One of the first conversations I had with Ben (my fellow Agora co-founder) was about the conviction that impact entrepreneurs could and should play a catalytic role in creating wealth and social impact in the developing world. We knew that the current role of governments was overstretched as they represented a huge proportion of activity as percentage of GDP, yet were consistently under-delivering on basic human services. Countries that had grown rapidly, however, and begun to see important numbers of people grow out of poverty, showed increasingly levels of productivity and innovation – in large part because of the improved dynamism of the small business sector.
Ben and I wondered where in the world could we find a group of people who would fundamentally understand the power of business as the main engine for prosperity, with the critical belief that it must also play a role in how that prosperity could directly improve both the social and environmental outcomes of the people in the poorest countries?
It was January 2005, and the conversation was a relevant one: We were in the middle of one of the most prosperous eras in our history, yet it was infested with corporate ethics scandals, increasing disparity between rich and poor, and an alarming rate of environmental destruction. Many of these topics were being discussed at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, and Ben and I made a joint promise: We would one day get to Davos, and would convince the most action-oriented world leaders about the power of business for social good. We needed to sculpt a path for entrepreneurs to make a dent in the universe.
About two months ago, I got the news that I had been nominated to the Forum of Young Global Leaders, part of the World Economic Forum, a program consisting of leaders from all around the world under 40 years old. They come from a myriad of disciplines and sectors to discuss the development of global strategies and concrete actions in order to advance towards a better future. I was elated, surprised, and a bit shocked! My first reaction, honestly, was “Is this a typo?!” followed by “SOMEONE messed up!”
I was incredibly honored to even be considered in the same league as entrepreneurs and other leaders who had already contributed enormously to the world, but I also fundamentally understood the opportunity: I was on the threshold of fulfilling the promise Ben and I made. The question now became: ”How to use this huge opportunity to spotlight – and help catalyze – impact entrepreneurs?”
The answer came quickly after the first few minutes of my first encounter with other YGLs during the Silicon Valley Summit a few weeks ago. So many YGLs immediately offered to help Agora – help think through strategic issues; connect to relevant players, funders, and policy-makers; and with just about anything that would accelerate the growth of impact entrepreneurs and forcefully advance actions oriented to making developing economies more successful and responsible entrepreneurial societies.
Many YGLs were very successful social entrepreneurs in their own right. David del Ser, founder of Frogtek, had successfully created one of the world’s first platforms to help small shop keepers. Roberto Milk had created one of the most successful artisan marketplaces in the world, NOVICA. And Geoff Davis, using all his brilliance and experience (currently an impact investor and ex-CEO of Unitus among other things) to supporting social entrepreneurs with access to financing and mentorship.
Then there were other hard-core entrepreneurs and thinkers, like Alejando Poma, Jennifer Corriero, Anand Chandrasekaran, and Matias de Tezano. Matias started his first venture in college, almost accidentally and certainly with no business experience, with very little support from traditional friends and family – a situation faced by millions of aspiring young entrepreneurs in Latin. America. Today, after three very successful (and some not so successful) ventures, Matias is mentoring and guiding other entrepreneurs to success, and putting his money where his mouth is as a “cowboy” angel investor, taking on the kinds of risks no traditional funder would ever take. More importantly, Matias has seen first hand the power of business for social impact and is now willing to help Agora Entrepreneurs achieve just that.
Did I mention that three of the top entrepreneurial technology minds in the world were also YGLs? Sergey Brin and Larry Page of Google, and Sheryl Sandburg of Facebook not only spent time with us and gave us some fantastic insights into trends in search, mobile, and social media,, they were kind enough to invite us to lunch over at their respective campuses and give us privileged access to experience firsthand why Google and Facebook are such revolutionary and successful companies. They are developing some of the most democratizing technologies in history to connect people to each other and to opportunities for a better life, like the Google Earth engine and the merging of voice controls with Google Translator. And, Facebook’s Pages will give small local entrepreneurse worldwide a huge suite of powerful tools to efficiently promote and quickly grow their businesses.
After only a few short months of being a part of the group, being a Young Global Leader already represents so many things to me. It is a privilege and responsibility; it represents opportunity and challenge; it entails contributing and learning. It is a call to action. I feel very humbled and proud to represent Agora and Nicaragua in this amazing group of individuals. I’m very excited about the opportunities to promote Agora’s vision of business as a force for good and scale our impact with the help of other partners and YGLs. I am most excited, though, to meet other amazing YGLs and learn about and from them.
We all have much work to do, so I invite you to comment with your ideas and present your initiatives that may lead to meaningful partnerships in the comments section below. If you are a YGL, an Aspen fellow, an entrepreneur, or just believe the world needs more impact entrepreneur and want to get stuff done, let us know.
Ricardo Teran Teran