Story: Forging collaboration through entrepreneurial ecosystems for youth

24 September 2021
ITC News

The International Trade Centre’s Youth & Trade programme and its global Ye! Community support young entrepreneurs around the world. Through an online platform, Ye! provides a space for networking, including access to mentors, opportunities, events, tools and resources. 

For many young entrepreneurs, having a unique idea, a well-developed business plan or a great team might not be enough to successfully grow their business – much of the success also depends on the right ecosystem.

During the UNCTAD15 Youth Forum on 16 September, organized by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) together with the Government of Barbados, five Ye! Community members had the opportunity to bring forth different perspectives on how everyone can contribute to turning business ideas into a reality for youth.
Under the theme “Start-up your dream: Creating an ecosystem of youth entrepreneurship”, each speaker offered unique insights: a hub manager supporting youth business through the incubation stage, a young entrepreneur in the mature stage, an angel investor, a network partner organization leading a young changemaker programme, and a business mentor, coaching youth businesses in the community.
A closer look: What you need for a well-functioning ecosystem 
Bob Oganga, Venture Development Associate at Outbox Hub in Uganda mentioned the importance of iteration and consistency when assisting young entrepreneurs to build successful services and products.
“When someone is working alone, it is very hard for them to succeed.”, said Bob, outlining that mentorship has been central to their programmes.
Federico Perez, the young Founder and CEO of Platinum Capital Colombia, said that apart from the more conventional ecosystem support, other alternative resources such as books, hackathons and tech partner deals can be a valuable add-on to improve and expand.
He also mentioned that peer-to-peer experience or sharing of failures can help young entrepreneurs tremendously in bouncing back from setbacks. He also encouraged ecosystem stakeholders to look at preventative measures to identify problematic patterns within startup operations before failures occur.

On the investor side, Alieu Senghore, Managing Director of The Gambia’s first Angel Investor Network, emphasized the importance of youth entrepreneurs being connected with the right angel investors within their specific field of interest. He also mentioned that the ecosystem should support young entrepreneurs in investment readiness to prepare them for funding opportunities.

As a network partner of the Youth & Trade programme, Judith Li, Global Programme Manager of the Young Founder Fellowship Programme at Westerwelle Foundation, talked about how crucial it is for ecosystem players to recognize the whole innovation value chain and to assess gaps in the markets that they are serving.
Finally, an active business mentor from the Ye! Community, Antonio Duarte from OneStream in Amsterdam stated that mentors are a monumental asset at any business stage. He also encouraged mentors to not only validate but also challenge the young entrepreneurs in their approaches and ideas to prepare them for hurdles and challenges.

All speakers agreed that a community-based approach is extremely helpful in tying all different services and stakeholders together, to forge collaboration and avoid duplications.

ITC continues to work hand in hand with many other ecosystem players to strengthen the conditions for young entrepreneurs to succeed, both locally and globally.

Join the Ye! Community to connect with different ecosystem stakeholders: