ANNOUNCEMENTS

Tajikistan Celebrates Fourth GEW With Startup Weekend, Focuses on Youth Involvement

Daniel Zaretsky | February 20, 2017
Photo Credit: GEW Tajikistan

 

For the fourth consecutive year, AmCham Tajikistan (American Chamber of Commerce) hosted Global Entrepreneurship Week Tajikistan. GEW Tajikistan is part of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), which consists of 165 countries, and is a community celebrating and promoting entrepreneurship. Our main event was the first-ever Startup Weekend in Tajikistan. Startup Weekend is a signature GEW event and Startup Weekends are 54-hour events designed to provide superior experiential education for technical and non-technical entrepreneurs.  Beginning with Friday night pitches and continuing through brainstorming, business plan development, and basic prototype creation, Startup Weekends culminate in Sunday night demos and presentations.  Participants create working startups during the event and are able to collaborate with like-minded individuals outside of their daily networks.

Our Startup Weekend had four lead organizers, one Startup Weekend Global Facilitator, 80+ attendees, 35 ideas pitched, 12 teams formed, 54 hours, 14+ partners, three speakers, eight mentors/ coaches, six judges, and three winners. MevaMix, an online marketplace for farmers to directly sell their fruits, took first place; Boom, a professional photo studio for future mothers and children, took second place; and I’m Solution!, a geo-tagging mobile app to map events, took third place.

AITE, which was the lead organizer for Startup Weekend, also organized Regional Session on Practical Consulting (GEW Investments). Here, we brought trainers and mentors from Russia for a two-day program to teach the local startup community how to pitch, build teams and work with and find foreign investors, among other things. The speakers included Dmitry Kovalenko and Maxim Kiselev, who are both Members of the Advisory Board of LOGA Group and the Russian office of Seed Forum Global, as well as Steinar Korsmo, Founder and CEO of Seed Forum Global.

Sponsors included RVC, a state fund of funds of the Russian Federation, LOGA Group, which offers a wide range of programs for the fast-growing high-tech companies and corporations: acceleration, preparation for listing, risk management and preparation of investment documents and statements, and RSPK (Regional Practical Consulting Sessions), which is aimed at creating an innovation ecosystem in the regions of Russia and the development of regional entrepreneurship in the sphere of high technologies.

In addition, UN volunteers launched Start-Up Choihona (GEW Investments). Start-Up Choihona is a project aiming at increasing youth employment and income generation through supporting innovative new entrepreneurship. The project was born as a joint initiative of various development, governmental and private sector partners in order respond to the urgent need of involving the youth in development. The project was initiated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, which contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide and is administrated by UNDP and supported by the government of Tajikistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Accelerate Prosperity, Caritas Germany, Young Entrepreneurs Club and Tcell.

On Friday, November 18, the launching event of Start-Up Choihona brought together representatives of governmental and nongovernmental agencies, young entrepreneur-minded people, private sector, business leaders, mass media and international organizations to boost the start-up ecosystem in Tajikistan. As part of the Start-Up Choihona project, a quarterly arranged pitching competition is a platform for entrepreneurs to bring forward their start-up ideas and to look for business partners, coaching, and see if their business idea has potential to fly. Young entrepreneurs pitched their unique business ideas to a panel of judges, effectively presented their business plans, and gained valuable networks with partners and investors during the event.

As well, The National Association of Business Women of Tajikistan (NABWT) with the support of the public and private sectors, organized the competition "Woman Entrepreneur of the Year" Farah – 2016 (GEW Women) and the Union of Craftsmen organized a Winter Artisans Fair (GEW Cities). In addition, Haft Paykar organized a five-day Crafts and Fashion International Festival (GEW Cities) and the US Embassy organized the two-day Women in Business event (GEW Gender), both of which featured international speakers, roundtables, an expo with exhibitors from all regions of Tajikistan, and master classes. The latter event had a special emphasis on regional cooperation, and so included the heads of women’s business associations from neighboring countries, such as Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

As part of GEW Youth, AmCham organized Innovate for Change is a 12-day social entrepreneurship project which ran from Aug. 1 to Aug. 12, and was co-organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Tajikistan, Tcell, Dushanbe Sheraton Hotel, and American Councils for International Education. It is designed to teach university students about social entrepreneurship, management, and leadership.

During the first half of the event, university students attended lectures and seminars given by entrepreneurs and leaders in the private and non-profit sectors. In the second half, students broke into two groups to work on consulting projects with a social impact focus. One group worked with Tcell at their headquarters, while the other worked with the Dushanbe Sheraton Hotel at their facility. Each company gave their group of students a task or problem, which the students had to complete or solve with a focus on social impact. The exercise gave students the opportunity to serve as consultants, offering fresh and innovative perspectives on business. Companies, in turn, were provided the chance to hear insights directly from local youth. 

In addition, American Councils organized a Webinar with Ohio State University – Fisher College of Business: Master of Business Administration (MBA) Programs in the U.S. Nov. 17 – GEW Youth.

Overall, this year we made great progress by, among other things, holding a meeting for the first time before GEW with various stakeholders planning their own GEW events. Those participating in the meeting are potential members of our future GEN Tajikistan Board of Directors. This is the first year that AmCham was not the lead organizer of any event, but that our partners, organized their own events. Therefore, this is a sign that GEW is growing in Tajikistan itself.

In addition, Startup Weekend (GEW Cities) was a huge success and a great leap forward for Tajikistan. It is the first time ever in Tajikistan that we managed to hold a pitch competition of that caliber.

In total, GEW had 10 events and since some events were organized by various partners together, we had nearly 20 partners organizing events overall.  While all events were held in Dushanbe, the capital, this year, we had participants coming from all regions of Tajikistan. In addition, we had more than 1,000 total participants at all events.

For the coming year, we look forward to doing a comprehensive mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tajikistan, choosing a board for a possible future GEN Tajikistan, planning a good number of our events earlier in the year, and possibly opening a techno park. We also hope to hold Startup Weekends quarterly.

For more information, visit https://www.genglobal.org/tajikistan, and to see additional pictures of GEW Tajikistan, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/gewtajikistan/sets/72157676800422851.

Daniel Zaretsky
American entrepreneur in Central Asia. Work experience in private, government, NGO, business association and academic/university (teaching and... About the Author