Held in Thimphu Bhutan, the Techstars Startup Weekend was supported by UNDP Bhutan and Youth Co:Lab. Bhutan’s second StartUp weekend of 2017 on the theme of ecotourism. This is the third in a recent series focusing on youth entrepreneurship in Bhutan following the first Startup Weekend on the theme of technological innovation (held from 27- 29 October in Puntsholing) and the Global Entrepreneurship Week led by the Loden Foundation that took place between the 13-19 of November.
Bhutan provides a particularly interesting example for the rolling out of Youth Co:Lab in a small landlocked country that has had predominantly public sector led economic model. The current administration demonstrated a keen interest in the role of youth-driven, sustainability focused models that echo the emphasis that the mountain nation has always given to the concept of Gross National Happiness.
130 people were in attendance, 56 of which pitched ideas. Thirteen teams went on to develop projects that were pitched in front of the his excellency the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, who stated: “We live in in a startup nation. It is up to all of us to fulfill the potential that we have here to create the startup nation together. We are unique. Our startup journey started many decades ago as a small impoverished country. Our Kings decided to give us free education and healthcare and to focus on Gross National Happiness (GNH). Your ideas reach out to community and the environment. They reach out to the poor and to the community. Here in Bhutan, it is clear we go beyond the bottom line.”
Discussions are underway to hold a National Dialogue style event in 2018 that will bring greater discussion about the bottlenecks that entrepreneurs face in the country for setting up and scaling of firms.