Ambassador’s Remarks on U.S. Innovation + Entrepreneurship at UPH

“U.S. Innovation and Entrepreneurship” 

Thanks to Universitas Pelihan Harapan, and specifically John Riady, for the invitation to address the students and faculty. Warm thanks also to Rector Dr. Parapak and President Dr. Liu for hosting my visit today.

I would like to speak about U.S. innovation and entrepreneurship. In today’s globalized world, all countries are looking to create an eco-system that will foster innovation in order to create jobs for their young people and ensure the future competiveness of their economy. There is nowhere better to talk about innovation than here in Jakarta, and there is no one better to talk with about innovation than young people like all of you.

When U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, addressed the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kuala Lumpur last October, he spoke of the demographics in ASEAN today, particularly Indonesia, which offers tremendous human capital. Sixty percent of your population is under the age of 35. Because of this potential demographic dividend, there are endless possibilities for new products and new services that Indonesians can invent, produce, and market to the world. This is happening already, as many young Indonesians are developing innovative new products that will improve the quality of lives and solve the problems in communities.

As Secretary Kerry has said, a “multi-cultural city at the heart of a multi-ethnic, multi-faith country, history has proven time and again that diversity is one of the most important catalysts for discovery.” You have the motivation and exposure from all of these different influences to create new and better products. President Obama is also deeply committed to fostering innovation around the world. Five years ago he spoke at Cairo University of the need to “deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the US and Muslim communities around the world.” What followed was the creation of the Global Entrepreneurship Program because President Obama understands that freedom of opportunity is humanity’s most powerful motivator. President Obama also believes that entrepreneurship is about much more than profits. It’s about how you build a society that values competition and compassion at the same time.

Our first Secretary of State for the United States was Thomas Jefferson – who was also an inventor and helped to establish our patent system. He was one of our founding fathers and only 33 years old when he wrote the US Declaration of Independence – which was in effect, the mission statement of a risky start-up called the United States of America. He was equally successful as an entrepreneur, inventing a machine to make noodles, a chair that turned 360 degrees, and a magnificent clock that remains in the entrance of his home in Virginia. And so entrepreneurship is part of American culture and in our DNA. We have a competitive advantage in it, having led the way in nearly every new chapter of the world’s economic development. From Eli Whitney who invented the cotton gin, realizing efficiency gains in the harvest of cotton crops, which launched the US textile industry’s dominance for over a century, to Henry Ford, who revolutionized transportation throughout the world with the assembly line approach to producing combustion engines and the automobile. To Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and all the other IT entrepreneurs who revolutionized the way we store information, operate our businesses and communicate, resulting in the launch of the “information age” using the hardware and software they created, as amazingly creative innovators.

America has become a magnet for young innovators like Elon Musk of South Africa who moved to California and then created PayPal, then the electric vehicle company Tesla and the private space company Space-X. What draws innovators like Musk to places like Silicon Valley? It is our unique blend of the best higher education and research facilities in the world, a strong rule of law that enables inventors to patent and profit from their innovations, a vigorous venture capital system, and an open immigration system that welcomes new talent from around the world and values the new thinking they bring.

Indonesia is on its way to expanding the number of entrepreneurs, with many innovators and people thinking outside the box to solve common problems. Like Andrew Darwis, who created Indonesia’s largest online community. Kaskus began as a way for Indonesians in the diaspora to stay connected while he himself was studying in the US. It now has over 5 million registered members. And Tri Mumpuni, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, who uses her over 75 rural, community-based and profitable hydroelectric power projects as an example of how Indonesia can move to cleaner renewable energy to fuel Indonesia’s growing economy. Puni is quite literally bringing power to the people.

But more can and should be done to help nurture innovation here. That’s why one of our highest objectives is to encourage more partnerships between American and Indonesian universities in order to incubate more cutting edge research and development and widen educational opportunities for young Indonesians. We are helping in other ways to share our knowledge and experience. We started in 2011 the Global Entrepreneurship Program in Indonesia, known as GEPI, to help train Indonesians to become successful entrepreneurs. At our state-of-the-art high-tech cultural center, @america, we have many experts come to teach, offer advice, and answer questions on a range of topics from film making to developing a business plan for your start-up, to marketing your new company.

In 2012, the US Embassy selected 9 Indonesian women entrepreneurs to attend a 2 week intensive course called “the 10,000 Women Global Scholar program” held at Thunderbird University in the US. Last year we held a “Commercializing Innovations” 8 part series at @america using a curriculum developed at the University of Texas for 60 Indonesian students from various universities including UPH. The students graduated with the tools to develop, market, pitch and launch their innovative products. In a few weeks we will hold another Innovation Bootcamp, similar to the same program we ran in 2012 for Indonesian innovators. Funded through the US Government’s Global Initiative on Science and Technology, this program specifically focuses on spurring innovation in Muslim countries, providing the tools for entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas to successfully launch their start-up businesses. Last year the worldwide competition held in Dubai was won by an Indonesian named Natali Ardianto with his innovative idea to sell tickets for events through his online business called “”. This year’s event will take place April 4-6 at the GEPI incubator in Kuningan and the final day will be a demonstration day, which I hope you will all attend, on Sunday afternoon, April 6. Maybe one lucky Indonesian will go on to win the final GIST competition again like Natali did in 2013.

Through these and other programs we hold throughout the year, the Embassy is working along with you to improve the ecosystem in Indonesia-identifying promising ideas, training the entrepreneurs, connecting them with mentors and networks within Indonesia and the US, helping to identify funding sources to sustain your start-up businesses and then helping to celebrate your achievements. GEPI is open to anyone who would like to use an incubator space for their start up business. You can receive supportive services from starting your idea to funding through their Angel Investor group if you have a viable business idea.

As President Obama said when addressing the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in October, “We do all this because we believe that whether you live in Kuala Lumpur or Kuwait or Kansas City (or Jakarta), when you’re free to have your own ideas, pursue your dreams, start your own businesses, serve your communities, it isn’t just good for your nations; it means more prosperity and progress for us all. It’s the same daring spirit that brings us together to meet other challenges as well, from hunger to health to climate change. And it’s the spirit all of you can sustain….you have the talents and drive to actually build the future you seek, and the United States of America wants to be your partner. We want you to succeed. And when I think of your passion and creativity, I could not be more optimistic about the future we can build together.” Thank you again.