Reach for your bootstraps
27 Sep 2016 by Claudio Providas
Four Lessons for Startups from the Social Good Summit in Dili
For Timor-Leste, youth are its strongest asset. Today’s youth are a generation with the unique opportunity to attain the country’s development aspirations in the next two decades, guided by the ideals of Sustainable Development. This was the underlying message at the heart of the Social Good Summit 2016: a technology-enabled national dialogue on Innovation and Entrepreneurship featuring the country’s Prime Minister H.E. Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, along with key national figures from finance, enterprise and social innovation.
Entrepreneurship is a central driver of economic and social stability, and supports initiatives that tap into local skills, expertise, and resources to foster entrepreneurial spirit and success. Hosted by UNDP in Timor-Leste in partnership with the Government, the SGS Dili discussed the challenges of growth (how to migrate from micro to small, small to medium, etc.); and sustainability (how to keep their businesses going after initial support) that entrepreneurs face in Timor-Leste.
Harnessing the power of communication technology, the main hub in Dili connected to three rural districts to ensure participation from youth in remote locations and was broadcast live on prime-time TV. The national dialogue served as a real time two-way communication channel between youth (particularly in underserved and remote locations) and decision makers.
Here are our four takeaways from the event:
1. What makes an entrepreneur?
It all starts with the mindset. This is according to business mentor and successful serial entrepreneur, Jeremias Desousa. A former refugee, Desousa is a self-made business man, who pulled himself up by his bootstraps. His key message: You need to be disciplined, make sacrifices and be flexible in your approach. It is also important that the formal education system equips young people with the necessary skills: from building an understanding of financial institutions to tech-skills for the 21st century, to know-how in business management.
2. Youth-friendly financial services are key
Young people face resource barriers when setting up their own businesses, which pertain to entrepreneurial skills, finance, policies, laws and regulations that hinder them from accessing loans and other financial services. Banks usually demand collateral and consider young people as high risk clients and as such banks are reluctant to serve them. In recognition of this, the government of Timor-Leste has passed a decree on government backed loan guarantee schemes, which will ensure better access to finance for innovators in the near future.
3. Find your niche – There are a lot of market opportunities in Timor-Leste
Silvia de Arujo, a start-up entrepreneur from Dili, called upon the audience to seek out opportunities and create jobs for themselves, rather than wait for work or try and get a job in the government. She explained that the fisheries in Timor lacked a local producer - a niche she is planning to fill with her start-up. Most products found in Timor-Leste are produced in neighboring countries or around the world. Identifying gaps in the market is an opportunity for innovation that boosts Timor-Leste’s economy.
4. We need an ecosystem to support youth entrepreneurship in Timor-Leste
Having a great idea, doesn’t automatically make you a great business person. Aspiring and existing businesses need a supporting ecosystem, which connects them to business services, mentorship opportunities and access to investment capital. Establishing a network of stakeholders and tying all of the necessary ingredients together in an integrated platform, keeping entrepreneurs connected, ideas colliding and businesses growing is the next frontier in Timor-Leste.
Together with partners, UNDP stands ready to foster this ecosystem and make these services as accessible as possible across the full range of entrepreneurs, from the most micro of entrepreneurs around the country to the more sophisticated in the capital.
The event concluded with a powerful call to action by the Prime Minister urging young people to be productive, generate ideas, innovate and take the lead to make their dreams a reality.
“Timor-Leste is an independent country but economically we are still dependent. As individuals, each one of you has to be independent. You have great potential to create jobs for yourselves and for other people. I hope that many of you can become entrepreneurs in two or three years’ time to help our economic growth,” he said.
The Social Good Summit kicked off the first of a series of networking events and Innovation Labs to co-create, ideate, prototype innovative solutions to Timor-Leste’s most intractable challenges. Check out the event video on our UNDP Timor-Leste Facebook page.
Watch this space for updates!