Looking South for Inspiration: Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Content in the Young World

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Some of the best ideas and solutions of the twenty-first century are coming from creative entrepreneurs in the “Young World,” the emerging economies of the south. The rising global generation sees business differently, and their success is helping to turn Latin America from consumers of content, technology and innovation into producers of world-class ideas and disruptive business models. How will this trend affect the dynamics of the creative and content-based digital economy in the next decade?

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  • The first is youth.The world is awash in young people. More than half of today’s global population is under the age of 30. Some of the fastest-growing countries in the world are right here in the Middle EastBy mid-century, the world’s population is forecast to increase from 7 billion today to nearly 10 billion.That’s like adding two more Chinas. Just contemplate the impact on the environment if present consumption patterns continue. It’s reasonable to worry, “what do we do about all those billions of mouths to feed?”The thing to keep in mind is that each of those billions of hungry mouths is also attached to a pair of hands to work, and a brain to think.The human race has faced demographic challenges throughout history and has thrived by outpacing environmental limitations with better, smarter, cleaner ways of living. The challenge for education in the 21st century is to help as many of these young people as possible all around the world develop the talent and ingenuity to compensate for the impact of their numbers. Entrepreneurship offers a way to align those global imperatives with the power of the market system so that the best ideas can be discovered, promoted and adopted as quickly as possible.
  • So where are the young people?  This is a map of the world, color-coded by median age. The young countries are green and yellow. The older countries are shown in shades of orange and red. Notice a pattern? The rich countries in North America, Europe, and North Asia have the oldest populations. Japan’s median age is above 44 and rising: oldest in the world. China, though not yet a rich country, has the worst problem because of their one-child policy. Today their median age is 33 years old. By mid-century, it will be 50, and they will have the largest population of elderly that the world has ever seen. Meanwhile, most of the youngest countries in the world are also the poorest. It’s good to have young populations, but in Central Africa and Southwest Asia, conditions are so bad that it is hard to see a happy future. Then there are those in the middle: Southeast Asia, India, coastal Africa, and particularly Latin America. These countries not only have vibrant young populations, but are also the places with the fastest growth in Internet connectivity.  
  • I keep talking about young people. It is not because I have anything against old people. I am not so young myself anymore, and there are plenty of very successful entrepreneurs my age and older. But there is something different about the young.3.6 billion people under age 30 worldwideDifferent perspective on information and technologyHungry for opportunities in bad economyGlobal perspective on social & economic problemsNot invested in old ideas & approachesInspired by entrepreneurial success First, there are a lot of them. More than half the world’s population is under age 30. By mid-century, there will be more than 6 billion – most living in countries that are today among the world’s poorest. It is not just a good idea to encourage young people to be enterprising and innovative. It is a matter of survival. Second, the generation that grew up with computers, mobile devices and the Internet has a different perspective on information and technology. Someone like me, who has been in the workforce and in the business world, sees a new piece of technology and says, “how does this fit the way of business I already know?” A young person may not understand the business, but knows the technology. He says, “how can I use this technology that I know to solve old problems in a new way?” That is the kind of thinking that powers today’s most successful new businesses. Third, we are living through a very bad time in the economy, and young people are hungry for opportunities. A lot of the young people I talked to for my book said we started our own companies because we needed somewhere to work. That kind of desperation gives rise to some very interesting business ideas. Young people have a global perspective on social and economic problems. Part of this comes from being plugged in to technology since they were kids. But the other part is that the problems of the 21st century are rarely limited to one country or one region. Global warming, energy, disease, poverty – these are not American problems, they are not African problems, they are not Asian problems. They are everyone’s problem. Young people understand the impact and implications of their actions on the world, and plan their businesses around these limitations. They don’t waste time denying the problem or pretending it is only a matter for governments or NGOs. 
  • Fortunately, another trend at work in the world today that can help make that goal a reality.The spread of networks and digital technology is putting the rising generation of young people in contact with new ideas, new sources of creative expression, and new ways of working together,The current generation has grown up marinated in digital technology. The past two decades have seen an unprecedented spread of access to information via networks, mobile devices, digital cameras and video, social platforms, Web sites, and everything else.Because this technology has hit first in the consumer marketplace, schools and even businesses have been playing catch-up. These days it is not unusual for an office worker to have more sophisticated software on his home computer or mobile phone than at the office. But schools, with their static methods and limited budgets, are even further behind.The result is that you often see teachers and educational policymakers treating technology as a challenge or even a threat, whereas the vast majority of their students see it as an essential part of their lives and a basic tool for self-expression.
  • What makes these Young World entrepreneurs different from the generations that preceded them?They’re born digital: they understand how to use the power of networks and bottom-up organizational modelsThey are more connected and collaborative because of pervasive access to informationThey don’t see the same boundaries that existed before: between public and private, between commercial and social, between life and work, between countries and culturesThey are not invested in old, failed approachesIt’s their lives and their futures on the line
  • Finally, entrepreneurs are driven to solve problems – and the world is facing some big problems ahead:Urban povertyEnvironmental degradationHealthcareSocial unrestResource shortagesGovernments alone can’t solve these problems. Charities and NGOs can’t solve them. It will take the talent of the smartest, most motivated, most resourceful and creative people on earth, no matter who they are or where they come from. We need the one-in-a-billion idea. And to get it, we need to invite billions into the conversation.Fortunately, all around the world, young entrepreneurs armed with technology, skills and ambition are stepping forward with great ideas to address these challenges. One of the best things I’ve gotten to do recently is judge innovation contests. Every week, I see business plans for developing sustainable housing, solar-powered water filtration systems, anti-corruption and open-government applications, e-healthcare and more. And these are not pie-in-the-sky ideas: they are mostly well-conceived business plans that deliver a return on investment in addition to social benefits.
  • Thank you [introducer], thank you to the Schools Network and iNet for inviting me to this lovely city, and thanks to the educators and students here in Abu Dhabi and the UAE for your interest in this critical topic.One of the advantages of looking at an issue like entrepreneurship on a global scale is that I get to travel to a lot of places. Unfortunately, I make my home in a distant corner of the world – Seattle, Washington in the northwest of the United States. I am glad to see that the hospitality of the Emirates has lived up to its reputation because it is a very long journey to get from the far frontier back here to the cradle of civilization in the Persian Gulf.I am also delighted to participate in this dialogue among educators. My own background, as you may have heard in the introduction, comes more from the business side. I am an entrepreneur myself, having helped launch seven companies since age 24. I am now an author and partner in a consulting firm. When I want to sound pompous and impressive, I refer to myself as a “futurist,” which is a fancy term for “high-priced science fiction writer.”When I wrote Young World Rising, I thought I was writing for a business audience. In fact, there’s been huge interest from the educational community. Last fall I had the opportunity to join your ranks as a teacher, taking on a class at the University of Washington. It was a humbling experience, to say the least! I hope that after this keynote, some of you might share some tips with me for getting students to pay attention and turn in their assignments on time!
  • Looking South for Inspiration: Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Content in the Young World

    1. 1. LOOKING SOUTH FOR INSPIRATION:WHAT’S BEHIND THE LATAM CONTENTEXPLOSION? Rob Salkowitz Author, Young World Rising & Young World Shining
    2. 2. Disruption is my Passion
    3. 3. El Boom!Latin America on the RiseEconomic growthDiversification of industryInternet & MobilePolitical reformsEntrepreneurship
    4. 4. Building a New Creative Economy
    5. 5. ¿Que Pasa?Favorable DemographicsSpread of Networks and Digital TechGlobalized Knowledge EconomyNext Generation Entrepreneurs
    6. 6. The Young World is the Future
    7. 7. Youth is South Median Age, 2011 Ecuador 25.7 Mexico: 27.1 Colombia: 28 Costa Rica: 28.8 Brazil: 29.3 Argentina: 30.1 Latin Am/Caribbean: 26 USA: 36.9 EU: 40.9 World: 28.4Median Age – Youngest (green) to Oldest (Red)
    8. 8. Young People, Young IdeasCollaborative Gen Y Socially- Globally-Aware EngagedTech-Savvy Multi-Tasking Green Feedback-Driven Over-Sharers Impatient Customizers Skeptical“Net Generation” Entrepreneurial
    9. 9. A Digital Generation
    10. 10. Internet User Growth, 2000-2011 1800 1600 Percentage increase 1400 1200 1000 800 600 400 200 0 North South Central Caribbean Rest of America America America World
    11. 11. Young World Entrepreneurship
    12. 12. Global Challenges Need EntrepreneurialSolutions
    13. 13. Changing BusinessChanging the World
    14. 14. Innovating with Vision Pereira pop. 567,000
    15. 15. Making Your Voice Heard
    16. 16. Impact Entrepreneurship
    17. 17. Changing the World from the Bottom Up Reinvestment in Business Creation Ecosystem and Employment Business Practice and Culture Training and Capacity-Building Social and Commercial Innovation
    18. 18. El Boom!Latin America on the RiseIdeasInnovationContentInfluence
    19. 19. ¡GRACIAS!THANKS!Rob Salkowitzwww.mediaplant.netrob@mediaplant.netwww.robsalkowitz.comTwitter: @robsalk

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