Elmira Bayrasli spent the past two decades working on foreign policy, international development, and with startups worldwide. In 2013, she co-founded Foreign Policy Interrupted, an education and media startup dedicated to increasing female foreign policy voices in the written and electronic press. Her book published on September 8, 2015.
An 8-year-old Elmira Bayrasli wanted to know why she couldn’t have ketchup with her dinner. Her grandmother told her there was nowhere in Turkey that made it.
“Why had no Turk started a ketchup factory?” she asked. Her grandmother replied that doing business in Turkey was just too much trouble.
While entrepreneurship does start with an idea or dream, it is in fact the ability to overcome obstacles. Tweet This Quote
Another child might shove the foreign food around on her plate and count the days until summer ended when she could return to the comforts of her birth country. But Bayrasli was an inquisitive child and followed a line of questioning that began a lifelong pursuit for solutions to big—and small (lack of ketchup)—problems.
Her grandmother’s answer sufficed for a short while. Some countries saw economic success and some didn’t. It was an entry point for the greater explanation of why her parents chose to emigrate to the United States.
She grew up straddling two worlds: America, considered powerful and prosperous, and Turkey, seen as poor and underdeveloped. An ever-mounting collection of questions formed at this intersection. They led to an impressive career first in government and then as an expert on global affairs and foreign policy, all with a superhero mission: to search tirelessly for ideas that will save the world.
In her newly released book From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs in Unlikely Places, she does not turn to the usual suspects to beg their secrets. Silicon Valley isn’t her bet for where we will usher in the new tomorrow. The people armed with big ideas to change the world, she informs us, live in unlikely places: Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, India, China, and beyond. It’s precisely their precarious footing in uncertain economies and challenging cultures, she shows us, that vets the heartiest ideas against all odds.
The people armed with big ideas to change the world live in unlikely places: Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, India, China, and beyond. Tweet This Quote
“While entrepreneurship does start with an idea or dream,” she writes, “it is in fact the ability to overcome obstacles and, as economist and godfather of innovation Joseph Schumpeter noted, creative destruction.”
Each chapter, a result of Bayrasli’s immersion in pockets all over the world, details an entrepreneur who holds the keys to economic growth in their respective countries. Her approach has a pointed aim: to understand how these front leaders living in the most challenging societies manage to build products and services that garner international praise and investment.
As readers, we are exposed to fresh perspectives on regions typically shackled by unflattering media reports. We learn about Monis Rahman, a computer engineer in Pakistan who uses the internet to band a virtual community together. He wants to shift perspectives and give people the digital tools needed to surpass political and ethnic divisions in favor of an exchange of ideas and knowledge.
The next Steve Jobs is just as likely to come from Pakistan, Turkey or Nigeria as from Silicon Valley. Tweet This Quote
And then there’s Shaffi Mather in Mumbai, India, “an activist who tries to tackle his country’s endemic corruption through a for-profit ambulance service.”
Bayrasli offers us characters she’s captured as if in a snow globe—thoughtful figurines distilled from the whirring dizziness of their environments. Beyond the intrigue of what causes these people to strive and succeed is the exhaustive global data set she’s collected to support the very notion of entrepreneurship.
“In my work with entrepreneurs around the world,” she writes, “I found seven recurring obstacles: lack of skilled labor and management, poor infrastructure, lack of collaborative space, monopolies, corruption, weak rule of law, and the resistance of the status quo.”
She provides reference points for these obstacles through the eyes of the disrupters hurdling over them.
Entrepreneurship is a harshly competitive journey, but offers the promise of better lives. Tweet This Quote
The tales in this book are not whimsical forays that flirt with entrepreneurship as the sexy path it’s sometimes propped up to be. The stakes for these entrepreneurs are sometimes life and death and, at the very least, require the toppling of a nefarious power structure or harmful status quo. We enter a land where entrepreneurship is a harshly competitive journey, but offers the promise of better lives for those who struggle to find the best approaches.
Bayrasli redefines our concept of entrepreneurship and opens our eyes to the possibility that “the next Steve Jobs is just as likely to come from Pakistan, Turkey or Nigeria as from the Silicon Valley.”