The UN Foundation’s inaugural Global Entrepreneurs Council came together to discuss how to tackle the world’s most challenging problems.
By Gabbi Baker
Prompted by the question, “What global issue keeps you up at night?” the UN Foundation‘s inaugural Global Entrepreneurs Council, comprised of some of the nation’s most innovative young philanthropists, joined together in Washington, D.C., for a lively debate on partnering with the UN to tackle the world’s most challenging problems.
The members of the Global Entrepreneurs Council represent various industries including, corporate, creative community, and media and have a proven track record of entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and advocacy on global issues. With the task of taking the UN and the UN Foundation – campaigns, partnerships, and programs – to the next level of innovation and impact, this year’s Global Entrepreneur Council members are: Ryan Allis, CEO, iContact; Elliott Bisnow, CEO, Summit Series; Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Founder, Fuel Outdoor; Brian Gott, Publisher, Variety Magazine; Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Google; Angela Mwanza, Senior Vice President, UBS Private Wealth Management; Shervin Pishevar, Executive Chairman, Social Gaming Network; Shauna Robertson, Co-Founder, Crowd Rise; Zaw Thet, CEO, 4INFO; and Randi Zuckerberg, Director of Marketing, Facebook.
Last night, after cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the lower level of the sleek restaurant The Source by Wolfgang Puck, each of the entrepreneurs had a chance to share his or her vision for the world. All present but two – Marissa Mayer was in New York for an evening meeting and expecting mother Randi Zuckerberg was in California due for delivery – they emphasized the need for change in the world and explained the way that they’re working together to implement that change.
The informal program kicked off with Variety Publisher Brian Gott sliding in a little late after, as he clarified, he decided he would walk the three blocks to the restaurant. Ten blocks later, he joked, here he was. “Our industry is built on the next big idea,” Gott said, speaking about the world of magazine publishing. “The future resides on being able to identify and tell the next big story.” He spoke highly of the work that the UN Foundation does to help him accomplish his goals and that his biggest challenge is finding more partners to help build the future.
Summit Series’ Elliott Bisnow took the microphone next, beginning by introducing his family members who joined him for the program. In Bisnow’s work, he targets two types of people: entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, understanding that individuals who work in corporations can still have that entrepreneurial spirit. Although named the “Davos of Generation Y” by Forbes magazine, Summit Series was described by Bisnow as the “Woodstock or Burning Man for business,” a comparison that resulted in laughter from the crowd. Before closing with the phrase “rock and roll,” he shared his advice — do what you’re passionate about and make sure that it’s adding value to those around you.
Zaw Thet, CEO and co-founder of 4INFO, spoke more specifically about education, both domestically and internationally. Making note of his fiance in the room, he asked the question, “What kind of future are our kids going to have?” There are major issues in education that need to be addressed, he added, and it’s been a “blessing” for him to be able to work with amazing people to educate leaders about philanthropy and how to give back.
Born in Zambia, UBS Private Wealth Management’s Angela Mwanza said that she stays up at night thinking about how to solve the health problems in her home country where more than one in every seven adults in the country is living with HIV. “The key to finding a solution is education, entrepreneurship, owning the problem, and owning the next steps,” she explained. Her goal is to help her clients think about values and investments at the same time.
iContact’s Ryan Allis referenced a time in high school when his economics professor provided the class with an alarming statistic: more than 40% of the world lives on less than $2 a day. After visiting Africa, Allis knew that he wanted to be an investor in other entrepreneurs, and he works everyday to use business as a tool for social good. “Business should be used to do GOOD and do WELL at the same time,” Allis emphasized.
“Everything keeps me up at night,” started producer Shauna Robertson. “I’ve decided not to sleep.” Robertson recently left the movie business to pursue her dreams of working in the non-profit sector and co-founded the web-based business Crowdrise. The question she asks: “How do we make fundraising fun?” Robertson wants to show that fundraising can be hip, and as she describes, Crowdrise aims to “bring joy to the ask.”
Founder of The Social Gaming Network, Shervin Pishevar began by crediting Elliott Bisnow with his seat on the Global Entrepreneurs Council, describing him as the “superconnector” between many of the members. Previously a single dad for seven years, Pishevar joked that he used to be kept awake at night by making baby bottles for his children, but now, they keep him up because they’re his inspiration. His biggest challenge is freedom and using technology to bring freedom to the Middle East. His goal is to eradicate dictatorship by enveloping the world with the technologies that give humans the ability to communicate with no government interference.
Sergio Fernández de Córdova is the founder of Fuel Outdoor, as well as an active investor or advisor in over 10 media related companies, and he approached the problem from the perspective of political leaders. “The economic recession is the single greatest opportunity for entrepreneurs,” he advised. It’s a scary thought, he continued, that entrepreneurs are out there, yet world leaders are missing the opportunity to utilize their innovation and creativity. “I hope we get some sleep at night,” he closed.
Finally, by way of executive director of global partnerships for the United Nations Foundation Elizabeth Gore, Facebook’s Director of Marketing Randi Zuckerberg described the issue that keeps her awake at night — using technology to make the largest and most scalable impact in the world. She tries to keep her team focused on three main issues: effective use of social media with limited resources, working with large-scale organization to make a dent in society, and changing the industry perception that money is everything. In today’s age when people are lending their identities to causes, Zuckerberg wrote, we must understand that a tweet or “like” on Facebook can have the same impact, if not greater, than a financial donation.