For Immediate Release
Contact: Vanessa Zuabi
Associate Director, Middle East Programs
The Aspen Institute
+1-202-957-9030 | [email protected]
Partners for a New Beginning Leads Entrepreneur Delegation on Tour of West Bank
Delegates attend Palestinian business competition, commit to investing in and mentoring young Palestinian entrepreneurs
Washington, DC, October 15, 2012 ––The Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) Entrepreneurship Delegation to the West Bank announced commitments aimed at improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem and creating jobs in the Palestinian Territories. The delegation of a dozen US entrepreneurs, led by the PNB Secretariat at the Aspen Institute and supported by partner organization the Telos Group, provided mentorship, coaching, and investment opportunities to young Palestinian entrepreneurs and start-ups.
The Celebration of Innovation in Ramallah, the hallmark event of the trip, is an annual business competition organized by PNB Palestine in which Palestinian entrepreneurs present business solutions to problems impacting their local communities and pitch these ideas to investors and the broader community. This year’s event featured regional business leaders and entrepreneurs including keynote speaker Fadi Ghandour, Founder and CEO of Aramex, a global transportation and logistics company. 15 teams of Palestinian entrepreneurs participated in the completion, five of which received $20,000 in seed funding as well as placement with a local company for incubation.
Delegates announced newly planned investments and programs as a result of the trip. Teju Ravilochan of the Unreasonable Institute, an incubator based in Boulder, CO focused on supporting entrepreneurs working to tackle social and environmental issues, committed to vet several entrepreneurs who may qualify for the Institute’s acceleration program.
“It was extremely refreshing to see the amount of opportunity on the ground in Palestine. It’s a perfect spot for a Garage48 event, that will aim to both bolster existing entrepreneurs as well as inspire anyone who’s curious about starting a new venture,” said Hany Rashwan, founder and CEO of the tech start-up Ribbon. Rashwan has begun planning a weekend-long event devoted to inspiring entrepreneurship and helping to develop viable business concepts.
“The amount of potential for entrepreneurship in Palestine is unbelievable. The creativity and innovation is inherent. Yes, many of the young entrepreneurs we met with lacked a full understanding of how to start and scale a business; but their hunger for learning was immeasurable. It led me to imagine what it would be like if they had the exposure to more entrepreneurs from all across the globe. The next Facebook could come from a young Palestinian mind; they just need the exposure to grow. With organizations like Partners for a New Beginning helping to facilitate that exposure, we may be close to the next big Palestinian innovation,” remarked Brenden Chaney, Vice President of Global Entrepreneur Week.
Marc Dangeard, founder of Entrepreneur Commons and a Strategist at Sony, remarked that “the Partners for a New Beginning initiative managed by [the] Aspen Institute is an impressive effort to promote peace through the strengthening of the local business and the innovation ecosystem. I was amazed by the quality of the people involved in the program, the excellent organization of the trip by Telos Group, the power of the narratives that we heard throughout the week, and the energy and persistence deployed by the Palestine chapter and the local entrepreneurs, who are focused on building a better future regardless the difficulties and setbacks that they encounter along the way.”
He continued, “The trip was an eye-opener, showing us the reality of the Israeli occupation and the resulting tension between the two communities, but also a source of optimism because it is clear that there are people on both sides who are committed to peace and the building of a solid business and innovation infrastructure to support a Palestinian state.”
Dangeard is now connecting PNB’s local chapter with resources to implement the training of local Palestinians on the processes and benefits of angel investing.
Delegates were joined by a high-level US Department of State delegation led by the Secretary’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston and joined by Jerusalem Consul General Michael Ratney, demonstrating the continued public commitment of the US State Department to PNB. Special Representative Balderston was particularly inspired by the young entrepreneurs and businesswomen that he met. After participating in a mentorship session regarding one young woman’s business focused on the breeding, fattening and selling of Marion sheep in Nablus who was an eventual winner of the Celebration of Innovation competition, he was delighted to have the opportunity to meet with her entire family to congratulate them. Several delegates, including Randa Masri of ConnectME, will be investing in the business. Special Representative Balderston’s summed up his takeaway by stating that “trips like these and individuals brought together through Partners for a New Beginning are the reason that the Global Partnerships Initiative office was created by Secretary Clinton, to make an impact by empowering local talent and connecting them with the knowledge and resources of our American partners.“
About The Aspen Institute
Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) is a network working in ten countries where local projects and priorities are identified by local chapters. PNB strategically matches them with US and international partners. The Aspen Institute serves as the PNB Secretariat and is responsible for driving, expanding and sustaining the PNB network. The Secretariat maintains communication between stakeholders, identifies strategic partners and brokers partnerships that support project development and expansion.
The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.