Youth entrepreneurship is key in mobile era


Most Asian countries have a majority youth population, and this has major implications for promoting mobile content consumption, creation, and entrepreneurship, according to speakers at the Mobile Youth Forum 2013 ( held recently in Baku, Azerbaijan.The World Summit Awards has a special category of awards for mobiles ( as well as for youth innovators in ICTs ( Such awards are regular benchmarks of excellence for youth startups in mobile and help stay focused on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, according to Peter Bruck from Austria, founder and chairman of the World Summit Awards.

Baku is not just the birthplace of the global oil industry and crossroads of Russian and central Asian culture, but an ambitious player in technology innovation through investment funds and entrepreneurship events, according to speakers from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and the Ministry of ICT.

Baku also became the 123rd chapter of MobileMonday (, the global network of mobile startups and developers. MobileMonday (MoMo) is now present on all continents, and in 150+ cities around the world, according to MoMo CEO Jari Tammisto.

The World Bank’s infoDev initiative promotes mobile innovation through access to finance, startup communities, incubator networks, bootcamps, and capacity building networks, according to Heidi Humala, manager of infoDev’s Global Network of Business Incubators.

These include mLabs and mHubs in Asia and Africa. Over the past two years, the mLabs in Armenia, Vietnam, Kenya and South Africa have supported 1,600 developers and startups, and brought 117 apps to market. Professional networking among startups in these countries has been promoted via MobileMonday.

Promoting such innovator networks has broad impacts, such as improving SME growth, competitiveness, and inclusion, particularly for women, said Humala. infoDev is also hosting its 5th Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship ( in South Africa at the end of May.

Two competitions were also held in Baku for mobile startups, one sponsored by mobile operator BakCell and the other by MobileMonday. Competitors included KinoTap (movie ticket booking by mobile) and Aztagram (Azeri adaptation of Instragram).

“We are now in the age of Rapid Innovation,” said Richard Shearer, CEO of BakCell. Innovative changes in the music and transportation industry which took over a century to develop are now happening in less than a decade in the mobile industry.

“Azerbaijan is the most mobile-centric market for Facebook in the world,” Shearer said. Mobiles are democratising and personalising content, and the pace of acceleration has been increasing, he added.

Mobile is more equal-opportunity than the Internet in terms of startups and funding, according to Jouko Ahvenainen, chairman and co-founder of Grow VC International. Sites like Kickstarter are creating open marketplaces for ideas and funds. “Marketing is now a conversation and business is a social science,” he explained, highlighting new models of co-creation platforms.

A range of players is now competing in mobile space, said Andreas Konstantinou, founder and managing director of app developer research firm Vision Mobile. These include companies creating unique experiences, others creating meaningful differentiation, and some competing on price only. App developers should focus not just on smartphones as development platforms but tablets as well, he advised, based on findings from his recent surveys (

A range of incubators and startup networks is coming up with new engagement formats for youth. Moldova has a Youth Entrepreneur Services network (, according to Vitalie Moraru, president of the Moldovian Technology Transfer Network. Romania has a Mobile App Camp (, said Radu Ticiu, founder of Mobile Monday Timisoara and manager of StartUpHub Timisoara.

I shared the example of the new initiative in India by, an annual Startup Jobs Fair ( This one-day model for a conference and exhibition of job opportunities in startups can be scaled globally, and is a useful way for youth to learn about careers in startups, and for incubators and startups to attract fresh talent.

In sum, a focus on youth and mobile startups will be important for regions such as Asia. Most developed economies in Europe are going through an ageing crisis, whereas much of Asia has a larger percentage of youth population, observed Govind Nair, President, Hemisphere Solutions in Washington DC.

It is important for incubators, investors and business leaders to actively engage this digital generation in developing mobile content and services for local and global audiences, the Summit concluded.

[Follow YourStory's research director Madanmohan Rao on Twitter]


Updates from around the world