- GEM’s intent will be sustained in regional cities through chapter houses
- Competition for breakthrough idea expected to attract top ecosystem support
THE Global Entrepreneurship Movement (GEM) officially launched the ColossusINNO2017 competition on June 21. The aim of the competition, which has a grand prize of US$100,000, is to draw out entrepreneurs with world-class innovations that can help transform the socio-economic community of the Asean region.
According to GEM patron and vocal proponent of innovation and entrepreneurship in Malaysia Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, who is also the Treasury secretary-general of Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance, ColossusINNO2017 was created to democratise entrepreneurship by ensuring there are no barriers for aspiring entrepreneurs to create new enterprises, obtain education in the field of entrepreneurship and connect the Asean entrepreneurship ecosystem to global ecosystems.
Cross-border links to support regional ideas
To kick-start this global entrepreneurship movement, GEM is actively building advocates called GEM Champions and GEM City-chapters to champion GEM programmes and objectives, drive stronger cross-market access.
These GEM Champions are ecosystem builders in their own cities that have established and direct access to local entrepreneurship communities. The GEM Champions will steadily build GEM city-chapters in their respective cities. The cities include Bangalore, New Delhi, Guangzhou, Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila.
Mandy Nguyen of Startup Vietnam Foundation, which is Ho Chih Min City’s GEM Champion, says that GEM provides a much-needed avenue for entrepreneurs across the region to work together. Micah Asitores of Manila’s GEM Champion A Space adds that ColossusINNO2017 gives entrepreneurs a specific target to work towards to create the next great idea, and provides previously unavailable regional encouragement and support.
Currently, Guangzhou is the only city in which GEM has a physical presence; the market size and great potential of this space made moving forward at a quicker pace ideal. GB Loh of Guangzhou’s GEM Champion G-Connect says that though the prize money offered by ColossusINNO2017 is not a huge amount, it is something to get started with.
“Winning this competition can make dreams a reality, and raise a startup’s profile regionally so to allow it to get investors,” he says, adding that the connectivity GEM offers will expand horizons and open many opportunities for cross-border collaborations.
Trinh Minh Giang of Hanoi’s GEM Champion Viet Management Consulting Group says that local players and platforms are ready to go global and only need an international platform to push them in that direction.
Trinh, Loh and Chayanat Chaiwattanapong of Bangkok’s GEM Champion Hubba all agree that local entrepreneurs already have regional-sized ideas.
Innovation to push evolution
CollossusINNO2017 was created to inspire breakthrough innovation and thinking among entrepreneurs to allow them to identify and build ventures that will provide solutions to regional problems in the Asean region.
In this light, ColossusINNO2017 is looking for the big solutions that will address market gaps and in turn propel Asean nations closer to first world status, including innovation in the areas of governance, poverty eradication, education, health, environment and sanitation.
“Personally, I want a breakthrough creation that will really push the whole ecosystem. If it’s a real breakthrough, putting it into the market will be easy and financing can be found. But it must be an innovation for this region,” adds Irwan.
The competition is expected to attract support from top ecosystem players, such as accelerators and early-stage funders. “GEM aims to attract regional and global startups to launch their ventures in Malaysia through ColossusINNO2017, with the help of our global support network,” says GEM president Dhakshinamoorthy 'Dash ' Balakrishnan.
“We hope this will garner more interest from the international funding community and support network.”
Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd CEO Nazrin Hassan says that though creating international links has generally been a struggle for many organisations, GEM has been able to do so and get a buy-in from regional players through great expansion of time and effort. He adds that support from industry and government, plus two good primary drivers in its patron and president, have enabled it to achieve this success.
Though local tech ecosystems around the region have evolved tremendously over the years, there is still room from growth and, Irwan says, greater confidence to think big, take on bigger challenges and for entrepreneurs to direct their imagination on “innovating in Asia for Asia”.
“There is an appetite and a hunger, and people are looking for a space to release their creativity. We are providing them that platform,” he says, adding that GEM’s regional network will hopefully spur more trade as well.
He also adds that initiatives such as this act to educate leaders and policy makers about how quickly innovation and trade can move and push them to change entrenched ways of thinking.
“This whole idea is a bold ambition, and a difficult, uphill task. But nothing is impossible. It can be done,” says Irwan.
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