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VIPs Share Secrets of Success at Entrepreneurship Summit


The Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) hosted GES+, an intensive day-long program designed to connect 150 emerging youth and women entrepreneurs with investors and leaders in the entrepreneurship space, on June 22, 2016 at Stanford University in Palo Al

Hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the world have gathered in California for their chance at access to important policymakers, investors and people who have already accomplished on grand scales what they are trying to do.

The list of speakers and panelists from the U.S. government, business community and venture capital firms at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) is extensive.

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Small Business Administration head Maria Contreras-Sweet are all taking part. So are the founders of companies such as Google and Airbnb.

"In our world today, there is an intimate connection between the creation of economic opportunity and the potential of political stability or peace; between prosperity and peace," Kerry said at the opening session Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Opening Plenary of the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., June 23, 2016.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Opening Plenary of the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., June 23, 2016.

Kerry added "We need you to utilize your business-savvy, your ambition, your dream, your desire to creatively figure out how we can educate a fast-growing generation of kids; how we can modes of transportation; how we can deliver health care to everybody and more effectively and efficiently.

"The marketplace is moving faster; ideas are moving faster, and we simply will not be able to keep up to solve the problems before us, without the talent and contributions of this generation of entrepreneurs of all of you," Kerry said.

"We've got investors, all the ecosystem supporters, educators, business representatives, government officials, and they really represent the full measure of that entrepreneurial talent that comes from diverse backgrounds across our own nation and across the world," said U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. "The caliber of talent here is very high, from many different countries.

Some of the sessions will focus on how government agencies are turning to entrepreneurs as drivers of economic growth and the way those in the U.S. tech haven of Silicon Valley are becoming more involved in emerging markets.

"We believe that entrepreneurship is a fundamental American value that attracts a lot of desire for collaboration around the world," said Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes. "We try to bring entrepreneurs together so that they are networked with one another. Often entrepreneurs from emerging economies don't have the same type of exposure to their peers as you have in the United States.

Liberian on health care

Naomi Tulay-Solanke of Liberia is one of the entrepreneurs chosen to attend the summit. Her company, Community Healthcare Initiative, focuses on providing health care to vulnerable women and children and to educate and empower girls.

"When I was first selected for the GES, thousands of things rolled through my mind," she told VOA. "But as the time grew closer, as things started to unfold, I started to understand that one of the important things I want from here is networking, get to know people. Once you get to know people, people get to know who you are."

WATCH: Naomi Tulay-Solanke

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Challenges in Africa

Other sessions at the summit will focus on challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Africa and what it takes for those who start businesses in a country other than their own.

Steven Ozoigbo, the CEO of the African Technology Foundation, was born in Nigeria but now lives in California. He said 90 percent of startups in Silicon Valley fail and that entrepreneurs in Africa need to embrace that such an outcome is a natural part of business.

"The fear of failure in Africa is a cultural fear, so we also need to work on our risk appetite, in looking at certain markets, certain environments where we can actually make change happen, and understanding local problems and local solutions," he told VOA.

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His company aims to connect African entrepreneurs with the resources commonly found in places like Silicon Valley. His advice to those who want to grow their own business is to have a local focus.

"Find a problem that's local to you," he said. "Find a solution that no one else has though of and if someone else has thought of it and they're not doing it properly, do it better than they can. Get someone to pay you for that solution, and get more than one person and scale up the amount of people that will pay for that solution."

'My Africa Is' documentary

Nosarieme Garrick, the founder and executive producer of the "My Africa Is" documentary series, also came to the United States after growing up in Nigeria. She advises people to commit to their idea and remain persistent.

"Be flexible, stay true to your idea, but still look at the market and be realistic about what you can change," she said. "Being malleable, being flexible, because that malleability allows you to change strategies if things don't go your way as opposed to sticking to the same thing."

WATCH: Nigerian Nosarieme Garrick on perseverance

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Promoting positivity

Rhodes said one of the reasons the U.S. is focused on entrepreneurship is that it "needs to have affirmative values" and not just promote the things it opposes, like with its fight against Islamic State.

"The people who come to this type of event are people who are focused on what they can build. ISIL is simply focused on what they can destroy," he said.

WATCH: Obama announces GES 2016