A global mobile challenge: unleashing youth entrepreneurship
by Paris de l’Etraz, Founder, Global Mobile Challenge
Are there too many apps?
While there are many apps out there, plenty of opportunities remain for apps that are unique, distinctive and locally relevant. This is why I am passionate about offering young people around the world the support they need to design, develop and deliver new apps to the market.
Google’s recent decision to cut the minimum prices of the apps it sells to Android users in certain emerging markets will accelerate the demand for apps in these countries. In so doing, this decision will expand the range of apps and app-based services which customers will be able to access, and thus increase the opportunities available to developers of new applications.
Creating the conditions for young people to try their hand at app development and, indeed, as entrepreneurs, has long been a passion of mine.
Three years ago, I founded what is today the largest mobile solutions competition in the world, which began in the Middle East and today comprises six regional challenges: Asia, Middle East, Europe, Africa, Latin America and Eurasia, where VimpelCom, with its strong presence as a leading mobile operator in countries throughout the region, is a key sponsor and where participants have just completed their country finals. Over 4,000 teams will have participated this year alone to bring 21 finalists to Barcelona for the grand final in February 2016, organized with Mobile World Capital Barcelona.
Why mobile? Because, in my view, it is the easiest way for young people to become entrepreneurs. A successful mobile app or mobile solution startup is the quickest way for anyone to develop a new venture from scratch, and there are abundant opportunities available to developers with good applications to succeed in a wide variety of markets.
The common denominator is that the smartphone is becoming the life line of people all over the world.
Research from various developing markets shows that even people living in poverty are willing to spend 20% or more of their incomes on mobile services. The mobile phone has become our most important form of communication and entertainment. For many it is their life
The entrepreneurial experience
Participants in our competitions not only compete for a place in the Barcelona finals but more importantly, they get to go through the process of developing an app or mobile solution. They get to live the entrepreneurial experience. For many it is their first time. For everyone it will help them change their mindset. Young people all over the world are trained for a predictable world. This entrepreneurial experience exposes them to the uncertainties of the real world; a world where problems are not always what we think they are and solutions need to be validated by real customers.
I recently attended the Eurasia Mobile Challenge “acceleration session” in Yerevan, Armenia, where participants, hosted by Beeline Armenia, VimpelCom’s operating company in the country, learned more about the competition and had access to experienced mentors. A young female participant said to me, “Professor, thank you for taking the time to come all the way to Yerevan. We know the world is global and we should develop global solutions but it can be lonely out here, you have opened my mind today.” Over 200 young people showed up for the event.. One participant showed up with his father, he was 13 years old! Personally, I feel opening minds is priceless.
For telecom operators, this challenge provides a unique opportunity to connect with young people and support local entrepreneurial ecosystems. Twenty years ago telephone operators only had to provide a good voice product to compete; ten years ago it was data. Today customers don’t buy products, they want experiences and outcomes and this is exactly what VimpelCom seeks through partnering with competitions like this.
Eurasia is fortunate to have many young people with technical skills which are so necessary today in innovation. But innovation is not only about good arguments and an excellent product; it is now more about impact.
That impact is increasingly about the quality of the user experience. Telcos, like VimpelCom, know that better than most companies today.
The quality of our lives is increasingly a function of our experiences and that is why we seek those experiences more than ever. This is the true goal of these competitions: to give our young people the opportunity to create and deliver better and better user experiences in the mobile space to their countrymen and, perhaps, to those beyond their borders.