RISE is hands down the largest tech conference in Asia. And with the 2019 edition featuring 350 speakers and 16,000 attendees from more than 100 countries it doesn’t look like it is going away any time soon! The Hong Kong event is quite simply the not-to-be-missed rendezvous for startups, big corporations, media and tech enthusiasts – the flock of overseas attendees providing testament to how the global technology scene has acknowledged the regions place at the top table for high potential investment opportunities. Fortunately, the whirlwind that was RISE 2019 proved a familiar experience for our team, with Eventerprise having an extremely fruitful experience at a sister event in Dublin a few years back. With such diverse attendees, and over 600 startups participating, getting involved ended up being an easy decision for us, the only question to answer was whether our A-Team of Birgit, Jason and Lili could take Asia by storm!
Quite simply, they had a blast and ticked pretty much all their to-do’s across 3 days of non-stop action at the Riverside Convention and Exhibition Centre: deep-diving into the latest trends, tools and innovation strategies whilst tapping into the mindset of some of the most inspiring digital leaders from across Asia. Down in the trenches, our very own stand on the third and final day saw an impressive amount of foot traffic from across the globe. Afghani investors, partnership potential from across India and the Ukraine, event industry enthusiasts from just round the corner in Thailand and a number of our fellow start ups from as far afield as Brazil. The event also provided Jason Williamson, our very own VP for Strategic Partnerships based out of Singapore, the opportunity to pitch Eventerprise to select groups of investors. An experience that turned out to be a real eye opener: “It was refreshing to see how, even at what is fundamentally a technology conference, investors take a genuine interest in the people that make your vision a reality. I was expecting them to be laser focused on digging into the traditional metrics that are drummed into early stage businesses as the factors that will ‘make-or-break’ them. Getting asked ‘who do you rely on within your partner network, how do you attract people to work with you’ were questions I didn’t think would be coming our way in a first interaction. But it is great that they did.”
The interest in how early stage businesses like ourselves create an environment of excellence is something that resonates strongly with the management team at Eventerprise. With our proudly distributed organisation spanning 4 continents and a couple more time zones to boot, making this structure work, and leveraging the opportunities available, is something we felt the need to blog on earlier in the year. To our delight, the RISE conference elevated this practice once again to the fore. Most of the startups present could be found excitedly sowing seeds for cross border collaboration with investors, service providers and future team members, often the very first time. Such prevalent sentiments and enthusiasm go a long way to explaining why a diverse and inclusive culture can help build the foundations for a meaningful purpose across an organisation – no matter its size or maturity. In the case of our fellow startups, who invariably are encouraged to chase rapid growth on the one hand, whilst balancing the need to attract and retain fickle millennial talent on the other, they have seemingly found a way to tie it all together. Through thinking big and working smart with the best and brightest, wherever they call home.
“The primary thing that matters is having a culture that allows employees to feel they have ownership over the company,” noted Gary Liu, Chief Executive of the South China Morning Post during his talk at the conference. A sentiment that is echoed by our own CEO Birgit Thümecke, who has made this a foundation of Eventerprise’s business practices. “The mission of a company needs to be owned not only by the founders but shared by its people across all levels, on a daily basis, especially if the company wants to retain it’s best people.” Digging a little deeper it became clear the need for a purpose at work presented itself early in her days working in the airline industry. “I am fortunate in that I have invariably found creative outlets and ways to impact my environment which gave meaning to my work. As an example, while I was a staff member in the finance department of an airline what I found drove and motivated me was this grand idea that the airline’s mission was to move people from A to B, broaden horizons, and bring families together. Looking back on it that probably came from the fact that my South African mother would go years without seeing her family, it was just too expensive to fly and sadly today’s communication tools did not exist then to make life easier. When I travelled to South Africa for the first time in 1979, I was the first in my entire grade at school to take such a long distance trip. The power of the opportunity stayed with me – I knew this would be something I wanted to make available to as many people as possible, especially those who experienced the type of restrictions as my family.”
This notion of purpose became a common thread across many of the conference’s presentations and panel discussions, and fortunately for all present, the notion of increasing shareholder wealth was not mentioned once. “It is the single most important thing about running an organisation, especially for the next generation and millennials” Albert Wong, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP). “They can work with you; they can leave tomorrow and work with somebody else, but they will stick with you because you have a good purpose.” Progressive organisations have found ways to nurture purpose through a wide range of diversity and inclusion practices, building stronger ties to the community and providing greater opportunities for the marginalised being common examples. In our operational hub of Cape Town, South Africa we have seen tremendous success with initiatives such as our Women’s Leadership Programme and Young Gun Internships, which attract both local and international talent from a wide range of backgrounds. In a country where youth employment between the ages of 15-24 sits at a quite staggering 55%, there is a massive opportunity to build powerfully purposeful organizations. This was perhaps best encapsulated in the words of Uber’s CTO, Thaum Pham last week, “Talents are evenly distributed throughout the world, opportunities are not”.
Let’s be clear here: this is not just diversity for diversity’s sake. A sense of purpose must be established through a team of passionate people built around clearly defined, fundamental beliefs. “There’s no specific singular category of diversity that is important, and general diversity of thought is really crucial for the next stage and for innovation, and for pretty much all of our businesses,” noted Birgit. “It is about recognizing what different people bring to the table.” The importance of cultural diversity for companies wanting to expand into new markets cannot be underestimated in a globalized world. Management must recognize that aspirations and needs will differ from Cairo to California, and as a result, must come up with incentives and support systems to create a work environment in which people can thrive. Eventerprise is firmly built around this core believe and will continue to be long after the end of the conference in Hong Kong. The way in which it was embraced in such a public forum will undoubtedly stay with all attendees once they have returned to their own little corner of the world. With a little luck, however, the experience will promote further international collaboration, greater diversity in the teams that we task to solve the world’s problems and we will all benefit from the outcomes that such inclusion creates into 2019 and beyond.
Finally, a small reflection from Birgit on the experience of attending RISE with her 19 year old daughter, Lili, a young lady who clearly is providing inspiration and purpose by the truck load for our CEO.
“Travelling overseas with my daughter, who is part of the generation that now determines our future and from whom we can learn a lot, was really enlightening for me. She is very creative and even freer in her thinking than I ever was, and yet I am perceived as being relatively bold and individualistic. However, only relatively compared to the millenials. On one hand, I am free from social pressures that today’s generation is exposed to through social media. Norms have always been there, but their throughput and omnipresence has never been more pervasive than it is today. That is a clear disadvantage of the overzealous communication demands of our time. Having Lili with me provided some grounding and I hope that she has realized that “cooking is done with water everywhere” as my grandmother used to say. In other words, everything is possible and everyone can achieve anything if only their will is strong enough and they can back it up with real and honest work. Especially us women, we have to become more aware of our true potential and constantly promote ourselves in the same way men do. Instead of harbouring self-doubt or driven by a subconscious need to please. Be a boss-girl and stop caring about what others might think since you cannot influence other people’s thoughts anyways.”
Thank you RISE for the opportunity to showcase Eventerprise to the Asian technology fraternity, and no doubt we will be seeing you all again very soon.
About Birgit Thümecke
Digital transformation | Diversity & Inclusion | Organizational change | Innovation Winner at the 15th Annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business in the Female Entrepreneur of the Year category in November 2018.
Birgit is an experienced business strategist and entrepreneur who loves to help companies innovate and grow through the power of analysis, creativity, and teamwork. Her more than twenty years senior leadership experience in the technology and airline industries includes a successful tenure as group managing director of the customer service network of the Lufthansa Aviation Group, with 1800 team members across seven global locations.
Follow Birgit on LinkedIn linkedin.com/in/birgitthumecke
If you would like more information about this topic, please call:
Charlie Wright, Co-Founder Eventerprise
Phone: +27 76 022 4476
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