Today, many developing countries are struggling to combat issues like unemployment and crime. UMass Lowell’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, in collaboration with the Manning School of Business, are doing their part to empower students with the tools and skills to develop innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to serious issues that concern both the UMass Lowell community and the entire world.
On Thursday, March 2, business students crowded in Alumni Hall to hear former Senior Advisor for Entrepreneurship in Secretary Clinton’s State Department Steven R. Koltai’s presentation of “Peace Through Entrepreneurship.” The discussion promoted the concept of investing in startup culture to create security and development in other countries.
Koltai, who spent most of his career working in the media and entertainment industry with Warner Brothers Studios, explained how his parents’ history contributed to his interest in entrepreneurship. He said, “I was born in Budapest and both my parents spent time in concentration camps, so I spent most of my life thinking, ‘What happens when things go really wrong?’”
He went on to explain how economic issues and joblessness are a driving factor in most domestic and foreign policy and that the best way to create jobs is through entrepreneurship. While at the State Department, Koltai created and ran the Global Entrepreneurship Program, a significant factor in former President Obama’s strategy for bettering the relationship between the United States and Muslim communities. “There is a direct connection between joblessness and violence,” said Koltai.
Koltai referred to entrepreneurs as a “bridge class society.”
“They give a chance to those not born to privilege,” said Koltai. “It’s also the way you create the greatest wealth whether it be personally or nationally.”
Koltai outlined his three-step treatment process for entrepreneurship in developing countries: diagnosing, designing a strategy and implementing the strategy. He also touched on four basic ways to solve the problem from within the United States. He says the United States should spend its economic development money in a smarter way by redirecting existing funds to entrepreneurship promotion motion programs, consolidate entrepreneurship development effort under a single office or agency, and reform its policies.
Sophomore political science major and business minor David Todisco said he was thoroughly intrigued at the successful repeat entrepreneur’s speech. “I found the way he presented entrepreneurship as such a vital and crucial aspect to any society that wants to thrive very inspiring,” said Todisco.
In his talk, Koltai explained how important he saw it for governments of underdeveloped countries to fund entrepreneurs as a way to create jobs. “It was an idea I had never considered before,” said Todisco.
Koltai is currently the managing director of Koltai & Co. LLC and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. Just last year, he published his book “Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a startup Culture for Security and Development,” which was available to students for signatures at the event.
Management Professor Ashwin Mehta explained the relationship between Koltai’s words and the UMass Lowell Manning School of Business’ Global Entrepreneurship and Innovation program; a two-week, multidisciplinary exchange program in entrepreneurship and innovation during which students can earn up to six credits immersed in workshops, team projects, visits to technology companies and networking with local entrepreneurs in other countries.
According to Mehta, the Manning School of Business has partnerships with four universities for this program in India, China, Thailand and Guyana. The exchange started in 2014 when a group of UMass Lowell students were brought to India. By the end of this summer, 600 students will have participated in the exchange.
Former program participant and senior international business major Sophia Dearaujo reflected on her experience with the program. “We just went to India this past winter and we got to learn all about how to make it a better place,” she said.
Since her return, Deataujo has begun a research internship with Professor Mehta. “We are trying to raise awareness in the business field that you can help make the world a better place and still make a profit,” said Deataujjo.
The college has upcoming exchanges to and from China this summer, and to and from India this coming winter. Students interested in the program are encouraged to contact Professor Mehta.