The best entrepreneurship event in the world?
By Jacob Laukaitis March 12, 2015
- GSY brought together 500 young entrepreneurs from around the world
- It literally changed people’s lives, including the writer’s
IN October of 2013, non-profit StartupMalaysia.org and its founder Dhakshinamoorthy ‘Dash’ Balakrishnan organised an event called the Global Startup Youth (or GSY), backed by the Malaysian Government, in Kuala Lumpur.
The idea behind it was to invite 500 young entrepreneurs from around the world – 250 from Malaysia and 250 from more than 100 different countries – and let them work on social projects for three days, while being mentored by experienced international entrepreneurs.
They had to pick one of four areas they wanted to address with their product: Health, education, the environment, or women’s empowerment. Then they were split into teams, assigned a mentor, and gathered up in one location to work together.
They also got to attend lectures from some world-class entrepreneurs and leaders, such as Roger Dickey (the creator of Mafia Wars at Zynga), Christina Brodbeck (the fifth employee of YouTube), Orion Henry (the founder and chief executive officer of HerokuApp, a company he sold for US$250 million), and numerous others.
Even US President Barrack Obama was supposed to drop by GSY, which was an ancillary event to the Fourth Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). GES itself is an Obama brainchild, so while he couldn’t attend due to the US Government shutdown at the time, he made this video for the attendees.
You might wonder what was so special about the event. After all, there are thousands of different such events organised every year.
Well the answer is this: It literally changed people’s lives. Let me tell you how it changed mine.
I started my own business at the age of 15, sold my first company at the age of 16, then moved on to work on technology/ online businesses, visiting Silicon Valley and other startup hubs such as London and Cambridge, at the age of 17.
Even though I travelled quite a bit, I never had the chance to explore Asia. A few months after I finally finished high school (and, of course, I didn’t apply for university), a friend of mine sent me a message: “You might see something interesting in your e-mail in the coming days. Keep an eye out for it.”
Then I received an e-mail inviting me to apply for the GSY event. I did, and was accepted.
The whole experience was simply magical: The Government of Malaysia, through the Ministry of Finance, took care of all the logistic expenses including flights, hotels and food.
What’s more, the lectures were very insightful, and I met (and worked with) so many brilliant people from dozens of different countries.
But most importantly, GSY opened my eyes to the wonders of Asia: I realised that there were so many countries I hadn’t been to, growing markets I hadn’t explored, wonderful people I hadn’t met, numerous cultures I knew nothing about … and the world suddenly became so much larger.
After the event I spent a few days in Singapore and Jakarta, then flew back to Europe. I realised I had to explore much more of Asia, so I came up with an idea to do a three-month trip to five South-East Asian countries, where I would work on my business and travel/ research/ learn about all those different countries at the same time.
Since I made so many friends at GSY, I would always have people to host me and show me around, which allowed me to learn much faster.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m still traveling and working around the world – I would have done 13 Asian markets in a few weeks.
And I am thinking of moving to Kuala Lumpur right after summer to do business in Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
You might think one story is not enough to account for the money spent by the Malaysian Government to fund the event. However, there are tons of stories like mine.
Our group is still very active on Facebook, and I see people doing occasional meet-ups around the globe, keeping in touch with one another (which will definitely turn into some joint ventures eventually), and making new friends.
Some GSY participants realised they wanted to see more of Asia; others spent months travelling around Europe or the Americas.
What’s more, the 250 Malaysians who attended the event must have learned so much from the other attendees, the mentors and obviously, the lecturers.
I know it is hard to measure the event’s impact financially, if you want to count the return on investment for the Government.
But consider the fact that all those 250 people are currently applying the knowledge and connections made at the event in their daily lives: Education, work, non-profit activities, travels and current/ future businesses.
And since, as Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” the interest for the whole country and its people will be significant.
I can’t wait to attend the 2nd GSY event from March 19-21 for entrepreneurs from Asean countries. Come join us!
Jacob Laukaitis is a location independent entrepreneur, travelling the world while running his online businesses at the same time. He’s currently a business developer at online coupons website ChameleonJohn.com. You can reach him via Facebook.
‘We’re here to solve the world’s biggest problems’
GSY: Beanbag battles and working with strangers
Bootstrapping a business in Asia: Why Malaysia