GES Alumni Impact Stories and Testimonials
More than 18,000 established and emerging leaders have participated in the past Global Entrepreneurship Summits held around the world – and investors, foundations, and venture capital firms have announced millions of dollars in commitments to support entrepreneurs globally. The relationships formed at these Summit transcend industries and sectors and transform ideas into enterprises.
President Trump is committed to elevating entrepreneurship and the role it plays in ensuring security and prosperity both domestically and globally.
Following two days of dynamic discussions, training and mentoring sessions, these entrepreneurs return to their home countries inspired and connected to possibilities. Of the thousands of entrepreneurs who have participated, we have highlighted ten alumni stories from across the world, who shared their firsthand experiences and memories of the GES.
Taken together, these testimonials weave a powerful story. While entrepreneurship is deeply individual – the entrepreneur who takes a risk, the mentor who helps an emerging leader navigate a pivotal time, the angel investor who discovers a promising young idea to fund – it is also deeply centered on the community of people who work together to share their experiences and help each other succeed. GES brings those people together to champion new initiatives, bring products and services to market, and create strong local ecosystems across the United States and the world,
Read the stories of those for whom the impact of the GES continues to this day, below. Interviews have been lightly condensed and edited.
Mr. Desmond Choi (Canada)
GES: Palo Alto, California – 2016
Desmond says his GES experience provided him with a “platform to connect with entrepreneurs, domain expertise and mentors around the world. Through the speaker series and workshops hosted by top Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, I was inspired to think beyond the Canadian border.”
Now as the head of product growth at Diamond.io, he is leading efforts to “rethink how we can use machine learning to improve our day to day work.” He is also and in extending the efforts of GES, is working with the Kairos Society to unite young entrepreneurs finding innovative solutions to market or government obstacles. Mr. Choi also a founding member of the U.S.-Canada Toronto Alumni Advisory Council, and continues to encourage youth empowerment and education.
Mr. Arzish Azam (Pakistan)
GES: Palo Alto, California – 2016
Arzish, the young founder of product comparison engine Just Price (Pvt) Limited, participated in the GES and still recalls that "I was just a teenage entrepreneur from Pakistan when I got the opportunity to participate in GES 2016 and learn first-hand from the experiences of legendary entrepreneurs. Pakistan represented one of the largest foreign delegations to the Summit, and I was one of the youngest amongst them.”
Calling GES “a truly life-changing opportunity,” Arzish said he valued the experience, explaining that it helped him “learn, de-learn, and re-learn from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as well as from the entrepreneurs that traveled to the Summit from all over the world. GES played a significant role in helping me achieve success with my startup JustPrice.pk by providing access to mentors, entrepreneurs, and investors and providing opportunities for growth.”
Those lessons helped him expand his commercial ideas. In addition to continuing to run Just Price Limited, after making contact with a marketing company during his experience in Palo Alto, Arzish Arzish became that company’s first distributor and certified partner in Pakistan. He recently opened 30 “JustWifi” outlets in Lahore that provide wifi marketing and in-store analytics for offline retail businesses.
Mr. Surath Giri and Ms. Ishu Subedi, (Nepal)
GES: Marrakech, Morocco – 2014; Palo Alto, California – 2016
Before attending the GES in 2014, Mr. Surath Giri, founder of Onion Films, worked for a think-tank that promoted entrepreneurship and free-enterprise policies – but the “life-changing, eye-opening experience” of GES 2014 prompted him to reconsider his job. It launched an idea to start his own company, Onion Films, which grew from a brainstorm into a full enterprise dedicated to creating and sharing meaningful stories.
Ishu, co-founder of Woof Web Studio, a web design and development company, had a similar experience years later while in Palo Alto. Since starting her career as a customer support associate at a call center selling website services at age 17, she had been interested in the IT industry. She started her own company at the age of 22, and when it failed, she persevered. Selected to participate in the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) for entrepreneurs in 2014, Ishu traveled across the United States and continued to refine her passion for web design.
Before attending the GES, she felt adrift and lost with her emerging company – but the “amazing experience” of the 2016 GES ultimately inspired her to adapt her business strategy. In California, Ishu was “able to meet and interact with CEOs from innovative companies across like Airbnb and LinkedIn,” and in the course of those conversations, walked away more motivated and confident in her work. She has subsequently launched a number of online solutions and social media campaigns throughout Nepal, and continues her search for the perfect web and graphic design.
Mr. Dao Xuan Hoang (Vietnam)
GES: Palo Alto, California – 2016
Through multiple rounds of competition against more than 1,000 applicants from over 100 countries, Dao Xuan, the founder of language teaching app Monkey Junior was awarded first place in the? Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I– an experience that he writes was a personal and professional inflection point.
“Attending GES and winning the Tech-I competition was a turning point that changed our business completely. First of all, we received tons of media coverage as our story was featured on many newspapers, national television, social media... and all the sudden, our product Monkey Junior, which was released not so long before the competition, became quite popular in Vietnam.”
After the GES, Dao Xuan returned to Vietnam and was interviewed by U.S. Ambassador Osius at an American Center of Hanoi hosted event. Over 100 entrepreneurs, investors, and donors attended the event, in addition to a number of major Vietnamese media and national TV stations. The audience eagerly asked Hoang questions, including advice on early childhood education and language acquisition and tips on how to successfully establish a startup in Vietnam.
Monkey Junior has continued expanding since Dao Xuan’s trip to Silicon Valley in 2016 – and his company has now added more than 80 staff, compared to the 6 staff employed before the GES.
“Right now, Monkey Junior allows kids to learn five different languages, with two more languages being added in the coming months. We are about to launch two more products: Monkey Stories (learn languages based on stories) and Monkey Math (a complete curriculum for kids to learn math).”
“Talking to many experienced entrepreneurs at GES opened up my perspective. Soon after returning from GES, we decided to change our strategy which was to go global and to diversify our products to serve a wider range of customers.” That strategy has paid off: Monkey Junior now has more than 2 million customers worldwide, and has achieved recognition as one of the most downloaded language applications across several countries.
Mr. Alim Khamitov and Ms. Dinara Issabekova (Kazakhstan)
GES: Marrakech, Morocco – 2014
Alim, a delegate selected to represent Kazakhstan on the international stage at the GIST Tech-I Pitch competition, and whom was ultimately selected as ‘best tech startup,’ shares her experience at GES, 2014. It was the, “expertise I received during GES [which] allowed me to ‘polish’ my product and came up with the final solution which was presented to the market.”
The GIST Tech-I Competition seeks to empower young innovators through networking, skills building, mentoring, and access to financing to develop startup solutions that address their economic and development challenges. Finalists are divided into two groups, those with ventures in the idea stage, and those in the startup stage.
After two days of intensive preparation in advance of the GES on how to grow my business and perfect the pitch, led by the U.S. Department of State’s implementing partner and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Alim placed thirdin the Competition.
Even years later, recounting the experience, he remembers that“GES gave me a great number of networks which help me up to this day. I am still in contact with tech entrepreneurs from other countries, and we share experiences and insights in building our businesses.”
It was, “overall, an exciting and great experience in my life!”
Another colleague in Alim’s delegation, Dinara, observed that attending the GES changed her perspective: “I began to think not only within the city or the country, but more globally – boundaries disappeared and new possibilities arise to realize your ideas.” She departed Morocco renewed, and inspired from the thousands of people who gathered together:.“They share knowledge, create projects, search for and find solutions for important problems, maybe with small steps, but with very confident ones. To know and understand that you are not alone in your business is priceless!”
Ms. Yvette Mazariegos (Belize)
GES: Nairobi, Kenya – 2015
For entrepreneur Yvette Mazariegos, the experience of attending “GES opened my eyes and my mind to more possibilities that I could ever have imagined if I had not attended. I met many entrepreneurs who had similar challenges and solutions as those that I faced when starting my business.”
She said that her time at the Summit inspired her to expand her business –distributing sterile hospital supplies – by not only providing ideas, but on creating the energy to look beyond her existing network by participating in global trade shows.
Yvette is now one of Belize’s leading female entrepreneurs, but her business started small in 1996. She credits much of her success both to always looking out for opportunities and to harnessing programs through U.S. Embassy Belize, online courses, and conversations with various influencers and authors.
“All of us have a dream to grow a business and help develop our communities,” she said, but “At GES 2015, I was happy to realize that I was not alone, or isolated, as there are many entrepreneurs overcoming similar struggles.”
After her experience at the GES, Yvette was honored as the founding present of the Belize Alumni Association (BAA) as an alumni of US Embassy Belize.
Mr. Kim Min-seok (Republic of Korea)
GES: Palo Alto, California – 2016
One of Korea’s first generation unicorn game developers, Kim founded SmartStudy, a preschool education app and video contents, in 2010. The company’s education app, ‘Pinkfong’ series has taken the top spot in the education category of the iPad App Store in 109 countries, including US, UK, Australia, and Japan.
Since the 2016 GES, Kim has witnessed many notable global achievements: the company is now running its own YouTube channel in five languages, preparing an expansion into Hindi and Russian languages, and launching into the Chinese internet market – including the top ranking within the Xiaomi app store’s education category and number one highest grossing educational content on China’s local digital streaming TV services.
A Korean colleague of Kim’s who also attended the Summit as a representative shares, “At the Summit, we realized that an entrepreneur is more than just a businessperson who creates jobs and earns money. It is also a person who solves a problem in his or her community and makes a change..”
For Kim, the GES was about more than just starting a business or creating a job – it was the idea that he could change the future, and that “I have a fundamental idea of what my business and service means to the world.”