Large-scale Conference Startup Mix at Inha University
One of the key events of the Central Asian Week “Women in Science and Technology”, held from March 25 to 30, 2019 in Tashkent, Samarkand and Nukus, was the large-scale Startup Mix conference, which was held simultaneously at several venues at Inha University on March 26, 2019.
For the first time, two dozen foreign IT specialists of the highest level gathered in Tashkent: experts from Google, Apple, Linkedin and other leading IT companies of the world, as well as investors, entrepreneurs, scientists from the four Central Asian countries, the companies of the Silicon Valley and Great Britain.
At the opening ceremony of the «Week ….», several distinguished guests, representatives of partners and organizers had made adddress.
Rajabbaev, Sharofiddin Rakhimberdievich, First Deputy Minister of Innovative Development, opened the event, greeted the guests and noted the need and increasing role of women’s participation in scientific and technological fields and professions.
Helena Fraser, the UN Resident Coordinator in Uzbekistan, noted: The support that women entrepreneurs in Uzbekistan are receiving today is showing positive changes in eliminating all barriers to gender equality. And the development and use of modern technology products helps to move along the path of gender equality, which is important for the prosperity of any society.
Gillian Scott, the director of the TechWomen at Institute of International Education program, emphasized that the TechWomen program, which was attended by women from 21 countries of the world, including Uzbekistan, helps women become leaders in technology. TechWomen participants, mentors, organizers are those who can actually make positive changes in their community and country.
Alisher Sadullaev, First Deputy Chairman of the Central Council of the Union of Youth of Uzbekistan, supported the interest of young people in science and technology, and noted the importance of studying these areas for the successful development of society.
Muzaffar Jalalov, the acting Rector of Inha University in Tashkent, noted the commitment of Inha University to support socially significant initiatives such as Startup Mix and Technovation.
After the grand opening, the 3 panel discussions took place:
1. Discussion on the skills and technologies necessary for a successful career in the XXI century with the participation of John Brown, the First Deputy Chairman of the Central Council of the Youth Union Uzbekistan Alisher Sadullaev, Laura Messerschmitt, Vice President of Global Customer Experience, GoDaddy and Nargiza Abdubalieva, Twitter Developer Community Leader , Kyrgyzstan.
In his speech, Alisher Sadullaev noted: “There is a large demographic credit in Uzbekistan. It is critically important for us to teach young people to give them the useful skills of critical as well as creative thinking. And adapt new methods of communication, taking advantage of negative experience.»
2. Veronika Oget, Sr. Program Manager, NPI at Amazon, Lab 126, Diana Tsoi, the coordinator of Technovation Kazakhstan, Veronika Yurchenko, co-organizer of PyCon and Django Girls in Bishkek, Parvina Rakhimova, International Development Manager of Startupstan, Catriona McGill, Technical Development Manager at clean technology venture, Desolenator, have participated in the discussion on regional cooperation in the STEM field.
“Today’s conference is a great platform for sharing experiences. Unfortunately, few organizations are willing to support such events. Obviously, with the support of logistics, finance and other industries, regional cooperation will develop more productively,” said Veronika Yurchenko.
Veronika Oget, Senior Program Manager at Amazon, Lab 126, told about regional cooperation opportunities between Central Asia and California:
“We have launched several programs – TechWomen, TechGirl and Technovation, in which we interact fruitfully. Thanks to these programs, girls and women will be able to come to Silicon Valley, enter the Virginia Polytechnic University, and also take a two-year special language course for young people from Uzbekistan. ”
3. The conference continued with a discussion on the contribution of women leaders of Central Asia to science, education and technology. It was attended by Shahlo Turdikulova, Director of the Center for Advanced Technologies, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Saltanat Aliyeva, CEO and founder of BaiNec, professor, Erin Keeley, Western Digital, Global Engineering Director, Dr. Monika Tomecka, Scientist and entrepreneur from England.
The speakers spoke about their projects and plans for development of their activities. Shakhlo Turdikulova emphasized: in the Center led by her, the purpose of which is to combine science and business, the result of the research should be the development of a successful commercial scientific product. Now the center has about 20 startups in various fields: in the field of healthcare, education, alternative energy sources and other areas. Erin Keeley, Western Digital, Global Engineering Director told about the environmental projects and children’s education programs, including for socially vulnerable youth. Dr. Monika Tomecka emphasized the importance of presentation skills for scientists to disseminate innovative ideas, including that science is open to women and can make a positive difference in life.
Further, the event continued with several parallel sessions in 4 auditoriums.
Diana Tsoi, the Manager of Partnership and Mentoring Programs, Astana International Financial Center, and Akbota Biyarova, Deputy Head of Fintech Hub at Astana International Financial Center, told about the investment opportunities of the Astana International Financial Center.
Astana International Financial Center is intended to become a regional financial hub for Central Asia, the EAEU, the Middle East, as well as China, Mongolia and Europe, which primarily focuses on development of the financial ecosystem in Central Asia. One of the main tools for attracting external capital at the financial center is placement of securities on the AIFC exchange (AIX). The AIFC expects large investments from Asian countries, as the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Silk Road Fund are the strategic investors of AIX. Partners from the global financial community – NASDAQ and Goldman Sachs – will provide access to the liquidity of Western markets.
Many useful practical facts on protection of startups were announced at the session “Intellectual Law for Startups”. The session was presented by AmCham Uzbekistan, it was attended by Muhammadali Makhmudov, Managing Partner, Lawyer, Patent Attorney, Legalmax Law Firm, Patricia Bovan Campbell, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Salesforce, Ilkhom Khamidov, intellectual property expert, lecturer at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy and Tashkent State University of Law and Timur Azamatov, director of the Mirzo-Ulugbek Innovation Center.
In one of the parallel sessions, a 3-hour video-making workshop was held by the representative of Makerspace Almaty Batyrkhan Suleiman. Video-making is a sought-after vector in advertising, in SMM, in the media sphere, since photo advertising is becoming obsolete. At the session, Batyrkhan talked about the basics of video shooting and demonstrated how to properly use all the features of the camera.
What is relevant in Silicon Valley? Technology trends were discussed by Laura Messerschmitt, Vice President of Global Customer Experience, GoDaddy & Veronika Oget, Sr. Program Manager, NPI at Amazon. The speakers formulated the top 10+ current trends in Silicon Valley, including: development of virtual reality, cloud computing, development of solar energy, evolution of search engines, future of shopping, autonomous vehicles, development of the use of drones, robotics, the Internet of things and development of Smart home, machine learning and, of course, blockchain.
Zoe Shladow, Google’s strategic design and Miley Smith, leading geologist of Northgate Environmemtal Management, told about the STEM career directions for young people in Uzbekistan at a session on career opportunities and career planning for students. STEM is growing rapidly, and there are so many ways to find work in these areas. But critical thinking is needed to quickly adapt to change. It is important to answer your own questions: What do I want to do, wherever I am? What problems do I want to solve? And if such a role does not exist, we must invent it, then invent it. Directions in which development will become fruitful: renewable energy (solar and wind), engineering, IT technologies, data analytics, statistics, mathematics, cybersecurity, architecture and design, industry, biotechnology, ecology and technological ethics.
The guest from Silicon Valley Rekha Pai‐Kamath, Silicon Valley Social Ventures, Partner, Fast Forward, Board Member made a presentation on “What Silicon Valley investors are looking for in startups.” Rekha, as an investor, considers both commercial and non-commercial projects. But she is especially attracted to projects with a high share of social significance – in ecology, medicine and other fields. “How do I see my work as an investor, how do I evaluate startups from the point of view of an investor? External financing depends on the needs and plans of the startup, but external investments are not needed at the start of the business, you do not need to invest a lot of money at the initial stage. Capital is needed when developing a scientific or software product. As a rule, such products require a lot of time, material, intellectual costs even before they enter the market. When sales begin, they do not cover all costs, you continue to spend and enter the very zone of death when you become in need of financing.”
At the round table on corporate mentoring from the American Chamber of Commerce in Uzbekistan, Jennifer Bigelow, Director of the Representative Office of GM in Uzbekistan and General Director of GM Powertrain Uzbekistan, spoke. “Why is coaching important? We want to increase the potential of our employees, we want to invest in the development of future leaders. At GM, we specially developed such courses where the process of transition from level to level is the most comfortable and deepening in the subject occurs gradually. The process of selecting a student and mentor is important: each participant in the program must understand the value of the experience gained. ”
Komila Khasanova, the representative of BAT Uzbekistan, told about the Project Global Graduate Program – a unique opportunity for young professionals from various fields to put into practice their newly acquired knowledge. Highly professional managers of the Company support the program participants at every stage.
Shachi Patel, Founder and Executive Coach, SETU Coaching itself once participated in a mentoring project. She built her presentation on the three main W mentoring programs — What, Why and Where & How, and cited several success stories of her students as an example, including our compatriot, Shodiyabegim Bakhtiyorzoda.
About volunteer projects born after participating in the TechWomen program, told Nazira Sherali, founder of the online mentoring program LeanIn in Kyrgyzstan. Nazira noted that before participating in the project, she was afraid she would not be able to cope with the tasks, but the mentors helped to believe in themselves and inspired to go towards their goals. One of them was the idea to launch one project per year. Today, Nazira is the creator of an online platform for finding mentors for residents of Kyrgyzstan from other countries. At the first stage of the project, Nazira received 42 applications from mentors and more than 100 applications from future students.
“Think about who helped you get what you have now?” Almost everyone I know received support from close people, colleagues, or a mentor. Sometimes people think, come up with the thought that they cannot do or achieve something. And here it is very important that there is someone nearby who can help to believe in yourself. Mentoring is a very simple and important thing. In mentoring, it’s not only the ability to understand, listen and give advice that matters. I decided that I would sponsor women: this is continuing education, help in gaining new experience. I have been working with TechWomen for many years and every time I make sure that my listeners give me no less than I give them,” said Beth Steinberg, Zenefits, Chief People Officer:
Nigora Abduahadova, Head of T-MBA courses, Tajikistan: “Unfortunately, there are remote areas where it is difficult to reach women. It was with the aim of attracting these women that we created our project. In our courses, we talk about the importance of self-development, self-education. Recently, we conducted a project aimed at gaining self-confidence for women living with HIV. At first we thought that this project was practically impossible, but it was thanks to the values of mentoring that it was embodied in reality.”
At the session “How to Build a Cool Resume and Successfully Pass Interview in Technology Companies”, Apple representative Hosai Omarkhil said, “You don’t have to answer the employer’s question“ How much do you get now? ” It’s enough to say that it doesn’t matter and ask how much the employer agrees to pay monthly, what amount he is willing to offer as a salary. If you don’t know what salary is normal, study average market prices in advance, find out how much the position you are interested in is estimated.”
Sarasija Parthasarthy, the staff of Salesforce gave her recommendations: “When listing your previous jobs in your CVs, do not list which chores you performed, specifying a list of job responsibilities. Specify specifically what you brought to the company, what goals you have achieved. For example, if you worked in the sales department, then indicate that during the period of your work you have increased the level of sales by 20%. Specify. This is what really matters to your future employer. ”
Silicon Valley speakers Erin Wilkinson, Western Digital, Global Engineering Director and Elaina Tia, UI developer, UX Designer, LinkedIn share invaluable experience: How to promote and sell a startup with a presentation, sell your idea and gain the trust of your audience?
Each investor has his own values and tasks, it is necessary to adjust his company history to the needs of the investor in order to find a response. To avoid fiasco on a presentation of your project, put together a clear financial plan; an investor needs it more than the creativity of your pitch session. The best embodiment of your presentation will be a story that will give it a bright emotional coloring. The story should demonstrate the scale of a problem, the potential coverage of audience, because for an investor, scalability means profit.
In a presentation of an idea, a deep understanding of the essence of a problem is important, and the importance of an idea should be supported by the consolidation of transparent data from trusted sources, confirming the reliability and reliability of a project for investor. – Session How to promote and sell a startup using a presentation.
In pitch session, you must explain the magic that underlies your work. It’s not a fact that your idea will be as breakthrough as, for example, Airbnb, an online platform that has grown from a small project to a global resource operating around the world. Of course, investors are looking for a successful track record, but you might not be a founder of a project worth several million dollars… But an excellent team, a good idea, a particular development strategy and a clear business plan, supported by transparent facts, desire for continuous improvement is the key to the success of your presentation.
At the end of the conference, startups from the UK and Central Asian countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan made pitches of their projects.
Catriona McGill, an engineer and the technical development manager for Desolenator, a clean technology startup based in the UK and the Netherlands, told about her company’s product. People living in Nukus are very keenly aware of the problem that Catriona was talking about, because the problem of salt water is acute in this region.
Desolenator is a project of a low-cost mobile solar energy water desalination/purification system. The installation is powered by photocells, the heat and electricity of which allows to receive up to 15 liters of drinking water per day from contaminated and sea water solely due to a free renewable energy source.
And although there are many excellent desalination technologies in the world that make the water of the seas and oceans suitable for human consumption, they are too expensive, and their use leads to release of harmful substances into the environment. Catriona offers affordable, large and small Desolenator models for private and industrial use that use technologies that minimize environmental impact.
Monika Tomecka, a scientist and entrepreneur, executive director of uFraction8 Ltd., told about the possibilities of the project she represents. uFraction8 Ltd. develops special technologies that can increase field crop yield and several times increase the productivity of each square of sown areas. To increase the productivity and crop yield of fields, microorganisms processed in a special way will be used – microalgae which are able to extract harmful substances from water and soil and neutralize the harm of their impact on natural resources, which ultimately will lead to the achievement of the goal – to increase crop yield at a lower cost. The company has already created a prototype of the technology and successfully implemented several stages of the project. Ahead is the implementation of the complex process of microorganisms processing, on which the uFraction8 Ltd. team is currently working.
The startup dedicated to astronautics and satellite data management, was introduced by Zainab Salim. The company sells manageable data and solves a wide range of problems with help of data. Among them are monitoring the ice cover, eliminating the consequences of natural disasters, preventing illegal deforestation. How do we do this? Satellite images provide data, we monitor the situation and take measures to prevent a disaster. Other aspects of our business are traffic jam management, warning farmers that the time has come to harvest and much more.
Akmal Salikhov told About the Project Vronica, – it turned out that he came to virtual reality through the development of games. In the name of the startup, the abbreviation VR is put to the beginning to emphasize its innovativeness for Uzbekistan. Project slogan: “Impressive technology”. The project has a small team that creates projects in various fields, collaborating with large companies in Uzbekistan, such as: BAT Uzbekistan, UCELL, Samsung, Uzbekneftegaz and others. VR technology is effective in situations where a client needs to be «immersed» in your world. When a startup started its journey, it was faced with a lot of expenses: 3D modeling, level design, programming, testing. But every day, VR technology is becoming more affordable. Akmal focused his speech on the wide possibilities of VR for those who want to create their own project in this area.
Saltanat Alieva, a social entrepreneur, engineer, businessman, the founder and CEO of BaiNec from Kyrgyzstan, works in a startup related to 3D technology. It is developing in two directions. The first is the release of 3D printers and their sale at low prices. The cost is from 250 to 400 Dollars, while in Russia this equipment costs about 600 dollars, and in China 400 to 900. When the company acquired financial stability, the team of Saltanat Aliyeva launched a social project – printing prostheses for people with disabilities on 3D printer. Prostheses transmit tactile sensations. It is important to note that products are sold at cost price. Saltanat has a master’s degree in applied mathematics and computer science, as well as a master’s degree in economics. She studied computer graphics and design in India. She has a number of scientific publications and training manuals on simulation, 3D-graphics and design.
The creative part of the conference was presented by practical workshops for schoolchildren and students from Curiosity Maker Space. Girls created motherboards, designed simple robots, and studied the basic laws of physics. At the same time, an interactive workshop presentation from Mozilla took place on the Internet of Things.
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