Remarks by the President at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit & Conversation with Mark Zuckerberg & Entrepreneurs #GES2016

GESSummit2016Last week Friday at Stanford University, at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, President Obama gave remarks and had a conversation with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and entrepreneurs about entrepreneurship. His remarks came hours after the breaking news that the UK had pulled out of the EU. Read his remarks and watch conversation with Zuckerberg and entrepreneurs.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Hello, everybody. Thank you so much. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Everybody have a seat. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, this is a good-looking group. Thank you. (Applause.)

Well, first of all, let me thank President Hennessy for the introduction, and the entire Stanford family for letting us take over the campus for a few days. As some of you know, John is stepping down after 16 years as president of Stanford. Fortunately for me, I cannot do that, to just stick around longer than my term limit. John, I’m sure there are some people who want you to stick around longer, but I’m confident that you’re going to do extraordinary things. And we could not be prouder of John Hennessey and Stanford, and all the great work that they have done. So please give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)

Now, it’s summer break. Just so you all of you know, Stanford is not always this quiet. This school is unique. Folks ride on bicycles everywhere. (Laughter.) And athletes are also computer engineers. This is the place that made “nerd” cool. (Applause.) So we are thrilled to be here.

I know that I am not the first speaker that you’ve heard from. But many of you have traveled here from a long ways. We’ve got more than 170 countries from every region of the world represented. Some of you, this is the first time you are visiting our country. So let me just say, on behalf of the American people, not only welcome to our Global Entrepreneurship Summit, but welcome to the United States of America. We are glad to have you. (Applause.)

I am not going to give a long speech, because what I really want to do is have a conversation with some outstanding young people who are part of our panel and we’re going to introduce in a moment. But I do want to begin by offering some opening thoughts about the time in which we gather here today. And I’m going to start with the British people’s decision to leave the European Union, the vote that took place yesterday.

Just a few hours ago, I spoke with Prime Minister David Cameron. David has been an outstanding friend and partner on the global stage. And based on our conversation, I’m confident that the UK is committed to an orderly transition out of the EU. We agreed that our economic and financial teams will remain in close contact as we stay focused on ensuring economic growth and financial stability. I then spoke to Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and we agreed that the United States and our European allies will work closely together in the weeks and months ahead.

I do think that yesterday’s vote speaks to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization. But while the UK’s relationship with the EU will change, one thing that will not change is the special relationship that exists between our two nations. That will endure. The EU will remain one of our indispensable partners. Our NATO alliance will remain a cornerstone of global security. And in a few weeks we’ll be meeting in Warsaw for the NATO Summit. And our shared values — including our commitment to democracy and pluralism, and opportunity for all people in a globalized world — that will continue to unite all of us. And that is the work that brings us here today.

The world has shrunk. It is interconnected. All of you represent that interconnection. Many of you are catalyzing it and accelerating it. It promises to bring extraordinary benefits. But it also has challenges. And it also evokes concerns and fears. And so part of why this Global Entrepreneurship Summit has been so close to my heart, something that I’ve been so committed to, because I believe all of you represent all the upside of an interconnected world, all the optimism and the hope and the opportunity that that interconnected world represents.

But it’s also important in these discussions to find ways in which we are expanding and broadening the benefits of that interconnection to more and more people. And that’s what’s so many of you are doing.

We’re gathered here at Stanford, in the heart of Silicon Valley, which is one of the great hubs of innovation and entrepreneurship not just for America, but for the world. This is a place that celebrates our ability as human beings to discover and learn and to build, to question, to reimagine, to create new ways to connect and work with each other.

It’s where two guys in a garage, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, launched a global company. Where student projects became Yahoo! and Google — those were really good student projects. (Laughter.) My student projects weren’t as good. (Laughter.) It’s where entrepreneurs like so many of you get an idea, and you build a team and you work to turn it into reality, and you launch products and companies and entire industries that transform the world. That’s the power of entrepreneurship. And it’s never been more important.

In today’s world, where our economies have undergone dramatic shifts, where business don’t stop at borders, where technology and automation have transformed virtually every industry and changed how people organize and work, entrepreneurship remains the engine of growth. That ability to turn an idea into reality — a new venture, a small business — that creates good-paying jobs; that puts rising economies on the path to prosperity, and empowers people to come together and tackle our most pressing global problems, from climate change to poverty.

When people can start their own businesses, it helps individuals and families succeed. It can make whole communities more prosperous and more secure. It offers a positive path for young people seeking the chance to make something of themselves, and can empower people who have previously been locked out of the existing social order — women and minorities, others who aren’t part of the “old boys” network — give them a chance to contribute and to lead. And it can create a culture where innovation and creativity are valued — where we don’t just look at the way things have always been, but rather we say, how could things be? Why not? Let’s make something new.

This spirit speaks to something deep inside of all of us — no matter who we are, what we look like, where we come from. You look out across this auditorium — you’re all of different backgrounds and cultures, and races and religions. Some of you are from teeming cities; others are working I small rural villages. But you have that same spark, that same creative energy to come up with innovative solutions to old challenges.
And entrepreneurship is what gives people like you a chance to fulfill your own dreams and create something bigger than yourselves.

We live in a time when more than half the world is under the age of 30. That means we got to make sure that all of our young people around the world have the tools they need to start new ventures, and to create the jobs of the 21st century, and to help lift up entire populations. And so many of you are already doing this. As I travel around the world, one of the extraordinary things that I have the opportunity to do is to meet young people in every region and to see the problem-solving and the energy and optimism that they’re bringing to everything from how to generate electricity in environmentally sound ways in remote places that are off the grid right now, to how do you employ women in remote areas who all too often have been locked out of opportunity. You just see enormous creativity waiting to be tapped.

And part of our job, part of this summit’s job is to make sure that we’re putting more tools, more resources into the hands of these folks who are changing the world, and making sure that all of you know each other so you can share best practices and ideas, and spread the word.

Now, I know the daily reality is not always as romantic as all this. It turns out that starting your own business is not easy. You have to have access to capital. You have to meet the right people. You have to have mentors who can guide you as you get your idea off the ground. And that can be especially difficult for women and young people and minorities, and others who haven’t always had access to the same networks and opportunities. You deserve the same chance to succeed as everybody else. We’ve got to make sure that everybody has a fair shot to reach their potential — we can’t leave more than half the team on the bench.

That’s why we’ve invested so much time and effort to make sure that America is helping to empower entrepreneurs like you. We held our first summit back in 2010. Since then, we’ve brought entrepreneurs like you together in Turkey, and the Emirates, and Malaysia, Morocco, Kenya. And all told, we’ve helped more than 17,000 entrepreneurs and innovators connect with each other, access capital, find mentors, and start new ventures — 17,000. (Applause.)

I think of the Tanzanian startup that helps farmers reduce their harvest losses. Or the company in Nepal that’s helping to improve charity health care. There are 11 Cubans who are here today — the first Cubans to join us at one of these summits. (Applause.) Hola! Mucho gusto. (Applause.) They’re ready to help create new opportunities for the Cuban people. Where are they? (Applause.) There they are.

I want to thank Antonio Gracias — a leader in private equity and one of our Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship — because his support was critical in bringing these young Cuban entrepreneurs here. So that’s deserving of a hand. (Applause.)

I’m also pleased to announce that we have a new group of business leaders signing on as entrepreneurship ambassadors. This is something that we started as part of the summit, and they have put their time, energy, effort, and in some cases, their money behind entrepreneurs around the world. So of our new ambassadors — Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx. (Applause.) Jane Wurwand, CEO of Dermalogica. (Applause.) Steven Jurvetson, partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson. (Applause.) And Patrick Collison, CEO of Stripe. (Applause.)

Now, supporting entrepreneurs isn’t just something we do around the world. It’s also a key part of how we create jobs and fuel innovation here in the United States. And it’s why we’re working with communities to streamline the process for launching a company — “Startup in a Day.” It’s why we’re expanding Innovation Corps — our program to equip more scientists and engineers with entrepreneurial skills. And it’s why, at this summit, dozens of top tech companies, from giants to startups, are committing to make their technology workforces look like America, including by publishing data on diversity each year and developing the tech talent of people from all backgrounds. We’re very happy for the commitments that they’ve made, so give them a big round of applause for that. (Applause.)

Here at this summit, we’re also building on our progress with new commitments from government and businesses and philanthropists. So at last year’s Paris climate talks, for example, Bill Gates and other top global investors committed to partnering with governments to invest in cutting-edge clean energy solutions. Today, we’re launching an initiative to connect some of these global investors and others with clean energy entrepreneurs from developing countries.

We’re also announcing the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative, which will bring 200 of Europe’s innovators to the U.S. each year to develop their skills. (Applause.) And we’ve got organizations like Endeavor, which supports entrepreneurs, starting a $100 million fund to invest in companies across Latin America, and the Middle East, in Africa, and Southeast Asia. (Applause.) Investment firms like Capria Ventures, which will help fund international startups. So these are just a handful of the commitments — and I suspect, new ventures — that are going to come out of this year’s summit.

So all of you budding entrepreneurs, don’t be shy while you’re here. Talk to the experts here. Make your pitch. Network with potential investors. Find that mentor who might help you navigate through a tough patch. Connect with your fellow innovators. Because ultimately the world needs your creativity, and your energy, and your vision. You are going to be what helps this process of global integration work in a way that is good for everyone and not just some.

Now, I’ve spoken about this before. I believe we are better off in a world in which we are trading and networking and communicating and sharing ideas. But that also means that cultures are colliding and sometimes is disruptive, and people get worried. You’re the bridge, you’re the glue — particularly the young people who are here — who can help lead towards a more peaceful and more prosperous future that provides opportunity for everybody.

And because this is about more than just this one event, or for that matter, this one President, we’re going to make sure that the United States continues to help developing the next generation of entrepreneurs. We are very proud to announce that next year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be hosted in India. (Applause.) Got the Indian contingent in the house. I’ll try to stop by if I’m invited. (Laughter.)

But the point is, I believe in you, and America believes in you. And we believe that you have the talent and the skills and the ambition not just to pursue your dreams, but to realize them; that you can lift up not just your own families, but communities and countries, and create opportunity and prosperity and hope for decades to come. That’s the promise that we see in all of you.

And that is the promise that we see in our outstanding panelists that you’re going to hear from. Mai Medhat, of Egypt, who is a software engineer, who started a company called Eventtus, which is a one-stop online shop for people who organize events. (Applause.)

We see it in Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, of Rwanda, who is the founder and CEO of Habona Limited, a company that uses biomass and waste to develop eco-friendly fuels that are used in rural Africa. (Applause.)

Mariana Costa Checa, of Peru. Mariana is the founder of Laboratoria, which gives young women from low-income backgrounds the education and tools they need to work in the digital sector. (Applause.)

And if that lineup is not enough, you also see it in a guy that you may have heard of who has done pretty well for himself, the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. (Applause.)

They’re the real experts. Let’s welcome them to the stage, and we’ll start having a conversation with them. Thank you. (Applause.)


Ladybrille Magazine

Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.

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