamo
- Published in all key newspapers: Asia-Plus, Khovar, Ozodi
- About 110 companies, development organizations, youth organizations, NGOs, and ministries were involved in GEW 2015:
Major international companies and organizations that participated, included:
- TeliaSonera (Tcell), KfW, Sheraton, Aga Khan Foundation, OSCE, EU, US Department of State, USAID, DFID
Snapshot of Speakers:
- Nigina Anvari, Deputy Minister of State Committee on Investments,
- Numon Abdujabborov, Head of Consultative Council on Investments Under the President
- Hugh Philpott, UK Ambassador to Tajikistan
- Leslie Hayden, Acting U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan
- Umed Latifov, Deputy Head of National Bank of Tajikistan
- Sergey Gribov, Flint Capital
- Vanessa Beary, Senior Advisor on Youth Entrepreneurship at U.S. Department of State
Photo credit: Flickr