A Global Start Up Steve Cheah is passionate about entrepreneurship. He is, as Vipasai Niyamabha explains, bringing Global Entrepreneurship Week to Thailand so others can understand what is behind his love affair Steve Cheah, founder and president of Global Entrepreneurship Thailand and Ayana, is a man with a mis- sion. He wants to create an awareness amongst Thais of the benefits of entrepreneurship by bringing Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world’s largest entrepreneurship movement, to Thailand for the first time. According to Cheah, GEW is a worldwide not-forprofit movement with a wide range of events and activitiesduring November of each year that highlights the success of entrepreneurs and inspires others to follow their passion. The campaign, founded in 2008 by Enterprise UK and the Kauffman Foundation of the US, now involves 130,000 different activities and an estimated 35 million participants. “My role, as the official host of GEW in Thailand,” Cheah says, “is to encourage those involved in entrepreneurship in Thailand to use GEW to spotlight their work and to make it visible to the entire world.” From his home country in Malaysia, he settled in Thailand in 2004 where his company Ayana focuses on business partnerships, joint ventures and consultancy. He considers himself a citizen of the world, having spent three decades studying, living and working outside Malaysia. After achieving his first degree in Computing in Business at the University of Huddersfield, UK, Cheah spent 30 years working in Malaysia, England, Myanmar and Hong Kong before settling with his family in Thailand. Today, the energetic and dynamic Cheah sits on the board of the Malaysian Thai Chamber of Commerce, Thailand, chairs the Joint Foreign Chamber of Commerce Thailand’s ( JFCCT) Entrepreneurship working group and serves on JFCCT’s committees on Property and the ASEAN Economic Community. He is also on the panel of Global Leadership Awards (www.globalleadershipawards.- com), an international recognition body based in Malaysia. Cheah says he came across the GEW campaign for the first time when invited to GEW activities in 2011. He was impressed with what he saw and decided to take up the offer to be an official host for GEW in Thailand. “I have been involved in a number of partnerships and business ventures and experienced my fair share of successes and failures as part of the learning process,” he explains. “I believe these experiences shape the skills and abilities of every entrepreneur and that it is important for entrepreneurs to share them with each other.” In November 2011, Cheah and a team of volunteers arranged a couple of activities for the first GEW Thailand, but as the floods started, he had to cancel them and ended up distributing food to flood victims. A year later, the official launch of the first GEW in Thailand took place from 12-18 November, signalling Thailand had joined with 123 countries from around the world to celebrate the entrepreneurship movement. “The official launch of GEW Thailand received great support from the Thai Chamber of Commerce,” Cheah says. “At the launch, the Chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Pongsak Assakul, and Secretary General of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, Vichai Assarassakorn, were both present. Other key GEW partners are the National Institute of Development Administration and the Software Industry Promotion Agency.” The GEW is already scheduled for the week of 18-24 November this year. “The idea for us,” he says, “is to support the movement. Any organisation, agency or university can get involved. Our role is to put all these events in Thailand together and to feature them on the global platform.” More than 30,000 events will take place around the world during GEW, but ‘Startup Open’ is of particular interest to Cheah and he would like to enter a Thai team in the competition. “Startup Open,” he explains, “is a global competition to identify and recognise startup companies founded within the last 18 months. The GEW will recognise the top 50 of the most promising ventures from around the world, using a range of criteria that includes strength of concept, growth projections, and knowledge of the market. The winner will be announced during GEW 2013 and then granted a chance to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow in March next year.” Living in Thailand for 10 years, Cheah has witnessed the country’s strong potential in creative business, and plans to encourage Thailand to join the Creative Business Cup, another featured event of GEW. He says the Creative Business Cup was conducted twice in Denmark before becoming an international entrepreneurship competition, aiming to strengthen the business competencies of creative entrepreneurs. The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is the key thing in his mind at present. “I want to get Thai people to think more regionally and globally. GEW is also starting in many ASEAN countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines at the present time. I would love to see Thailand as a leader of the GEW movement in the region. The AEC will provide a great opportunity for Thailand to move forwards in the economic world.” The GEW, according to Cheah, is especially interested in young entrepreneurs. “For Thailand,” he says, “our specific target range is up to the age of 35 as we believe the younger generation needs more encouragement. The idea is for older entrepreneurs to inspire young people and to let them know that there is more to life than finishing studies and looking for a job. We want them to know that there is an option called entrepreneurship. We want them to look at the option – whether they do it or not is another issue, but we would like them to know that it’s an option.” Although he is not Thai, Cheah says he has strong bonds with Thailand. “My son is Thai and holds a Thai passport. I realise my role is basically as an ambassador to represent Thailand on a global platform of entrepreneurship; at the same time, I can represent that global platform in Thailand. The future is now and entrepreneurship will help Thailand move to a position of leadership in both the region and the world.”


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