Is a golden opportunity being wasted at GES?

  • Not giving a keynote speaking slot at GES to a Malaysian entrepreneur is a shame
  • Summit dedicated to risk-takers, but Govt plays it safe by picking ‘brand name’ speaker

Is a golden opportunity being wasted at GES?ONE can’t help but feel that the Malaysian Government is throwing away a golden opportunity to make a loud statement that will be heard around the world, about the bubbling startup scene here.
Right now it is missing that opportunity by not giving a priceless keynote slot to a Malaysian entrepreneur at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) to be held from Oct 11-12 in Kuala Lumpur.
The keynote slot is important as the focus of all the delegates will be on it before the GES breaks up into various streams or tracks.
Instead, the attention of the expected 3,000 delegates and at least 5,000 other participants of the various events will be focused on Dr Kim Chan, one of two authors of the bestselling management strategy tome, Blue Ocean Strategy, who has been invited to be one of the keynote speakers.
As soon as I heard this at a press conference yesterday (Aug 14) to update the media on developments of the GES, that little voice in the back of my head started screaming, “No! No! Wrong choice. Poor choice.”
I do not mean any disrespect to Kim, but I think a conference that is about celebrating and encouraging entrepreneurship must put the spotlight on promising and upcoming Malaysian entrepreneurs.
To hear their story of the ups and downs so far. To be inspired by the dreams they have of building a regional or global business, and to learn about how the Malaysian entrepreneurial landscape is enabling that, and to hear their suggestions about what should be done to strengthen that ecosystem.
Such a conference should not have as its keynote the co-author of a management book, no matter how wildly successful it is. And no matter how closely the author works for the Malaysian Government as a consultant.
Plus, I have never heard of any successful entrepreneur credit their success to reading any particular management book either. Have you?
It is widely acknowledged that entrepreneurs are a unique set of individuals. Going through my own small journey as one, I am starting to see that much more clearly now and consequently, my admiration for this unique species grows sharper by the week.
They have to be optimists, possess incredible work ethics, have a reservoir of ‘can-do’ spirit that allows them to bounce back from any fall, and they are risk takers. Some take calculated risks, some take crazy risks, but taking risks is what brings rewards too.
The Malaysian Government, on the other hand, in organising an entrepreneurship summit – that it hopes will catalyse the growth of a new cadre of entrepreneurs – has opted not to take any risks and go with the safe bet of a ‘big name’ as a keynote speaker.
It looks like the Government does not have the confidence to trust a keynote slot to young Malaysian entrepreneur. The comeback to the question I posed on this at the press conference was to highlight the many Malaysian entrepreneurs speaking at the concurrent tracks throughout the two-day event.
 Is a golden opportunity being wasted at GES?
But to me, there will just be so much chatter from all those events that the impact of their sessions will be drowned out and won’t carry around the world (through the delegates from 70 countries that will be attending).
We have to remember that the true and more meaningful success of the GES will come not from US President Barack Obama attending it, nor from the X number of heads of states who attend, nor the thousands of delegates who attend, nor the number of Tan Sris you put on stage, nor from the sound bites and column inches it gets in the media, local and international.
The impact and the success of the GES will come five to 10 years down the road when successful entrepreneurs who have built global businesses say they were inspired to launch their business from Malaysia after listening to entrepreneurs talk about how they were building a global business from Malaysia back at GES 2013.
I don’t know, but am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Do you think that a young Malaysian entrepreneur should be given a keynote slot at GES?
To be sure, with the busy array of events being around it, it will surely go down as the most successful from that angle. But I can’t shake that disappointing feeling I have over this.
Related Stories:
Countdown begins to GES, Obama slated to attend
GES: Obama to address role of youth and entrepreneurship
Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum makes Malaysian debut
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