Remarks at the ASEAN Regional Entrepreneurship Summit
Secretary of State
TRADE MINISTER PANGESTU: Her Excellency Secretary Hillary Clinton, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and especially all of you young Indonesian and ASEAN entrepreneurs who will chart the next big chapter of the future of the region. Let me first of all welcome Her Excellency Secretary Hillary Clinton and thank her and the State Department, especially those from the Global Entrepreneurship Program, for the support in organizing this regional entrepreneurship summit. I would also like to thank the Global Entrepreneurship Program Indonesia and partners for all their hard work and passion and commitment. You can all pat yourselves in the back because you can literally feel the buzz of excitement in the room about the potential of Indonesia and the region.
We have heard some exciting news that, for instance, Google is evaluating coming to Indonesia, and Facebook, who came to Indonesia a few weeks ago, may also be interested. And yesterday, it was mentioned that the entrepreneurship delegation from the U.S. who came a few days prior to this summit, many on their first visit to Indonesia, felt that the potential here was 10 times more than expected. So all good news, and it is really – coming and seeing and believing, I think, is the key word. And some of our winners already got some investors, so this is not just a summit, but there are real results.
I think our hard work is just beginning – that is to provide the right environment and ecosystem for entrepreneurship to ensure that the potential is realized, that the young entrepreneurs who are our future are provided access to walk the first mile and be sustained to reach the last mile. Not all will become billionaires, but as Tarun Khanna from Harvard Business School said, it is not about the few billionaires that is important; it is better to create billions of entrepreneurs.
It now gives me great pleasure to invite our distinguished keynote speaker. She is someone who truly understands what entrepreneurship means, and more importantly, the power and potential of women-run small and medium-sized businesses to drive economic growth. She and I share the same belief that when women progress, countries progress, and when women progress, we achieve economic development, reduction of poverty, and the human race takes a great leap. We believe real and strategic action must be done, and I believe this is something that is a commitment of Secretary Clinton. Women comprise more than half of the world’s population, yet they are also 70 percent of the world’s poor and two-thirds of those who are not taught to read and write; that women get much less of the loans available despite the fact that they are better at payback of these loans.
Her commitment is clear. My intelligence tells me that no matter how busy or tight your schedule is, she always finds time in her travel to meet with women who are advancing their societies and growing their countries’ economies. Some said that the number of times she has visited has been up to 85 countries in the 232 days since taking office in January 2009. This is from Bloomberg. And that is why she has become a champion of women’s access to credit, to markets, to communications technology, to training and mentoring and so much more. Her passion and commitment were instrumental in the many initiatives and public-private partnership programs to grow women’s business leaderships in the Middle East and many other programs, including the one that launched at APEC last year. We hope that such initiatives can also be launched in this region.
So please welcome the U.S. Secretary of State, a champion for social and economic entrepreneurs everywhere. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, may I invite you now to the podium, please. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here. I’ve been looking forward to coming this afternoon, and I want to thank all of you for being part of this exciting ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit running simultaneously with the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum. I want to express my appreciation to Minister Pangestu. She has been a terrific leader and host for this summit. I’m very grateful to her. I also want to thank our Indonesian hosts as well because so many of you have done a lot of the heavy lifting, so to speak, in order to make this a success. And I want to thank the Global Entrepreneurship Partnership Initiative chair, Chris Kanter. I want to thank our team from Washington who have been tireless in their promotion of entrepreneurship, and all of the Indian, Indonesian officials and others from across the ASEAN region.
Before I begin, I want just to express my heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with the people of Norway. The United States strongly condemns any kind of terrorism no matter where it comes from or who perpetuates it, and this tragedy strikes right at the heart of the soul of a peaceful people. Norway is well known for its efforts to resolve conflicts, bring people together, it sets a high example for social entrepreneurship. And this terrible event is especially heartbreaking because so many of the victims were young people under the age of 25, and our hearts go out to their families and to the Norwegian people and government. And this just reminds us what a precious gift we all have of our lives, and I think we are called to make the most of it for ourselves, but also for our communities, our countries and humanity.
I am delighted to participate in this first ASEAN Regional Entrepreneurship Summit. And I congratulate all of you, the entrepreneurs and investors, the government officials and development experts who are exchanging ideas, sharing best practices, creating new opportunities and even making investments. Now, Indonesia is the natural choice to hold this first summit. This is, as you know, one of the three largest democracies in the world in a dynamic region that is increasingly at the heart of global commerce and growth.
Like so many other countries, Indonesia is also home to an enormous population of young people. Almost 75 million Indonesians are under the age of 18. Now, those young people are growing up in a world very different than the one I grew up in, and they are connected in ways that I could never have imagined even 10 years ago, let alone a long time ago when I was that age. And the jobs and opportunities that they need and deserve cannot and will not be created by governments alone no matter how large a public sector grows. And while traditional corporations and established industries are very important, the fact is they too are unlikely to create all the jobs needed for the future.
So what we need to do is what you have been doing – tap the creativity and innovation of citizens, men and women alike. I like to say that talent is universal but opportunity is not. We can begin to change that if we find ways to unleash people’s potential, help good ideas take root and flourish. And potential entrepreneurs are all around us. They are anyone with the imagination to conceive of a new product, process, or service, the ability, persistence, and sheer hard work to turn that idea into something real.
Now, my father was an entrepreneur. He had a small fabric printing business and he employed one or two workers to help him, depending upon the level of his business orders. But he also enlisted my mother, my brothers, and me. One of my earliest memories as a little girl is standing at a very long table on which a very long roll of cloth is laid and helping to lift a screen, a silk screen, from place to place and then helping to hold the squeegee of the paint to push it over the screen and then lift it up and continue down the table.
So my father, who was a man of modest means – he didn’t have a lot of money, he had no personal connections of any sort – it was just his sheer hard work, his shoe leather as well as his brain power. And he made his business succeed. Now, he did not become a millionaire or a billionaire, but he supported his family, he sent us to college, he gave us a very comfortable life through his own persistence, his self confidence, and a willingness to take risks.
Now, when I was growing up, we called that the American dream and it attracted tens of millions of immigrants to our shores and still does. Entrepreneurship has been written into the DNA of the American people. But I have now traveled enough to see that there are people all over the world with the talent and the drive to achieve the same goals. So I have learned that this is also a universal dream.
Earlier this week, in Chennai in Southern India, I visited the Working Women’s Forum, a community organization that provides microfinance loans, training and support so that very poor women can start their own small businesses and participate in the formal economy. I met a woman there who had come with her family as a refugee from Burma. She stood up in front of a very crowded room, including television cameras, and told her story in a very confident presentation.
She talked about how when she arrived, she and her family had nothing, that there were predatory lenders charging high interest rates for what she wanted to do, to start a small business to support herself and her family. She talked about the pressure she was under from her family members to stay home, but her answer was, “Well, who is going to put food on the table? Who is going to provide the means for us to send the children to school if we do not all work?” And she ran into other obstacles that would have really paralyzed someone who was there all alone.
But fortunately, the Working Women’s Forum was there to help her. She had none of the advantages that allow entrepreneurs to thrive. But when she joined this women’s group, the door was finally open and now, she is supporting her family. She and her husband are sending their children to school and they’re following their own dreams.
That’s really what this summit is about. I mean, it talks about entrepreneurship, but it’s really about dreams, isn’t it? Because this story can be told millions of times over in every country on every continent, and we’re here today because we believe in the power of opportunity and entrepreneurship to transform lives and lift up communities. And we’re committed in the Obama Administration to helping entrepreneurship grow further and faster all over the world, and this summit is evidence of that.
But we need to tackle the obstacles. It’s not enough just to bring together in one place experienced entrepreneurs and business leaders with young people with good ideas even who have already started their businesses. We need to tackle the obstacles that entrepreneurs face – cumbersome government regulations, corrupt officials who demand a bribe before issuing a business permit, and for women like the woman I met in Chennai, cultural norms that might prevent her from handling money or owning land.
The United States wants to work with you to bring down these barriers. That means reducing the time it takes to open a business here in this region. It means connecting entrepreneurs with investors, not only in their own countries, but outside them, as has happened here. Improving the business climate by protecting intellectual property rights; if you come up with a good idea, it should be protected so that you can then make the most of it and spin it off into who knows where it might go, and of course, making it easier for foreign investors to find local projects worthy of support.
And we particularly want to encourage women entrepreneurs, because, as the minister said, no economy can thrive if it leaves half the population behind. In fact, a recent United Nations study estimated that in the Asia Pacific region, the untapped potential of women has cost the region more than $40 billion in lost GDP over the last decade. So we’re supporting new microfinance projects, building peer networks, and offering mentorships with American businesswomen.
This really builds on what President Obama emphasized in his 2009 speech in Cairo and that we reaffirmed at the entrepreneurship summit last year in Washington – American became a global economic power by nurturing a culture of creativity and innovation, by setting the conditions in which entrepreneurs like my father could thrive and ideas could flourish. And we believe other countries can do exactly the same by embracing this model.
That’s why we created the Global Entrepreneurship Program and why we are supporting initiatives like Partnerships For a New Beginning, which recently opened a local chapter here in Indonesia. With a network of public and private partners, we are identifying promising entrepreneurs like all of you here, helping to train them, connecting them with mentors and potential investors, while advocating for supportive policies and regulations and always, always talking about what actually works in the real world. We have led delegations of businesspeople and investors to Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, where they met with entrepreneurs. And we are connecting entrepreneurs all over the world with Diaspora communities living in the United States who actually want to support projects back in their ancestral homes.
I am pleased to announce that Indonesia is one of the five countries around the world in which the United States will work to foster angel investor groups and connect them with startups and entrepreneurs. And there is no shortage here in Indonesia, which is why we chose Indonesia. In the run-up to this summit, 500 Indonesians entered our business plan competition, running the gamut from high-tech innovators to more traditional brick-and-mortar entrepreneurs.
And many of them are here with us today. One of the prizes went to Indomog, an online payment gateway that offers vouchers for internet gainers. Another went to Gojek, which offers a motorcycle, taxi, and delivery service to Jakartans frustrated by traffic gridlock, which sounds very familiar for someone who comes from New York. Finalists have found new customers and new investors and, as the minister said, some have already received investments. One has received pledges for a million dollars’ worth of startup capital. And everyone, all 500 of you – (applause) – drew up a plan and took a chance on it. And I’d like all of the 500 who are still here who were chosen to please stand up so that we can applaud all of you, because you’re really what this is all about. (Applause.)
We want to see stories that are successes repeated here in Indonesia, across the ASEAN region, and around the world. Now, why would the United States be doing this? I think it’s fair to ask. Why are we doing this? Well, partly because we really come from a culture that thinks if we can help other people do better, that’s good for them and it’s good for us. It makes for a more prosperous, peaceful, stabler, more secure world. If people are given the opportunity to live up to their own God-given potential, they are more likely to make a contribution to their families, communities, countries, and indeed the world.
We’re also doing it because we think it works. We think that our own experience demonstrates that. And we have seen over now 235 years, but particularly in the last 150 years, we have seen people come from many of the ASEAN nations to our country with nothing in their pocket except a big dream that they hope to be able to realize. And yes, they worked hard, but they had worked hard back home. What was different is they now had the opportunity to profit from their work.
So when I travel around the world and I go to countries that are still not democracies, still putting up major barriers to women, still interfering with both men and women starting businesses, it breaks my heart because since I know people from practically every country on earth who have come to my own, I know that there are millions and millions more back where they came from who could be just as successful as that businesswoman or that doctor or that academic or whoever who came to the United States. And it wasn’t that they worked harder; it was they had a chance to profit from their work.
So we know this works, and we know too that free and open societies are more likely to benefit more people over a longer period of time than any other kind of society. And it’s not only a chance to vote in elections, as important as that is. It’s not only a free press, as critical as that is, or democratic institutions in a government that is transparent and accountable and produces results for people. It is whether there’s a free market and an economy that works for people who get up every day and work hard.
Now, not everybody is going to invent Google or Facebook, but they can be like my dad was. They can have their own small business, their own piece of that American dream or that Indonesian dream and they can do well for themselves and they can make a difference to the next generation. My mother never went to college. My father went to college on a football scholarship. He was a great athlete, not a great student. But because he could build a business, he was able to make our lives more and give us education and greater opportunity.
So we may come from different places and we certainly have different histories, different cultures, ethnicities, religions, all the things that too often separate human beings. As opposed to making us more interesting to each other, it too often provides gaps or gulfs, even, between us knowing one another and working with one another. But if you really look at what many of us know to be true, that the power of the individual, that the person with the good idea who is willing to work hard can do much more than grow a business.
As an entrepreneur, you literally can help shape the future, not only with your product or your service, but with your dream. So thank you for dreaming, thank you for being part of this first ever ASEAN Entrepreneurship Summit, and please know that the United States believes in you, believes in your dreams, and wants to do whatever we can, working with you to help you realize them for the betterment of yourselves, your families, your communities, and a country like Indonesia. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)