The GEN Asia Conference opened in Bangkok, Thailand on September 20, drawing attention from many countries, as it is one of the first conferences held since GEN Asia was established last year. The conference was held on the mini-stage of the Challenge Hall of the IMPACT Exhibition and Convention center.
The conference is co-hosted by GEN Thailand and the Digital Economy Promotion Agency in Thailand during the Digital Thailand Big Bang 2018, the largest digital technology exhibition in Southeast Asia. The conference enhanced an awareness of entrepreneurship in Asian countries and provided a forum for entrepreneurs to gather and exchange ideas.
GEN Asia currently consists of 26 countries in the Asian region, with seven countries, including South Korea which currently holds the chairmanship, on the board. The first GEN Asia Conference will give the member countries a chance to collaborate in tackling the most pressing challenges related to entrepreneurship and promote exchanges regarding support for and investment in youth startups.
Jeff Hoffman, partner and co-founder of Colorjar, who currently serves as a board member of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, gave a keynote speech under the title of “Entrepreneurship and Digital Business.” He articulated the importance of entrepreneurship in the era of digital revolution.
Even for entrepreneurs who dream of changing the world, it is not easy to overcome the numerous challenges they face while doing business. Hoffman said entrepreneurs would not be able to create something that could change the world unless they tackled these problems with patience. He stressed that entrepreneurs should not lose their direction to be able to overcome challenges and succeed in business. He said the GEN Asia Conference is meaningful as it provides a forum to discuss such issues.
Recently, new technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT and virtual reality are gaining increasing importance as the digital revolution accelerates. This, however, does not necessarily mean that only tech-based entrepreneurship is important.
“What matters more,” Hoffman said, “is how entrepreneurs understand new technologies and utilize them in their own fields.” In the past, he said, young farmers in Thailand sold their products only to local customers, but they could now earn more profits by selling their products around the world via online.
“A new opportunity can come from anywhere and can be created with a proven technology. The key to creating a new opportunity is entrepreneurship.”
According to Hoffman in an anecdote he shared with conference participants, he said he experienced a flight delay in his mid-20s, which caused him and other people to wait for a long time. This experience led him to develop an air transportation system that is more convenient to users. He said entrepreneurship is about searching for and executing ways to solve problems.
Hoffman also cited the case of a United States manufacturer that developed “smart glass,” a technology that identifies people through their fingerprints, collects personal information from their SNS accounts and recommends them clothes to buy. He said nobody ever expected such innovation from an old manufacturer.
Digital business is getting increasingly important for every country, especially in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hoffman noted the vital importance of digital business for Asian countries as it allows locally produced goods and services to reach bigger markets, thus improving efficiency in distribution and enhancing the value of products.
Hoffman also said digital business would create new products and markets and expand global partnerships, which would consequently create more jobs and improve the quality of life of Asians. Of course it cannot be accomplished immediately. Above all, entrepreneurship education focused on the entrepreneurial toolset and mindset rather than technology training is highly required. The emergence of inspiring local heroes and heroines is also important. We hope that the first GEN Asia Conference provides much-needed momentum for an innovative digital business environment in countries across Asia.