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Talking Shop With LEAP 2023 Speakers Baroness Karren Brady, Gitanjali Rao, And Steven Bartlett

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Happening on February 6-9, 2023, at Riyadh Front Expo Centre, Saudi Arabia, LEAP is a global tech conference exploring disruptive future technologies with leading tech companies, investors, speakers, and professionals across the world.

LEAP 2023

Supported by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Communications and Information, Saudi Federation for Cyber Security and Programming, and Informa Tech, the four-day event will be held under the theme “Into New Worlds.” It will feature innovative technologies that have the potential “to build a city on the moon by 2070, have a human standing on Mars by 2035, and create digital twin cities and entire virtual worlds.”

With a speaker line-up that includes more than 500 industry leaders, ranging from footballers turned tech investors, geoscientists, and astronauts, to venture capital investors with multi-million-dollar portfolios, there’s clearly a lot of people at LEAP 2023 to meet and learn from. We spoke to three of our personal favorites from the speakers—here’s who they are, and what they told us:

1. Baroness Karren Brady, CBE, Vice Chairman of West Ham United Football Club

British business executive, television personality, and former Managing Director of Birmingham City F.C. Baroness Karren Brady, CBE, has certainly made an impact in the business world. And under Baroness Brady’s leadership, as Vice Chairman of West Ham United Football Club, the football club has since grown to become one of the five fastest growing brands in the world of football.

Baroness Brady credits this success to a few pivotal factors. Firstly, on understanding what West Ham United stood for- from appreciating the Club’s 127-year history and its values, to utilizing those factors to move the organization towards future goals and objectives. Creating a solid financial base was essential too. When the business executive joined in 2010, the Club was crippled with debt, and so, it was a priority to create a stable financial footing. “Every penny of our disposable income at West Ham is reinvested in the playing squad- shareholders don’t take any salary or dividends- so we needed to make sure we were maximizing revenue opportunities across all areas of the Club and building a strong platform for growth,” notes Baroness Brady. At the same time, leveraging the Club’s potential was key as well.

Though West Ham United has a huge fanbase, it was underutilized, and so Baroness Brady sought new opportunities (such as moving the Club to the Olympic Stadium at Stratford ) to cater to a new generation of supporters to enjoy the team. In addition, the enterprise also made it a priority to ensure continual enhancements to its stadiums to ensure supporters “feel at home,” and thus, strengthening its domestic position. This is also done in conjunction with their focus of engaging with international fans globally through online channels, and in turn, ensuring digital growth. Of course, Baroness Brady notes that it all boils down to having a “fan-first policy” and encouraging a culture of initiative and innovation to enable the Club became an even greater force in the world of football.

Besides being at the heart of English football, the business icon has also been an adamant champion for women in businesses, and in fact, have been cited by actress Hannah Waddingham as an inspiration for her role in the hit television series Ted Lasso. As women continue to make their mark in male-dominated fields, Baroness Brady advises to be assertive, stop apologizing, start networking and find a mentor. She adds, “Take responsibility for your successes and champion yourself, after all, no one will do it for you.” And given the success in her career so far, when asked on the key principles that enabled her, Baroness Brady simply says, “I rely on my core values, which are the things that make you who you are, that make you make the decisions you make. I am ambitious, determined, and have integrity, and they are the values and principles that guide everything I do.”

As someone who has been on LEAP’s inaugural edition this year and is invited back to the second edition of LEAP, Baroness Brady is keen for conference-goers to be inspired by the caliber of attendees and exhibitors. “Personally, I am aspiring to deliver a message of optimism and some valuable learnings from my years of experience in business,” says Baroness Brady.

2. Gitanjali Rao, Time‘s Kid of the Year 2020

As the first recipient of Time‘s Kid of the Year in 2020, Gitanjali Rao is certainly noteworthy of the title. The 17-year-old is an author, scientist, inventor, and promoter of STEM that develops apps and innovative devices to tackle issues ranging from contaminated drinking water, opioid addiction, and cyberbullying. In partnership with schools and other educational institutions like Shanghai International Youth Science and Technology Group and the Royal Academy of Engineering in London, Rao conducts “innovation workshops” for students. Having worked closely with the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation and Angelina Jolie, Rao has given talks on the future of education, education inequality, the use of tech for problem solving, the need for youth in the workforce, women in STEM, and more. She has also received recognitions such as the Muhammed Ali Humanitarian Award for her community service and fundraising efforts for refugee camps, as well as being a UNICEF Youth Advocate for launching Kindly, an app utilizing artificial intelligence technology to detect cyberbullying at an early stage and has partnered with UNICEF for its debut globally.

With a mission to “create a global community of young innovators to solve problems,” Rao’s endeavors seem to be just starting. So, what exactly does this objective entail? “I’ve seen the struggle with being passionate about an idea, but then being dismissed by professional researchers and organizations due to my age or perceived immaturity,” explains Rao. “New problems are emerging in our world while some old ones have worsened. Our society needs more problem solvers, especially youth, as a lot of these problems have a direct impact on our future. We are passionate about our beliefs, and our ideas are not constrained by prevalent thinking.”

Having been fortunate to find mentors who believe in her potential and supported goals, Rao is invigorated to offer the same to fellow young innovators. Hence, while working on her research and inventions, Rao came up with a five-step process for students that she has developed as workshops for schools around the world. “In the 45 minutes to one hour I spend with them, they come up with an idea and potential solutions that they can keep working on. Imagine the cascading impact when they share their knowledge with others!” says Rao. To complement the workshops, she also authored a book, Young Innovator’s Guide to STEM, which is available and translated into five different languages. According to Rao, some sections of the book have been adopted as a formal STEM curriculum in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya. “I learn more from these students and their zeal to try ideas motivates me to keep conducting these workshops.”

Related: She Was Once Declared The UAE’s Youngest Inventor- And Now, Fatima Al Kaabi Wants To Help Other Girls Follow Her Lead

Having reached about 70,000 students in 43 countries, Rao hopes to reach more students in the following year. “I hope to influence a K-12 problem solving mindset curriculum that can help all students like me come up with their own ideas and make it a reality. With an army of inspired and passionate students solving problems in their communities, I hope to see a movement of young innovators.”

For those aspiring to follow Rao’s lead in making a difference in the world, she gives an insight into her process of how to solve real-life world issues. In her workshops, she asks students their interests and common issues that comes along with it. She encourages students to consider solutions from all angles, even if it’s not science or technology based. Embodying a design thinking process, Rao guides students to focus on the consumer or end-user perspective, “The process that worked for me is observe, brainstorm, research, build [and] communicate… The whole premise is to empathize with the users and come up with a list of both declared and undeclared sets of problems that are causes of concern for the end-user. This helps me stay with the problem longer and gather feedback from end-users frequently and define the solution iteratively.”

She assures aspiring innovators, “You need not be a genius or a prodigy [to] try [to solve] different solutions to the biggest problems in our community… Any of us, students, can find our talent and use that to make a difference whether it is a large or small problem. Especially for those of us privileged who can get a quality education and support from adults, we need to not take these for granted and it is our responsibility and necessity to give back to those who cannot afford the same.”

As LEAP 2023 draws near, Rao is eager to hear about research on cutting-edge technologies that can be a catalyst to social impact. “It is an event where we learn from the visionaries of tech industry, and at the same time, I hope to influence them to open their doors for us, youth by offering internships or mentorships.”

3. Steven Bartlett, entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, founder, and Dragon on BBC’s Dragons’ Den

From being a university dropout, to starting his own social media marketing agency, Social Chain, that has gone on to debut at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Steven Bartlett‘s entrepreneurial trajectory is definitely one to watch. He also became the youngest ever investor on the BBC’s hit series Dragons’ Den, as well as creator of successful podcast series The Diary of a CEO. Bartlett has also invested (and in some cases, joined the board) in a number of enterprises: Huel, a plant-based nutritional powdered food brand, Atai Life Sciences, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company transforming the treatment of mental health disorders, Flight Story, a platform to help public companies capture the retail investor community, and Third Web, a platform offering a suite of tools to easily build, launch and manage Web3 projects without coding skills. His other investments focus on blockchain technologies, biotech, space, Web3, and social media.

For Bartlett, what makes an entrepreneur successful boils down to a few critical factors. First, as an entrepreneur, it’s important for your motivation to be aligned with your goal. “Meticulously interrogate the logic, values and rationale behind your goals and ambitions,” says Bartlett. “Genuine and specific aspiration is nearly always the starting place for successful entrepreneurs.” While feedback is important in building your business, he also notes the significance of focusing too much on external validation and opinions that can turn to a major distraction. “Caring very little about what anyone else thinks can be a massive component in determining propensity for success,” notes Bartlett.

This also relates to what he believes is also vital: “The 1% mentality. I see it as something which, if done consistently, will always give you an edge. Consistent small incremental adjustments will have a huge impact on the success of a business or team.” He continues, “If you don’t care about tiny details, you’ll produce bad work because good work is the culmination of hundreds of tiny details.” Lastly, he adds the importance of having a “deep unshakeable sense of self-belief,” which have propelled his ambitions in his entrepreneurial journey.

Looking back on his entrepreneurial journey, Bartlett states that he’s definitely had to sacrifice a lot for the pursuit of success- from physical and mental health to relationships. However, Bartlett advises, “Don’t isolate yourself to make money, don’t sacrifice your mental health for followers, don’t always prioritize your to-do-list over your friendships. From experience no personal achievement, bank balance or material possession will be worth it if you attain it at the expense of your happiness.”

As one of the speakers returning to LEAP after its first edition, Bartlett is enthusiastic about the scale of the innovation that is fostered and encouraged at the event. “I’ll be sharing learnings from my entrepreneurial journey, from working in call centers on minimum wage , to founding and running multiple multi-million-pound businesses in 10 years. And I’m here to learn from you guys too .”

Don’t miss out on your chance to see Bartlett and all of the other speakers heading to LEAP this year. Get more information on how you can be a part of LEAP 2023 by clicking here.

Related: Global Tech Community To Converge In Riyadh For LEAP On February 6-9, 2023

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