Entrepreneurs off to Malaysia summit

Emily Sutton (left), Thomas Mitchell and Sarah Ley-Hamilton are looking forward to attending global entrepreneurship events in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Emily Sutton (left), Thomas Mitchell and Sarah Ley-Hamilton are looking forward to attending global entrepreneurship events in Kuala Lumpur. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Three young Dunedin start-up enthusiasts are heading to Malaysia next month for what they believe will be the trip of a lifetime.

Sarah Ley-Hamilton (24), Thomas Mitchell (21) and Emily Sutton (21), along with Josh Harrington, from Invercargill, have been selected and sponsored to represent New Zealand in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and to attend the Global Startup Youth Event.

The summit was initiated by United States president Barack Obama in 2009 as a global platform to empower entrepreneurs with the skills and resources ''necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century''.

Mr Obama will deliver the keynote address at this year's summit which is being held in Kuala Lumpur on October 11 and 12.

It is organised by the Ministry of Finance under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak, assisted by the Malaysian Development Corporation and Small to Medium Enterprises Corporation, with input from the White House and various entrepreneurial organisations.

Prior to the summit, the inaugural Global Startup Youth event is being held, aimed at turning ideas into high-growth ventures solving real-world problems. More than 500 young people, aged between 18 and 25, and from 90 nations, will attend that three-day event.

The Dunedin trio, whose trip was being paid for by the Malaysian Government, were all excited about the opportunity.

Mr Mitchell, a freelance website developer and small business consultant, who is also studying full-time towards a science degree in neuroscience, said it was ''one of those experiences that is exciting but also nerve-racking''.

It was going to be a completely different country and there was going to be an opportunity to meet so many interesting people.

He felt a ''massive responsibility'' to get out and talk to people, along with an obligation to bring back skills to New Zealand.

He wanted to spread the message of social enterprise start-ups, pushing the model of designing businesses to solve some of the world's greatest problems.

Mr Mitchell is also the Dunedin regional co-ordinator for Lifehack, whose mission is to produce strategies, new technologies and media solutions to change the way people perceive, navigate and act towards youth mental health.

Miss Ley-Hamilton has been working as business development manager for her father's dental radiology business.

She attended a Lifehack weekend in April, which was ''one of the most awesome experiences'' and it began the start-up ''obsession'' she now has.

She described the Malaysian trip as a ''fantastic opportunity''.

''We've got so much to learn,'' she said.

Ms Sutton, who is in the early stages of her own start-up business, creating biotech jewellery, said she always tried to ''live life out of the comfort zone''. The mix of people attending the events would be ''fantastic''.

Her foray into entrepreneurship started with a random entry in a Startup Weekend in Dunedin in March. She is now studying towards a master's of entrepreneurship at the University of Otago.

Dunedin was a very good community for start-ups as it was very welcoming and helpful, she said.

Start-up investor Dave Moskovitz, who was a selector for the Global Startup Youth Event, said the southern contingent were very promising young leaders, who inspired people around them.

''They display the key Kiwi attributes of resourcefulness, generosity and persistence,'' he said.

He expected they would do a ''really good job'' of representing New Zealand and ''showing the rest of the world how we do things here''.

The connections they would make would stand them in ''great stead'' in the future, he said.