Such a successful publicity feat this! The US, China, and Philippines in dialogue! It shows that these three nations can actually have easy discussions (outside political differences) with each other! Plus, I’m sure this has greatly increased Obama’s, China’s, and Philippines’ image everywhere.
OBAMA: Aisa is a perfect example of what we’re seeing in a lot of countries—young entrepreneurs coming up with leapfrog technologies.
It does raise the issue, though, of how we can do more to support young entrepreneurs like Aisa, and Jack. You’ve had the benefit of having been on both sides of the equation—early entrepreneur scratching and climbing and getting things done, and then now, obviously a very successful businessman. How can both government and larger companies be assisting in creating a climate for innovation that encourages young entrepreneurs like Aisa?
MA: Government is simple: Just reduce the tax, or no tax, for these guys.
OBAMA: There you go!
You got a lot of cheers from your fellow CEOs.
MA: we just had a discussion at the back office—is that nobody can help you. We can only help ourselves. Investors, government, partners: they are all uncles and aunties. You are the father, you are the mother of the kid. Don’t give up the kid. Because when we startup, we talk about our kid, our passion, it all sounds crazy. But you are the guy taking care of the kids.
OBAMA: what have been the biggest challenges and how could both the public sector and the private sector be more helpful in term of encouraging young entrepreneurs like you?
MIJENO: Based on our experience, I guess what we need here is like a support system… So, we have the passion. So what we need is a support system from both the private sector and the government to, like, mentor us and guide us how we can scale up the product, the project… And yes, we also need a lot of support in terms of funding. That’s our main challenge right now. We’re at a critical phase; we’re trying to mass produce the lamp, so we’re just looking for someone to fund to get the project moving.
(Obama points at Ma at the end of Mejino’s reply. The audience laughs. Ma points back at Obama, then at Mejino. More laughter and applause.)
OBAMA: But a couple of things…. I know we’re running out of time, but I wanna comment on…. I do think there’s a role for the government to provide tax incentives for the production of clean energy.
Second area that I think the government has an important role to play—and I think you wouldn’t disagree on this—is, I think, research and development… Where governments can do is hard for companies to do a front-end, basic research, that doesn’t necessarily have an immediate pay-off, but will then serve as the laboratory for young people like Aisa to discover—based on that basic research —’I’ve got a new idea and I can do something.’
But the thing that I wanna ask you, Jack, sort of in closing, is whether you think other businesses you’re interacting with and dealing with, particularly in the APEC countries, feel the same urgency that you do, or do you think you’re still an early evangelist on this to persuade others a little bit more?
MA: It’s too late to complain whose fault—whether your fault or my fault, let’s solve the problem together. It’s the combination… Combine the work of the government, private sector, scientists, and sociologists. We have to work together.
The thing is how we can work together efficiently. I believe always you have to keep the heart inside, but out of the business’ way, because you have to get things done. That’s why scientists can tell us how to do it properly. Business should tell us how to get things done efficiently. And the government should have the good environment and foundation of researching. And also we need the media’s guide to tell the people how we do it.
I think this area—Asia-Pacific, especially China—we are taking good actions, but we need to do it in a way that’s really workable.
OBAMA: Excellent… Excellent…
And Aisa, the closing comments. You’re about to scale up and I’m confident you’ll be successful. But one of the most important things you’ve said, in my mind, at least, that this starts from the bottom-up. That whether it’s in the Philippines or in Tanzania, or anywhere in the world, that people who are trying to improve their lives, that they can’t be asked to just stay poor to solve this problem. They need electricity, they want transportation, they want the same things that exist in developed nations.
But what that means is that if we’re working at the grassroots level, seeing what folks need, and figuring out in an efficient way how to deliver improved quality of life while being environmentally sustainable, that’s an enormous opportunity but it starts at looking at aspirations and hopes of ordinary people. Is that a fair thing to say?
MIJENO: Yes. It’s mainly a collaborative effort. You should not just, like, rely on the government. Of course, you should also do your part, both as a citizen of the nation, to help your people. So like what we’re doing — I’m focusing on what I’m good at, of course R-and-D, research and development.
Toward the closing, there were interesting statements on climate change as well.