1 December 2018

Fourth batch of entrepreneurs graduate from eFounders Fellowship initiative

Source: UNCTAD/Alibaba. Ma with the 4th class of  eFounders participants.
Source: UNCTAD/Alibaba. Ma (right, standing) with the 4th
class of eFounders participants.
Thirty-eight Asian entrepreneurs have successfully completed the fourth edition of the eFounders Fellowship, a joint initiative by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and Alibaba Business School to arming entrepreneurs with the right skills for their businesses and encourage them to share their knowledge with their communities.

The initiative was started to fulfil the pledge made by Jack Ma, founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group, in his capacity as the UNCTAD Special Adviser for Young Entrepreneurs and Small Business. The commitment seeks to empower 1,000 entrepreneurs in developing countries by creating champions for inclusive and sustainable economic development through the digital economy over the next five years.

“This initiative amplifies many of the efforts made by the international community to support digital transformation and innovation for inclusive and sustainable development,” said Arlette Verploegh, UNCTAD eFounders Fellowship Programme Coordinator.

“Investing in youth entrepreneurship can inspire other entrepreneurs in their endeavours and help create awareness about challenges they face and the opportunities the modern economy offers.”
In the fourth batch, entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Singapore joined peers from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam in the programme. Collectively, the participants represent various industries including e-commerce, logistics, fintech, tourism and big data. All participants are founders of promising startups.

The first eFounders Fellowship Singaporean graduate is part of the fourth batch. Victor Liew is the founder of Xfers, a fintech providing compliance, payments, funds disbursal and e-money solutions in Singapore and Indonesia. Parcel Perform's co-founder Dana von der Heide was also part of the cohort. Parcel Perform, a logistics startup, is based in Singapore.

Participants had a chance to understand the entrepreneurship spirit at the core of Alibaba since it was founded, the integrated ecosystem of platforms including Taobao Marketplace, Tmall, Alibaba.com, Cainiao Network, Freshippo (Hema), in addition to relevant industry trends and developments such as New Retail and the impact of e-commerce in rural areas.

To foster more partnerships regionally, the class had interactive sessions where fellows engaged with the lecturers, participants and advisors. Speakers from Alibaba’s senior management team and network were joined by advisors from East Ventures, Gobi Ventures, 500 Startups and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). The advisors shared insights and experiences from their local markets and fund raising with the entrepreneurs, including tips on how to grow an entrepreneurial community within their respective digital economies.

The programme gave participants a greater appreciation of Alibaba Group’s support of the digital economy’s growth in China. Entrepreneurs witnessed the kickoff of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival and experienced the technology, concepts and milestones onsite. Additional field visits and lectures shed more light on the digital transformation that has swept China during the last 20 years.

The entrepreneurs also developed a sense of global and social responsibility by reviewing their business plans against the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“With exposure to the Alibaba ecosystem and our network of partners, and our role in developing the digital economy of China, we hope the entrepreneurs will discover more ways to build a more inclusive and sustainable model for their own businesses while championing the growth of the digital economy in their markets,” said Brian Wong, VP, Alibaba Group, who heads Alibaba’s Global Initiatives programme.

“It is such a privilege to be part of this initiative, especially when the senior leaders and founders, including Jack Ma, spoke to all of us in person,” said Liew. “Their commitment to share their knowledge and wisdom liberally is inspiring, and demonstrates how we can and should be contributing more to the community through our businesses and ideas.”

Following graduation, the 38 Asian candidates have been officially inducted as Fellows of the global eFounders Fellowship network. They join a cohort of 89 entrepreneurs who have graduated over the last three editions.

As part of the commitment by UNCTAD and Alibaba to ensure all Fellows actively apply what they have learned within their communities towards developing an inclusive and sustainable economic model, both organisations will continue to regularly monitor and support the progress of the Fellows every three months.

Advisors from five Asian countries were also inducted into a network overseeing and supporting the development of the latest batch of budding Asian entrepreneurs after graduation. These advisors were involved in the course to better understand the programme and entrepreneurs under their charge.


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