By Chelsea Young
Thirty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, and with it came a sense of hope and unity for the people of Europe. However, in the past year Europe has begun to see more dissension as Brexit pushes the countries back into a state of separation. This is one of the many reasons people gathered at the Europe Future Summit, which took place in NYC during the UN General Assembly Week.
Created by Andra Stanciu and powered by the Global Startup Ecosystem (GSE), the conference provided a forum for discussion about a 12-year initiative to accelerate innovation and growth in Europe and in the Pan-European Global Diaspora.
Andra Stanciu is a change-making serial entrepreneur who is also the founder of the Global Innovation Consortium and Head of Global Partnerships for Global Startup Ecosystem (GSE), the world’s largest digital accelerator program. Andra did an extraordinary job pioneering an agenda that brought delegates from numerous countries together to discuss solutions for the next decades of European economic development. Representatives from more than a dozen nations identified themselves in the audience, which packed the SAP America office at New York’s famous Hudson Yards building. Among the event’s distinguished speakers were Liz Walsh, Vice President of Growth Marketing at Forbes; H.E. Pjer Simunovic, Ambassador of Croatia to the United States; and Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President for UN Partnerships at SAP and Global Head of SAP Next-Gen/SAP University Alliances, discussed the “science-fiction approach” to building an ecosystem. Rosenberg, who routinely coordinates programming at SAP to stimulate opportunities for girls and young women in tech, stressed the importance of developing sustainable tech.
Christine Ntim and Einstein Ntim, founders of GSE, also delivered addresses at the event. Christine, an award-winning entrepreneur, and her husband Einstein were responsible for organizing the Africa Future Summit and the HER Future Summit during UN week in NYC.
Einstein focused on mental health, explaining to the audience that suicide is predicted to be one of the biggest killers of humanity by the year 2030. This steady increase in the visibility of mental illness is part of a larger debate about singularity. Using the definition crafted by his mentor, Michael Ray Creswell, Einstein defined singularity as: “The point at which technology is advancing so fast that our laws of society can no longer keep up.” Problems like social media making us feel more connected through disconnection, and people being replaced by machines, are just a few examples of what singularity has come to mean. Its effects on mental health can also be considered when looking at situations of political unrest, such as Brexit.
“I believe that Brexit is not a result, but a sentinel of a much deeper issue.” He explained. “And that is an example of where we see can tech innovation taking place so fast; how we [traditionally] deal with issues in our society can no longer keep up.” This is why it is so important to start adapting to tech innovation, as technology’s computational power is doubling every year, and society will be left behind.
There are fears concerning singularity and what it may mean to tech innovation such as artificial intelligence, but Einstein told the audience that if we don’t find ways to deal with these issues, the mental health problems we’re facing will continue to grow.
“I want to make us all aware that there are fundamental shifts taking place in our society,” Einstein told the audience, “and the only way to address them is to begin looking at these technologies, to begin working with each other and see how do we prepare ourselves and people in our society for a future that can be very uncertain.”
Christine continued the discussion, focusing more on the entrepreneurial side of tech. She began by explaining her entrance into the tech world as a black woman of Caribbean descent.
“It’s funny, I had to move outside the US ecosystem to get access to capital support,” she told the audience. Christine spent time in the Middle East and Dubai for five years and spent a year in London, where she was able to collect a huge amount of capital.
“Europe, when it comes to London,” she stated, “has a special place in my heart in understanding the power of the tech ecosystems there and what’s happening.”
During her time building up GSE, the powerhouse started to meet politicians, celebrities, and other influencers. “I started to see the power of influence and the power of really galvanizing to accelerate these conversations from a tech perspective,” Christine explained. “It is important to look not only at the influence of our political leaders but [at] people with different types of platforms as well. This becomes even more applicable when considering the goal of sustainability.”
The United Nations has listed 17 goals surrounding sustainable development that they plan to reach by the year 2030. At GSE, they empower and especially stand by goal number 17, which is focused on partnerships. The company works with over 140 partners and has helped over a thousand companies in 90 different countries.
One important characteristic of the partnerships they build is working within them to leverage technology. Christine reaffirmed that the world will not be ready for the coming technological innovation unless it is trained to do so, saying to the audience, “We are actually training our youth for jobs that won’t exist tomorrow.” This is the reason GSE is working to instill in this conversation the pressing issue of preparing for an unrecognizable future.
GSE became a major influence to reach those ends, starting in 2017 when they began building the largest tech summit community in the world. In 2017, GSE hosted the Haiti Tech Summit, and the event received about 83 million social media views during those two days. They went on to organize 11 summits around the world, making sure to look at what they can do to leverage this venture technology.
Christine mentioned that other people questioned the location choices, as they expected her to hit Western European countries like France, Germany, and the UK instead of smaller UN countries and African countries.
“I tell people: look at where our megalithic structures that exist today,” Christine told the audience. “They don’t exist in America. They don’t exist in Europe. They exist in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.”
Additionally, GSE also supports 53 summits around the world, based on governments they partner with. This has allowed the pair to plan a tour across Europe in the spring of 2020, where they will be going to about 10 different countries and discussing tech innovation.
“The tech summits that we do around the world are very emotional because you’re literally seeing presidents and heads of states and people like Jack Dorsey flying to Haiti for the first time, really coming in to see how does technology play a role in building these communities for the future.”
The purpose behind this series of tech summits echoes what Einstein was emphasizing in his Brexit remarks. The political unrest not only in the UK, but across the world, has caused a division amongst people and a loss of hope in their governments.
“Keep in mind,” Christine told the audience, “the benefit of the European Union, aside from travel currency, is also exchange of flow of ideas, and we live in an age where we need to be more interconnected than ever before.”
The disruptions caused by Brexit are now being felt by businesses and influencers across the globe and are unlocking anxiety about the future of Europe. Yet in the face of panic, there is much to remain hopeful for. We must prepare communities for the digital age; as all speakers at the Europe Future Summit pointed out, with increasing political unrest also come spikes in entrepreneurship. This potential for innovation keeps Stanciu looking constantly forward. Whatever the next 30 years of European development will hold, she intends to be on the forefront providing resources to upcoming generations with incredible ideas. There must always be room for discussion, diversity, and collaborative growth. And she is creating such space in the form of an incubator, to support cross-continental businesses development and continuous source of ideas, support and funds.
As Stanciu writes in her post-conference note: “The conversation continues… as does the work.”
Stay tuned for more about the Global Innovation Consortium Incubator, and other news about women pioneering the digital future.
Chelsea Young is a staff writer at HoneySuckle Magazine and alumna of Pace University NYC where she studied Communications, Journalism, and African American Studies.