Ambassador Blake’s Remarks at the GIST Bootcamp

It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate the conclusion of the successful Global Innovation through Science and Technology (or GIST) Indonesian Boot Camp for innovators.

The U.S. Department of State’s GIST initiative is committed to identifying and supporting young entrepreneurs in the fields of science and technology, to help them – that is all of you! –  achieve their dreams.  We seeks to empower science and technology entrepreneurs around the world to move their ventures forward and become agents of economic change.

Even before coming here today, I knew GIST could not have chosen a better country than Indonesia.  You have a young and creative population; you are wired, well connected and social media savvy; and, as evidenced by the 30 entrepreneurs here today, you are smart and talented people from Aceh to the Banda Islands.

I’d like to recognize the CRDF Global team for their excellent work preparing the curriculum and thank GEPI, as the local partner, for their hard work to plan and host these intensive training days.  GEPI has been an excellent partner with our Embassy since its formation three years ago and we look forward to many more future collaborations.

It’s a pleasure for me to meet and be here with Jeff Hoffman, Scott Gillespe, and Kari Hanson.  I know you are all very busy so I really appreciate you taking the time to travel to Indonesia to be a part of this great program.

Finally, I’d like to thank the mentors, Indonesian business owners, GOI officials, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and all the others who are dedicating their time and expertise to be here today and in the future to ensure these entrepreneurs don’t give up and continue to pursue their dreams.

Why we do we care about innovation and nurturing entrepreneurs?  President Obama said it best:  “We believe entrepreneurs can create jobs that fortify relationships between countries, build global markets, and help fulfill the dreams of all who desire the freedom to make of their lives what they will.”  Entrepeneurship and innovation form the beating heart of creating small and medium sized business which drives job creation and growth in the U.S. and Indonesia.  That is why we are here today and why the Embassy and everyone involved with the GIST bootcamp is supporting you and other entrepreneurs in Indonesia.

Science and technology innovation offers the possibility to dream big and create something that will make our lives better.  Indonesian innovations can and do solve problems and we have a few examples from the 30 GIST participants here today.  We have with us a manufacturer of powder seaweed, used as a nutritious additive for baking.  There is a one-stop application for healthcare making it easier for patients to make reservations at hospitals and with doctors.  There is an urban farming product that will result in healthier, fresher food for city folks.  There is a micro-hydro electric power product that increase the amount of clean power that can be harnessed from slow moving rivers.

These are just a few of the many, many exciting products and ideas put forward by these young science and technology entrepreneurs.  The GIST initiative is based on a simple idea.  When young innovators have the skills and mentoring they need, they are more likely to take the risks that can turn their ideas into start-ups and ultimately successful businesses.

Since 2011, GIST has trained over 3,500 startups from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.  It has also connected over 1 million youth with entrepreneurship resources through the US State Department social media platforms and created an online community that links 230,000 innovators across GIST countries.  That is a powerful tool, networking young innovators worldwide.  To each of the GIST entrepreneurs here today, I want to say:  You exemplify the talent, motivation, and ingenuity that we are all working to support.  You are amazing role models to all Indonesian entrepreneurs. You, and others like you, will drive creativity and economic opportunity with the innovations you are creating.

I also want to share perhaps the greatest lesson, which is you should not be afraid to fail.  In many cultures, it is considered shameful or dishonorable to fail.  Not in America.  Some of our greatest innovators failed a lot to begin with.  Henry Ford who gave us the car and the assembly line went bankrupt 5 times before he founded the Ford Motor Company.  Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was fired by Apple but later came back and help create the I-PAD and I-PHONE.  Thomas Edison perfected the light bulb, but only after trying 10,000 times.

So to conclude:  I want to say congratulations to all of the 30 GIST Indonesian finalists who were chosen to participate in this three-day Boot Camp.  GIST received almost 200 applications, and those here today represent the 30 best Indonesian innovators, with the most potential.   We hope that the experience of this bootcamp will benefit you far into the future and that you will continue the dialog among your new friends and the greater GIST global community.  I wish you all great success with your ventures and I look forward to meeting many of you this afternoon.  Thank you again to all who have joined us in celebrating the accomplishments of these entrepreneurs today.

Selamat sukses!