Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the country’s general election this past November, opening the door to further progressive movement for the rapidly developing country. This national election, the first since Myanmar transitioned to a civilian government after five decades of military rule, was peaceful, credible, and reflected the will of the people, who voted for the NDL majority in both rural and urban regions. While the country still faces barriers to a free and fair democracy, this election marked a significant step forward for the future of Myanmar’s government and economy.
Less than a week after the election, Building Markets held the 4th annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in 10 cities across the country. Celebrating both aspiring and established entrepreneurs, this year’s GEW consisted of 42 unique events including workshops, forums, conferences, discussion panels, competitions, and a concert. As the official host of this year’s GEW, Building Markets also partnered with 35 organizations, making the event the largest in Myanmar’s history. Most events were conducted in Myanmar language, and were free of charge and open to the public.
Because Myanmar is still in the early days of opening its doors to foreign investors and establishing opportunities for start-ups and SMEs, Building Markets focused this year’s activities around networking activities for aspiring entrepreneurs. Themes centered on important issues such as business operations and strategy, human resources, access to domestic and international markets, and business ethics.
Over 4,500 participants attended the activities, including established and successful entrepreneurs from a diverse range of industries, foreign investors, bankers, government representatives, INGOs, artists, and media, among others.
A few of the events during this year’s GEW included:
Net’Nights, which are innovative networking sessions that include Pecha-Kucha style presentations from entrepreneurs followed by an informal networking session.
A Yangon Scavenger Hunt, where participants collected points by attending GEW events throughout the week and by traveling through Yangon to find and meet entrepreneurs (prizes included over $1,500 in merchandise from Samsung!).
The Youth and Employment Forum in Hpa An, which was attended by around 300 participants and included three speakers encouraging young people to get involved in entrepreneurship, coordinated by the Hpa An Youth Network.
Social Entrepreneur Day included a Products Fair from social enterprises in Myanmar and discussions on the place of social business in the economy to celebrate and showcase the social entrepreneurship scene in the country.
The Start-up Stage, an open pitch night hosted by Project Hub, gave local start-ups across all industries the opportunity to present 5-minute pitches about their ideas to investors and executives, receiving feedback from the judges, getting exposure for their business, and expanding their networks.
The Seedstar Yangon Pitch Night, a competition whose winner, a thirteen-year-old entrepreneur with a tech solution to education, won the opportunity to attend Seedstar’s Global Pitch Competition in Geneva in 2016.
Women Entrepreneurship Day Conference, a day of roundtables organized by Partnership for Change, with 80 local women entrepreneurs to share success stories, business experiences, and what it means to do business as a woman.
The SMEs Get Ready for Investment! Workshop, a panel discussion, Q&A session, and breakout workshops, allowed for participants to learn about the process of finding investors for their SME. Businesses could then sign up for Building Markets’ 3-month program to prepare them to partner with an investor.
A weeklong Tech Start-up Hack Challenge held by Phandeeyar gathered teams of budding entrepreneurs with startup ideas related to technology and guided them through refining their business model, building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), conducting market research, and preparing a pitch to deliver to a panel of seed-level investors. Three winning projects received a total of $9,000 of prize money.
We are very excited to share that we will also be participating in the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress, an event that will bring together a group of GEW host organizations and country representatives in Medellin, Columbia in March of this year!
Building Markets would like to thank the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Nathan Associates, and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) for their sponsorships that made much of this year’s event possible.