Russell Simmons On Monday, I will be delivering the opening keynote address at the Urban Entrepreneurship Summit at Rutgers Business School in Newark, which is being co-hosted by the White House. It is a pleasure to work closely with this great president and his administration to support private/public relationships like this one. At the summit, I will join senior members of the Obama administration, business, community and academic leaders, amazing entrepreneurs, other elected officials and members of the non-profit sector in a day long program focused on creating a stronger public-private partnership that will increase minority and women owned business enterprises. This has been a life-long passion of mine, ever since I put my name on my first record and that is why I am humbled to share my story with the hundreds of people who will be in attendance.
Prime Minister Najib Razak is going through a rough patch, hit by a renewed interest in the Altantuya murder, a resurgent PAS, Malaysia’s depreciating competitiveness among its global counterparts, still-plummeting foreign direct investments and low public confidence.
These are just some of the many things stressing him out now. Even a relaxing trip to attend his daughter’s engagement in Kazakhstan has turned into a nightmare.
And as if to add salt to the injury, his own deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin has barely raised a pip in defense of his boss.
Instead it was UMNO Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin who defended Najib from the barrage of questions about his alleged use of public funds for what has been tagged the ‘Silk Road Wedding’. Some saw in Khairy’s move an effort to curry political favor from Najib.
Khairy sure did beat the other contenders, including deputy Trade minister Mukhriz Mahathir and Foreign minister Anifah Aman, to be first to defend Najib. In fact, it seems strange that none of Najib’s so-called friends have stepped out to speak for him
This actually reflects the sad state of affairs in UMNO where mid and higher-level warlords are seeking to further their own cause. It is also a telling indication of what they think of their president and his shelf-life as Prime Minister.
Indeed, the silence comes as no surprise. Najib’s clumsy fumbles are playing into the hands of his rivals in UMNO especially his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who being the next in line stands to gain the most. It is now far more advantageous for Muhyiddin to allow Najib to formulate his own demise.
And perhaps this also explains the seemingly odd way the government of Malaysia has been responding to crises of late. The nation is entertained to a myriad of politicians who say everything and anything they wish, leaving it to Najib and his inner circle to explain it away using their own terms.
It shows an administration and a Cabinet in disarray, unable to keep its politicking members in check. Allowing each leader free rein to serve up their own agenda other than the one that truly benefits the people.
This is why, Khairy’s defence of the PM is a strange move. Khairy is not part of the main faction within UMNO, at least not anymore.
In fact, those in the Mukhriz camp regard him with contempt and consider him little better than a traitorous upstart for having challenged Mahathir Mohamad during the Badawi administration.
The intense lobbying especially by Mahathir himself helped Najib to say ‘No’ to Khairy, when the Youth Chief asked for a Cabinet position. On his own, Najib is believed to be none too happy with Khairy either. There is great suspicion that it was Khairy who spilled the beans on the Altantuya murder and Scorpenes kickback case to the press.
But Najib is now weakened and those who are supposed to be close to him are distancing themselves. They see a major collapse on the way and they don’t want to be hit when the ‘shit hits the fan’.
Now, this is playing into Khairy’s hand. As Youth Chief of UMNO, he has actually been positioning himself for this day.
To the likes of Perkasa and Pembela, Khairy was lousy and did not fulfill his role of as the customary firebrand defender of Malay rights. Instead, it was left to creaky 60-year old Ibrahim Ali, at least 25 years older and as many pounds heavier, to play this swashbuckling, heroic role.
But Khairy stuck to his guns and kept branding himself as someone who has a mind of his own. This is a person who dictates his own movement. And this makes him a useful ally and worthy opponent. He also has youth on his side, the admiration of many young UMNO members and the fire to take on opposition stalwarts head-on.
To a certain degree, Khairy shares the same traits of a young Anwar Ibrahim. But Anwar was not sneaky. Khairy still is. Look at how he milked the Kazakh ‘Wedding March’ on Twitter.
Can Najib use the latest developments to his advantage? Will he forge new alliances? Will he dump those who convinced him to dump 1 Malaysia and the New Economic Model? Will he finally strike out with new partners?
That remains to be seen. But either way, Malaysians should also remember that while Khairy’s dad-in-law Abdullah Badawi gave Malaysia the greatest democratic space compared to past prime ministers especailly Mahathir, Badawi was also terribly inept and corruption was said to have worsened even more.
At just 34, Khairy is believed to have a personal war chest amounting to hundreds of millions. It would be wise for Najib to take stock of who can help him and who are really his friends, although it won’t really matter much in the final cut.
In politics, there is a very fine and interchangeable line between friend and foe. And nowhere is this more apparent than in UMNO, the mother hotbed of intrigue.
ZURICH (Catherine Bosley) – Swiss and U.S. authorities have held informal exploratory talks that touched on regularizing untaxed money held by wealthy Americans in secret Alpine accounts, a spokesman for a finance ministry office said.
U.S. officials have said they are investigating other banks after UBS paid $780 million in 2009 to settle tax evasion charges.
In an article on June 9, sources told Reuters the U.S. and Switzerland were in advanced talks on a multibillion dollar deal that would let several Swiss and European banks join a common settlement to avoid potential U.S. prosecution.
The announcement of a settlement could come as early as July, the sources said.
Mario Tuor, spokesman for the State Secretariat for International Financial Matters (SIF), said on Friday the two sides had exchanged ideas but that he could not confirm the July date, whether the two sides were eyeing a multi-bank solution, or any other details mentioned in the article.
“There were several sets of talks, one of which was on the sidelines of the IMF’s spring meeting and was about the FATCA, though ideas were also exchanged about finding a solution for the past,” he said.
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a U.S. bill adopted in March 2010 that forces non-U.S. banks to automatically share a vast amount of information regarding the bank dealings of their U.S. clients.
With state coffers strained by the financial crisis, Switzerland has come into the crosshairs of tax authorities in Italy, Britain and Germany, as well as the U.S., which all suspect their citizens of stashing money in Swiss accounts to avoid taxes.
In 2009 Berne agreed to hand over to Washington bank data relating to 4,450 clients of UBS, piercing a hole in Swiss bank secrecy laws.
The U.S. Department of Justice continues to go aggressively after U.S. citizens who have hidden assets abroad, with a senior U.S. Internal Revenue Service figure saying this month the authority was about to probe at least one bank.
It would be an understatement to say that business plan competitions are sweeping the country. They are sweeping every country.
The University of Trinidad and Tobago — a new university, serving this tiny island nation from a campus still under construction — already has sponsored its third annual UTT IDEAS Competition. Prize winners ranged from the “CyberGlove” bowling trainer to a new business model for privatized postal reform, which could be replicated in developing countries worldwide.
Rice University’s business plan competition, one of the largest in the United States, accepts entries from anywhere. Entries this year included a startup with a technology for controlling the irrigation of farmers’ fields in Pakistan, and a plan to “provide quality assurance services from the city of Tucuman, Argentina, to PC and video game publishers all over the world.”
Within the U.S. alone, the range of ideas submitted to business competitions is amazing. Along with myriad plans for the next great Internet startup, there are plans built around new polymers and nanotech materials from university labs, plus promising ideas in medical care, and much more.
Now for the sad part. Most of the plans and ideas, including a lot of those judged to have a real shot at success, never come close to being tried in the marketplace. Every year, untold numbers of the best-laid business plans of bright graduate students and undergraduates will raise a small stir of excitement, but won’t even be iterated to the next stage of development. And the reason isn’t always a lack of funding.
Katie Petersen, a colleague of mine who runs Kauffman’s iStart, a web-based platform for managing business competitions, has talked to numerous finalists at competitions. She says, “Whenever I see people with great ideas I’ll ask them, ‘Are you actually going to do this?’ I’m surprised at how often the answer is no.”
Some competitors “have no intention of starting a company in the first place,” Katie says; they write a business plan mainly for the learning experience and the chance to earn recognition in a contest. Others feel they can’t make the “total commitment” required for launching a startup, because of personal goals or duties that take priority in their lives, while still others would need expert assistance to go forward. As Katie notes, “Maybe they need a co-founder with particular skills, or a mentor.”
So you may be thinking what Katie Petersen thinks: “If people aren’t able to act on a good idea, why not let them hand it off to somebody who will run with it? Or connect them to a partner who can help?” That’s exactly what iStart is doing, and it’s part of a growing chain of meta-ideas all focused on the same idea: Too many innovations are sitting on the shelf; let’s move them into use.
The recent evolution of iStart is a great example of the expanding resources out there for entrepreneurs and their innovations. What began as a software platform for universities and other organizations to customize, and use, to conduct their competitions efficiently has grown into an idea brokerage and networking hub for aspiring entrepreneurs looking for exposure, ideas, partners, and mentors. In less than a year since Kauffman launched the site, some 40 universities and public entities (including Rice and the University of Trinidad and Tobago) now use the platform for competitions, and more than 1,200 entrants have posted ideas. You can go to the site right now, browse their ideas by keyword or category, and then click to connect with the idea-holders–whether they are in Austin or Afghanistan.
And here’s where things get really interesting. Some of the business ideas now being posted on iStart are, themselves, new ideas for brokering ideas. Or for connecting entrepreneurs, innovators, and investors with one another.
And that’s just the beginning. As more competitions with more entrants come aboard, the goal is to build an online community where vastly more business ideas can move beyond the realm of the academic to the realm of IRL: existing In Real Life.
And then there’s Flintbox. You’ve probably heard of the “shelf technologies” that are developed at university or government labs, but never commercialized. Many could at least have value as research tools, for instance, chemical compounds and computer programs that other scientists could use to move their own work along. In 2003, a group at the University of British Columbia launched a website called Flintbox, to help disseminate such innovations across Canada and elsewhere. Flintbox struck a spark and is now owned by a private firm.
Meanwhile, in 2006, Kauffman started a similar enterprise called the iBridge Network. iBridge has grown to have a searchable inventory of more than 15,000 technologies from over 128 universities and research labs.
We as a global society are reaching an exciting critical-mass stage. By making smart use of online networking, business competitions, and other social and economic tools at our disposal, we can accelerate the processes of innovation tremendously. We can develop new generations of meta-ideas–which the economist Paul Romer defined as “ideas about how to support the production and transmission of ideas.”
As Katie Petersen puts it, the key first step is creating “transparency and access” to what our fellow humans are doing. That opens the door to new modes of collaborating. And let’s not forget to harvest those ideas that are lying dormant. Great inventions and companies have often been built by combining, or re-purposing, ideas that never quite made it in some previous form. The opportunities are there; it’s time to find them.
As many of you know, it has been a very long road for me to get to where I am at today. No one believed in hip-hop or Def Jam in the beginning, and I mean no one. When I had the idea of Phat Farm, no one believed in the obvious white space that became the urban design phenomenon. And this was AFTER I had made a lot of people a lot of money. That’s just how it is… No one can see your vision but you, because your vision came from God to you and you alone, so most times you are the sole torch carrier ! No one believed in the idea for a virtual bank which became the RUSH Card, and almost everyone — with the notable exception of my visionary partner Jim Breyer at Accel (Facebook and Groupon, among many) tried to warn me off of the natural integration or post racial direction ofGlobalGrind.com. I think by now you get the point. So what is the reason that those dreams came true or are coming to fruition? All that mattered is that I believed in all of these visions and allowed my imagination to run wild. That was the difference. As my great inspiration, the yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, said “the imagination is God” and the enlightened can perform miracles with faith alone, but us mere mortals have to work hard, be dedicated and resilient, to realize our dreams.
My whole life I have never stopped dreaming. We all have dreams, but here is what is different about dreams today: now is the time to dream big, because even during tough times like these, you can still make your dreams happen.
I know there’s a lot of pressure outside, inside — economic pressure, social pressure. Remember, pressure can crack pipes. But it can also create diamonds. I am inspired that even during these hard times, the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in every city across this great nation. In fact it is alive more today than ever before. It is everywhere I look — from the barbershop to the boardroom, from the corner store to the corner office, from the college dorm to the housing projects…the ideas YOU have will make this country more competitive, more productive and more peaceful.
For the past six months I have been hearing about amazing business ideas while touring the country for my latest book, Super Rich, and people ask me on tour and on the website I founded, GlobalGrind.com, what they can do to be successful. I always say: “Do anything you want.” Remember you cannot fail until you quit! Because when you follow your dream with persistence and resilience, that dream will always become a reality.
I am not saying it is easy. Right now things may be tough for you, but let’s make a promise to each other. Somehow, someway, let’s go to work on something you care about. That is why we are doing this summit, to figure out new ways to create opportunities for our communities. So, when you have these dreams, there will be systems in place, in your local community, supported by our government and the private sector, that you can access to help you achieve your goals.
Ok, so how do you DO IT? Start at the beginning. What do you love? One of the beautiful things about this country is that it affords you the freedom to do whatever you imagine. When you have an idea that you find yourself feeling very passionately about, then that’s one you need to go after. Pursue a career because you love it, not because you think people will love you for pursuing it.
Once you’ve picked a vision that you feel passionate about, freeze it and be clear about it. I can’t stress this enough. If you have an idea, don’t wait until the next day to work on it…write it down now. Start with the big picture first, and then bring in the details. I remember a guy at a major sneaker company telling me that he always wanted to play in the NBA, because he loves basketball. The NBA only has a certain number of jobs if you want to be a player, 450 to be exact. But, there are tens of thousands of jobs working in and around basketball. So, this guy took a job working in basketball and loves it.
Now, that you have frozen your vision and are clear about it, tell the world what you are going to do. Once you share your vision with the world, you are stuck with it. Have the courage to let people expect you to make it happen. This is a good thing. Focus on that one vision and go to work to make it a reality. Then set the right goal for you. In the end, the overriding factor is whether or not you realize your dreams FOR you. Not the world. You.
So, look at your life, at your dreams, your opportunities as a blank canvas that you can paint on it any colors you want. Whether this is your first idea or your fifth company, be creative and paint the most beautiful painting ever painted. Now is the time to dream, and I am so proud to work alongside my friend, President Barack Obama to support every dream that you can imagine!