Championing Entrepreneurship At Home and Abroad


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Post by Penny Pritzker Secretary of Commerce

The Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) Members at the White House with President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
The Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) Members at the White House with President Barack Obama and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

A digital service that links riders to drivers. An application that allows individuals to make financial transactions on their phones. A social platform that houses “How To” videos.

The creative minds behind these ideas will converge on Silicon Valley this Thursday, but they are not who you might expect.

Not the CEO of Uber, but Hira Batool Rizvi, a young woman from Pakistan who created a digital service called She-Kab that connects women to safe drivers who get them to work free of threats and intimidation.

Not the engineers behind PayPal, but Toussaint BILLA of Gabon. He created Wety Mobile to make it easier for the African population to conduct financial transactions.

Not the geniuses who made YouTube, but Sima Najjar, who started to host “How To” videos in Arabic targeted to women.

These are just some of the innovators who will join me, Secretary of State John Kerry, and President Barack Obama at the seventh Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

This week in Silicon Valley, more than 700 entrepreneurs representing 170 countries and territories will attend GES 2016. They will be joined by investors, educators, government officials and business representatives who have the financial and intellectual resources to help turn promising ideas into viable businesses.

As Secretary of Commerce, I have had the honor of serving as the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship. It is one of my favorite aspects of the job.

I have traveled around the country and around the world meeting with people like Hira, Toussaint, and Sima. I have heard firsthand the obstacles they face as they turn their ideas into thriving enterprises. I have talked with them — and the leaders of their governments — about what is needed to create an environment in which entrepreneurship is not only accepted, but celebrated.

In Morocco, I met one young man whose startup had earned him a million dollars, yet he remained afraid to tell his mother that he had started a business. In her eyes, launching a new firm, rather than working for an established company, was too risky.

This is the uphill battle innovators face around the world. A culture that does not accept risk. A system that won’t allow failure. Difficulty accessing capital to get an idea off the ground. No mentor with experience that can help guide the way.


At GES 2015, I met with seven female finalists for the Tech-I pitch competition hosted by the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Initiative. Nigerian entrepreneur Cynthia Ndubuisi received 2nd place in the “Top Idea” stage as well as the “Best Female Entrepreneur” award.

President Obama and our entire Administration understand not only the economic value that new businesses bring to society but the immeasurable value that entrepreneurs bring to their culture and their societies — creativity, ambition, and perseverance.

We know that in the United States, our entrepreneurial spirit is one of our greatest assets and exports, and that we have the ability to nurture innovation all over the world. That is why the Global Entrepreneurship Summit was born.

The young people who travel to Silicon Valley this week will meet some of America’s finest entrepreneurs, the pioneers who followed their passions and achieved success.

Eleven of these individuals are part of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) initiative, which I am honored to chair. PAGE brings together 17 of America’s most respected business creators who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world, and that is just what they will do this week.

Read on for more details about these 11 exceptional leaders, their signature PAGE initiatives, and where to find them at GES 2016 this week.

Whether in Malaysia, Morocco, Kenya, or California, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit has always been a time to celebrate the values America strives to promote globally — ingenuity, bravery, and inclusiveness.

I have no doubt that this year’s event will once again demonstrate the talent and potential that exists all over the world, but just needs a little encouragement.

Nina Vaca

is the chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, one of the largest IT service firms in the U.S. Her signature PAGE initiative is working with the National Women’s Business Enterprise Council (WBENC) to link resources including mentorship and funding opportunities for than 9 million women-owned businesses across the country. Additionally, Nina has developed her “At the Table” initiative at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) Foundation, which leverages networks and resources to help women entrepreneurs scale their companies.

At GES 2016, Nina will join me and three other speakers for an armchair discussion on “Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership” at 2:15 pm PT on Thursday, June 23.


Andrew Yang

is the founder and CEO of Venture for America, a fellowship program for enterprising recent college graduates to launch their careers as entrepreneurs and revitalize American cities. After five weeks of training, VFA Fellows spend two years at a startup in an emerging U.S. city to learn how to contribute to a high-growth business.

On Thursday at 2:15 pm, Andrew will be a featured panelist for the GES 2016 master class, “How to Build a Startup Ecosystem from Scratch in an Emerging Market.”

Debbie Sterling

is the CEO and founder of GoldieBlox, which works to “disrupt the pink aisle” and inspire the future generation of female engineers. Debbie’s signature initiative is introducing girls to STEM through a variety of mechanisms, from a video series highlighting the STEM opportunities available to girls to partnerships with organizations like Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Girl Scouts of America to expose girls to their first experiences as entrepreneurs.

Debbie will be a featured speaker for GES 2016’s master class on “Crowdfunding and Angel Investing” at 2:15 pm on Thursday.

Steve Case

is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Revolution, an investment firm that develops “built to last” businesses. As one of America’s best-known and most accomplished entrepreneurs and philanthropists, he is a pioneer in making the Internet part of everyday life. Steve’s signature initiative is the “Rise of the Rest” bus tour that celebrates local innovators and has invested $2 million in startups in 19 cities since 2014.

Steve will be participating in a panel discussion with four award-winning GES 2016 entrepreneurs during Friday’s opening plenary session at 9:30 am.

julie hanna

is Executive Chair of the Board at Kiva, an international nonprofit dedicated to alleviating poverty by connecting people through lending. Julie’s signature initiative, “Global Capital Access,” is committed to delivering $100 million in crowdfunded loans to 200,000 women and young entrepreneurs across 86 countries, including the United States.

Julie will be a speaker in the GES 2016 master class titled “An Immigrant’s Story” on Friday at 11:45 am.

Daymond John

is the founder, president, and CEO of American apparel company FUBU as well as an investor on the ABC reality television series Shark Tank. His signature initiative is working with underserved entrepreneurs and emerging digital influencers to help them develop customer bases, brands, and new business models that can turn home-grown operations into successful businesses. Daymond has traveled around the country doing pitch contests with Capital One and mentoring entrepreneurs.

At GES 2016, Daymond will be a speaker at Friday’s 4:30 pm breakout session on “Charting an Enduring Strategy: How Entrepreneurs Can Embrace Failure.”

Daphne Koller

is the president and co-founder of Coursera, an online education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer courses for anyone to take. Daphne’s signature initiative is a Coursera Specialization in Entrepreneurship, an online series of courses that helps entrepreneurs begin and grow their businesses. Coursera Specialization continues to expand by adding new content in more languages, allowing a global sharing of knowledge.

Daphne will speak at a GES 2016 master class on “Education Technology” at 11:45 am on Friday, June 24.

Brian Chesky

is the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, an online marketplace that allows people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world. Brian’s signature initiative is working to expand Cuba’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through increased internet and online literacy; practical education in areas including photography, art, and marketing; and the introduction of online payment systems. Airbnb continues to expand offerings in Cuba and is helping Cuban entrepreneurs attend GES for the first time this year.

During the GES 2016 opening plenary on Thursday morning, Brian will discuss the sharing economy with other speakers on the “Entrepreneurial Inspiration” panel.

Daniel Lubetzky

is s the founder and CEO of KIND, one of the fastest growing U.S. snack companies that striving to make the world a little kinder, one snack and one act at a time. His signature initiative aims to pique interest in and dialogue about redefining the role of business and in society. Through it, he hopes to empower the next generation of global entrepreneurs to develop creative business models that balance commercial success with social purpose. Daniel invested $3 million in three values-driven women food entrepreneurs who participated in the first-ever The White House Demo day in 2015.

At GES 2016, Daniel will speak at the breakout session on “Solving Tomorrow’s Global Challenges” at 1 pm on Thursday.

Antonio Gracias

is the CEO and CIO of Valor Equity Partners, a private equity firm he founded in 2001. His signature initiative, Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), empowers entrepreneurs from Latin America with the training, tools, networks, and resources they need to grow their businesses and contribute to the overall economic development and prosperity of the region. YLAI has also placed select fellows in dynamic American organizations for training and mentoring.

Antonio will participate in the GES 2016 breakout session exploring “What Attracts Venture Capital/Private Equity” on Thursday at 1 pm.

Helen Greiner

is the CEO of CyPhy Works, which designs and delivers robots that solve problems that don’t yet have solutions. Helen’s signature initiative is to inspire young people to become engineers and entrepreneurs by exposing them to robotic technologies. As part of this effort, she is a regular keynote speaker at events such as the 2015 Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders and the 2016 BotBall championships. She also works to foster technological literacy through her work as a trustee of the Boston Museum of Science and an advisor to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

At GES 2016, Helen will offer her insights on robotics during the breakout session on “Emerging Global Technologies: Virtual Reality, Internet of Things, 3-D Printing” at 3 pm on Friday.

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Last updated: 2016-06-23 10:17

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