Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is powered by Kauffman Foundation, the initiative is supported by dozens of world leaders and a network of more than 15,000 partner organizations. During this one week each November, thousands of events and competitions in 170 countries inspire millions to engage in entrepreneurial activities while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors.
The Bangladeshi leg of the week-long event marathon and engagement with entrepreneurs and innovators from around the country was jointly organized by EMK Center and Startup Bangladesh. Two co-founders of Startup Dhaka, Samad Miraly and Mustafizur Khan, were the moderators of “Meet The CEO’s of Successful Startups” and “Incubators Panel” respectively. The former was held on 11 November 2018 while the latter was held on 13 November 2018 at the recently inaugurated office of Startup Bangladesh.
The panellists of “Meet The CEO’s of Successful Startups” included CEOs of some of the big names that are dominating the startup ecosystem and the funding raising domain. They were Maliha Quadir, CEO of Shohoz, Imtiaz Adnan, CEO of Sheba, Waseem Alim, CEO of Chaldal and Zeeshan Kingshuk Huq, CEO of Zero Gravity Ventures. All of the big names shared each of their inspiring stories that commanded the audience’s full attention. It was a heart-warming to know that all of these entrepreneurs sacrificed their good lives and very well paying jobs in developed part of the world to come back and get their hands dirty to solve pressing problems for the nation. Their unique perspectives of life, how they see a problem as an opportunity and the resilience to execute tasks with tremendous discipline in the most tumultuous business environment of Bangladesh reflects their unwavering drive and patriotism.
The insightful and interesting panel discussion ended with everyone sharing the challenges they faced while bringing their nascent ventures up from the very bottom. Maliha Quadir mentioned that one of the biggest challenges was to sell Bangladesh abroad, which is known to the rest of world for its infamous floods and poverty. Waseem of Chaldal expressed his worry about the braindrain Bangladesh is experiencing. Zero Gravity’s Kingshuk commented on the gaps in the work culture of Bangladesh. He said that the work culture needs to be more execution focused. In this vein, startup is the culture that upholds this much needed work characteristic that will prove beneficial for the nation’s economic growth.
Upnext, “Incubators Panel” was attended by the leaders and organisers of the most active incubators and accelerators of the country, namely – Shamira Mostafa, investment and knowledge management lead of Business Finance for the Poor in Bangladesh, Dewan Adnan, consultant of Startup Bangladesh, Minhaz Anwar, Grameen Phone’s (GP) head of startup ecosystem, Nirjhor Rahman, CEO of Bangladesh Angels, Zaved Parvez, VP of Robi Axiata (representing R-Ventures) and Mustafizur Khan, moderator of the panel and the CEO of Startup Dhaka.
With numerous years of coaching and mentoring thousands of startups, the panellists discussed the role of their organisation in enriching the startup ecosystem, challenges faced by entrepreneurs and how their organisations can help entrepreneurs overcome these hurdles, secure fund and be sustainable in the long run. Shamira Mostafa mentioned that the avenue provided by BFPB’s Bootcamp enables idea stage and early stage ventures to test their minimum viable products or to create prototype for ideas not yet mature. Dewan Adnan of Startup Bangladesh provided deep insights into the interests of the government in facilitating Digital Bangladesh through venture capital investments. Minhaz Anwar of GP highlighted the significance and huge potentials of social ventures to eradicate social and economic problems. Zaved Parvez of R-Ventures inspiringly invited all stakeholders, big or small, irrelative of background and culture to come together for the growth of the ecosystem. Lastly, Nirjhor Rahman of BD Angels shed light on the importance of large ticket size to facilitate true growth of potentially rich startups.
On the whole, GEW 2018 was a hit. Startups, investors and the general public had a lot to take away from the series of events that called for inward reflection to unleash an individual’s potential and thereby drive the ecosystem at top gear to reach global standards by waking up the sleeping beast that Bangladesh is.