Posted by: Jack Santos
Tomorrow is the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving in the states.
It is sometimes interesting how unrelated events seem to converge in space and time to make a point, and emphasize the spirit of a holiday where Americans give thanks for what they have, and have become. In my case it was three events over the past week.
The point was how small our world is becoming, how people feel empowered, and the role of entrepreneurship in it. At the Boston SIM meeting, I heard Iqbal Z. Quadir speak about the efforts of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship (at MIT: http://legatum.mit.edu). A fascinating story… and basically a story about cell phone entrepreneurship in Bangladesh. The Economist covered that this world economic miracle well, calling it the Indian model. To sum up Iqbal’s message (probably unfairly): the only way to impact the third world is to give economic power to the masses – and the way to do that is through entrepreneurial opportunity. Not loans to governments. Not stimulus plans. Heck, he made a case for shutting down the world bank…
That same week saw a call from an Argentinean company to pitch their product, ostensibly an outsourcing play. Hmm, India, Philippines, China, now Brazil, Argentina…
In fact, the software development company (Globant) was less about traditional outsourcing, and competing on price, and more about competing on the strength of its innovativeness, it passion, and the skills of their people. Latin American pride came through, and it was clear that they weren’t just an engineering company, but positioning themselves as designers, analysts, and would come onsite, offsite, or a mix. A very impressive repertoire of projects, and an eye-opening view of how reach of the internet is affecting talent sourcing. Here, too, was Iqbal’s example of entrepreneurial energy, lifting the economic opportunities within Latin America.
At the other end of the spectrum is my daughter’s effort in Sao Tome, a small African island nation off the west coast of Africa. She’s down there helping them make effective use of the 100 “one laptop per child” laptops they got from the MIT program hand-out. Yes, probably exactly the same kind of program that Iqbal (also at MIT) complained only empowers the status quo – the existing regime, the government. Maybe so – and there is a lot of evidence of that. But it’s also clear that the same kind of entrepreneurial fever is at play there, in the eyes and aspirations of the children. It’s like planting a seed – an understanding within the child that there is so much more to the world than the poverty and limits they are surrounded by. Maybe it’s that kind of start that feeds the entrepreneurial fever, that leads to economic power. I can only hope.
So there you have it. It can takes two years for a letter to reach Sao Tome from the states. Yet I chat online with my daughter almost every night, and keep abreast at the efforts with the kids. It sounds like the start of the kind of momentum that Iqbal described happened in Bangladesh. The kids in Sao Tome are getting ready.
Not exactly what the pilgrims had in mind, but hopefully the results will be similar – after all, the pilgrims were economic entrepreneurs, too.