Fun fact, did you know the first know poet and author was a woman by the name of Enheduanna? She was a high priestess in the City of Ur. Enheduanna helped bring together the Sumerian cities through her religious work by consolidating all the local gods into the worship of one, Inanna, a relentless warrior goddess. One story struck a particular chord in me. Inanna needed to defeat a mountain, so she sought the help of the other bro gods, who naturally refused to help. Irritated by the lack of help Inanna singlehandedly destroyed the mountain and showed up the other gods. The story bears strong resemblance to our modern times.
The “mountain” is reflective of the struggles women face in our society. They have two options, one fight the mountain on their own without support. Or two resign to their systematic fate in the valley below. This culture angers me and it should not be this way. Entrepreneurship can be the warrior princess weapon to fight the “mountain.” However, in order to instill change we need to instill empowerment and alter our attitude towards women as soon as they are able to walk.
Take a stroll in a park and you’ll see how the system affects young girls on a daily basis. When a girl goes and picks up a football or a toy truck their parents immediately chastise them and say, “No, that is only for boys.” Or my all time favorite, “that is not very lady-like” when a girl states her opinion. No wonder we don’t see more powerful female giants across the world. What individual can grow up to be a leader when divisions are drawn and voices are silenced? We are to blame for the lack of leaders by raising a generation of women who are subservient to the system.
Therefore, creating a space by women for women is of radical importance to breaking the patriarchal system that binds them from their true potential. Creating events such Startup Weekend Women and even Startup Weekend Girls is a pivotal step in the right direction! The change needs to come from within, those who privilege from the culture are blinded to the oppression it creates. Only women understand and can decide what is best for their needs and how they can achieve triumph. Let women personify the goddess Inanna and follow in her footsteps, destroying the mountains that hamper progress. For when women finally achieve equality, balance will be restored to the world.
My eyes were glued to the Keynote presentation. I quickly scanned the room as Google made more announcements about their global Android expansion, most people appeared disengaged, waiting to hear more about products that would affect them immediately. Android One, a smart phone that would use less cell data with faster speeds for spotty third world networks struck an empty chord with the crowd. However, I grew excited about the possibilities this would bring to areas that lacked true access to the grid.
Google is truly trying to encroach their software and technology in developing countries to help inspire innovation, by providing as many assets as they can, so individuals can help themselves become entrepreneurs. Many pockets of the world have yet to reach their full potential, areas such as Indian, Indonesia, and the Philippines are experiencing intense mobile growth. Google is ready to take these regions by storm and help individuals modernize their countries with the help of their tech and software. Let’s start by examining Google’s strategy in these developing countries and how one person can become an entrepreneur with just a phone in their hand.
Over 1.2 Billion phones are expected to ship to developing countries within the next year, the majority of which will be Androids. Not surprising considering the cost of an Android is extraordinarily cheap compared to an iPhone. Possession of a smartphone is still considered a luxury in rural areas, where ten percent of a person’s income goes to the phone itself. The technological needs are so great in these areas there are reported businesses where individuals race over to nearby towns with electricity to simply charge phones.
Google’s release of Android One is but a stepping-stone, the software giant also announced changes to its features allowing Maps and Youtube to work offline. Thereby diminishing cell data usage for impoverished users, many of which still rely on SMS. Imagine poor farmers saving videos on agricultural upkeep without economic detriment, or refugees crossing foreign lands using offline Maps to safely guide them to their asylum. The kicker here is that Google and Android will go one step further and give the entrepreneur an online market place and the educational tools necessary to succeed in the global market.
Android Nano Degree, and the Cloud Test lab were also announced at Google I/O. The ramifications of which are enormous. Individuals who aspire to be developers can take a Nano Degree course for $200 dollars online and pursue scholarships if they lack the economic resources. This is an enormous push for online education especially in areas that lack access to human resources that can teach these valuable skills. While the Cloud Test lab allows full-fledged developers to test their apps, without having the device on hand or even phones allowed in the country! The costs in savings are enormous in resource strapped areas.
Google also announced the creation of Developer pages, were people can view apps by person, similar to a market place where people can walk around and see what is laid out virtually by stand. Well what about marketing? Have no fear. Google also announced the Universal App campaign that will automatize the marketing for home made apps. Imagine new developers across the globe creating apps for their people, because access has become easier and supportive. A girl in Indonesia can purchase an Android One phone, take the Nano Degree course online, and within a few months test her app idea in the Cloud Test Lab. If she is successful she can create her own Developer page and have Google market the app for her. Just within the course of a year, she can become an entrepreneur.
As much as Silicon Valley continues to praise itself for innovation, very few companies have managed to create substantial change in developing worlds. Change has to come from within. You can create an amazing app in a first world country and transfer it over to a third world, but basic access, resource constraints, and cultural obstruction continue to hinder expansion. Android and Google will pave the way for more and more entrepreneurs across the world to enter the digital global arena in their own terms. If you are someone who lives in a developing country it is worth your time and money to invest in the Android/Google ecosystem. The technology, support, and resources are now available to use and implement. Go change the world. Your world.
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After waiting an hour and a half in line for the Google I/O Keynote speech I managed to find a seat. I took a big bite out of the breakfast muffin I picked up on my way in when I noticed a man pointing at the empty seat next to me. My face light up and I smiled and nodded answering his implicit question. We exchanged pleasantries and he introduced himself as John Absmeier, Director of Delphi labs.
If you haven’t heard of Delphi, you will now. Delphi is an automotive supplier that builds safer, greener, and more connected automotive technology. You may have heard about the self-driving car that successfully drove from San Francisco to New York. That was Delphi, not Google, or Mercedes, nor even Tesla! We spoke in depth about the fears individuals had with self-driving cars.
“You have to understand that when Apple was set to release the first smart-phone, people were not too keen on the idea. They asked why do we even need it?” John said. The iPhone revolutionized the world. It changed how we communicated with each other, how we worked, and how we viewed our own lives. Now we can’t imagine a world without our smartphone. The entire Google Keynote rested on the theme of a mobile world. He was right, most people can’t visual the need or necessity of a new technology without it existing first.
Thus, entrepreneurs are the rare birds that can visualize a new world and help bring their ideas from their inner world to the real world. However, the response most entrepreneurs hear is a two-letter word, “No.” The word itself creates dismay and can oftentimes destroy the spirit within. However, John was correct in saying that just because someone says no, it does not mean you should just stop the car. You are on to something; a good leader takes the critique and keeps improving their product until you hear the golden words, “Yes.”
Let’s use self-driving cars as an example, most people have initial fears with self-driving cars, but John takes those fears seriously and works to improve the process and design of his product to qualm any negative association with his work. Keep going until those no’s became yeses. If one can see the world John imagines and endeavors toward you would be just as excited as he was. No more drunk drivers taking innocent lives. Less traffic and more time spent on leisure. Older folk and disabled individuals reacquiring the freedom of the open road, no longer held to whim of their bodies. Less accidents on the road caused by sleep deprived individuals. A safer, efficient, and happier world.
People are always going to say no, if you are truly up to the task you can push past those obstacles and lead the world with your new creations. This is how success is accomplished, and how full grown companies such as Delphi continue to innovate and push towards a better tomorrow, despite the negative setbacks. Continue with your idea, even if the road ahead is tough. No does not mean stop.
As one walks around Silicon Valley, you can recognize that entrepreneurship is alive and within reach. Every day hundreds of individuals cram into shuttles, and arrive at their tech job at some of the most influential companies in the world such as Google, Apple, and Facebook. What’s even more amazing is that these centers of technology aren’t the only ones producing change. Scattered all around the Bay area are a plethora of individuals working in their basements, living rooms, or attics. They are obsessively engaged in a new type of product, hoping that their creation will revolutionize the world. But drive an hour and a half west and you will bear witness to empty dry fields, closed down businesses, and even bankrupt cities.
This drastic change in scenery makes one wonder if a wrong turn was made into another third world country. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is on the decline within the United States. The Kauffman Foundation released a study revealing new business formation has recently fallen between 7 and 8 percent and continues downward, the numbers are even worse for minorities, women, and rural areas. In a country that worships rugged individualism and the free market, why aren’t we seeing revolutionary giants across rural USA? Where are the skyscrapers that populate the horizon of small towns in the new millennium?
The small town infrastructure often runs into problems that urban centers never deal with. Oftentimes, one type of business dominates the economic life, which works out for a period of time. The mindset of these smaller communities often is rote and industrial in nature. Why innovate if life is already good? Change might not happen until the resource runs out and an entire region is put into jeopardy, such as the history of the Rust Belt.
Entrepreneurship is a means to an end, which helps create a world that is better in terms of higher quality health, leisure, politics, education, and resources. An entrepreneur will always be an agent of change, which is why the status quo is their most dangerous enemy. The status quo can often induce a sense of false peace in individuals and societies at large, however if history has taught humanity anything is that change is the only constant we can look forward to. Therefore, hindsight, courage, persistence, and visionary capabilities are needed to push for a better tomorrow, even if today is A-OK.
With that being said, the small town entrepreneur faces more challenges from the system that sustains the little village. Access to capital hinders scaling. Small town banks are risk averse, hindering the agents of change. Low populations, non-existent tourism, and access all hamper the entrepreneur from realizing their dream in their own hometown. The migration of motivated individuals to urban centers makes considerable sense once you look at the big picture, but at the same time the small town loses their most prized resource; people. How can entrepreneurs save the small town from becoming irrelevant, and not just a purgatory for capable human beings waiting to leave to the big city?
It is important to remember that an entrepreneur does not always have to produce new software or technological advancement to be considered a success or create impact. Some of the most innovative entrepreneurs have influenced powerful age-old industries just by initiating new ideas, such as Temple Grandin, who was born autistic but using her insight designed a more humane and immensely cost effective system by which to herd cattle. People who live in urban centers do not worry about the same issues small towns face, which is why it is so important that denizens push for innovation and prosperity from within. Do not expect an outsider to care or cure societal ills, which leads me to the biggest road block a small town faces; culture.
Community is the strongest tool a town has to solve their problems. Indeed, many towns take pride in solving their own issues without government interference. The culture can be a double-edged sword, if structural band-aids are commonly used to solve local issues; in the long run this is not a sustainable model. Entrepreneurs need to reinvent their villages to become their own powerhouses of innovation and prosperity in the modern age. The tools are widely available, all one needs is to create a space for people to convene and create ideas. Small towns are ideal, because venue costs are much lower, business owners know the community on a personal level and would be willing to pitch in their resources for the benefit of the community. Urban folk have a harder time maintaining a community let alone saying Hi to their next-door apartment neighbor.
Startup Weekend is a perfect incubator for innovation in small towns. Locals get the opportunity to create a space in their terms, solve their own problems, and continue to foster a tighter knit town. Urban centers are not concerned with the welfare of their rural neighbors, nor could they possibly understand their challenges and hurdles. The small town is in major need of an upgrade, better resource management and services, which are scarce and oftentimes inaccessible to most in America. How as Americans could we be proud of ourselves if we cannot measure up to our neighbors from within? How can the small town survive in a postmodern world where the pressures of technology, environmental disasters, and political stagnation continue to put a gridlock for towns? It’s time to host a Startup Weekend and find out.