Emerging Trends | SMEs/Entrepreneurship
January 30, 2014

Sowing the seeds of innovation

By Alisée De Tonnac

Photo by Joshua Earle

“Silicon Valley is not the only place in the world where talented entrepreneurs hide. All entrepreneurs, no matter where they come from deserve a chance to thrive.” Alisee de Tonnac, cofounder of Seedstars World.

Start-ups have arguably never been more popular, with the sheer number of start-up businesses increasing year on year. City hubs like Silicon Valley have long provided the perfect mix of intellectual capital and ready financing to grow and nurture start-up businesses and ideas, and now the model is expanding and being replicated elsewhere.

The City of New York is flirting with the idea of a Silicon Island. Places like Nairobi and Cape Town are fighting to position themselves as hubs in the developing world, with a proliferation of start-up funds, cheap broadband and offices where young innovators and entrepreneurs can rent workspace for a negligible fee and enjoy proximity to other likeminded individuals. That’s how start-ups materialize, evolve and grow; when people and ideas meet to influence each other and are combined to create a symphony. This is innovation in its purest form.

Many events around the world attempt to capture these forces in a programme to help young people get the jump-start they need. Such was the intention of the BYND2015 Global Summit on Youth and ICT hosted in San José late 2013 by ITU and the Government of Costa Rica. The event took the pulse of a worldwide youth community to pin-point the hottest topics in social tech. These were identified as employment opportunities, governance issues, environmental sustainability, cybersecurity and health; issues which are often the motivation behind new start-up companies and applications.

Seedstars World is a start-up competition for emerging markets and fast growing start-up scenes, which seeks to showcase such innovations and provide a forum for feedback, partnerships and investment. Every year, the team researches different countries and regions in search of the hottest new applications in social tech, which are then brought to Geneva for a week-long networking and mentorship programme.

In each of the countries visited, a one-day event is organized to allow the best-in-class start-ups to pitch their ideas in front of a regional jury panel. Regional events are organised by the Seedstars World team and supported by various partners around the world. 20 regional winners are then invited to Switzerland for the first week of February, during which time they are put through an intensive boot-camp with the chance to pitch to a group of established investors on the final day. There’s also a chance to visit the Red Cross, Olympic Museum and the United Nations.

More than 300 attendees are expected to attend the final day pitch; mainly investors and entrepreneurs, as well as international corporations, government executives, journalists and bloggers.

“Many of the projects we’ve seen are fantastic” says Alisee. “They have a viable business model that works in their local market but may also serve as a global product. These, we believe, are the leading companies of tomorrow.”

Alisée De Tonnac
Alisée De Tonnac graduated from HEC Lausanne and obtained her Master in International Management at Bocconi University with highest honors. She lived eight years in Singapore and two years in Silicon Valley. She has worked as product manager for luxury brands at L’Oreal Group and was part of the Italian team at Voyage Prive, a leading European startup. She was a member of the Harvard Model Congress Europe where she won the Award of Excellence.
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Sowing the seeds of innovation

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