Across the Pacific, Innovation Rises

Across the Pacific, Innovation Rises

How the GIST Initiative is helping to build the future of this global ecosystem

October 12, 2022

What Working Across the Pacific Means to Us

The innovation happening in the Pacific is extraordinary, and increasing by leaps and bounds every day. From pitch showcases to investor trainings, business incubation to the GIST Innovation Hub Network, we are working to connect Pacific innovation with the tools and platforms it needs to thrive on all fronts, from Asia to Latin America. Learn more about the unique needs, opportunities, and challenges for these emerging economies in Part 1 of our Pacific Series

Read on to learn more about how GIST is supporting entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders as they rise to meet these challenges and share their vision a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future for innovation in the Pacific! 

Building Investment Capacity

In addition to events and programming for innovators, a key cornerstone of our work is also in directly supporting the investment community: the people and firms who can most provide culturally competent direct support, in a self-sustaining and regionally robust way. This is where the GIST Investors Series comes in. As ecosystem builder Evelyn Gomez of UTEC Peru describes, “The most pressing need for Pacific innovation right now, particularly for women innovators, is an educated and forward-thinking investment community” 

Working to help accomplish this is a huge goal for us, and we have hosted our Investors Series across the Pacific, with many more to come. To date, we have hosted investor trainings in Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Building regional investment infrastructure is vital for the future of these regions, and represents an enormous opportunity. 

Supporting Innovators and Fostering Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

The core pillar of GIST is direct entrepreneurial support, and we work towards this goal primarily through pitch competitions and showcases, direct training and mentorship, as well as regional entrepreneurial ecosystem support through our global network of Innovation Hubs, who work on the ground to provide entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive. 

Throughout the Pacific, there are innovators and ecosystem builders who are accomplishing extraordinary things, and GIST is proud to continue to support them in their journeys. 

In Chile, the 2019 CATALYST program coordinated with APEC during the 2019 summit in La Serena, Chile.  That competition was part of APEC’s Women in STEM events which specifically worked with startups that support women entrepreneurs, vulnerable communities, or rural communities.

That competition is also where founder Sara Dhewanto from Indonesia won first place for her innovation, Duithape, an e-payment system aiming to provide clients (donors and lenders) a cashless distribution system that enables safe, efficient, and accurate payments to the unbanked with high accountability through a network of distribution points. 

In Malaysia, innovators like Rahinah Ibrahim of Oceanori are breaking new ground, building technologies to foster clean waterways and fulfill United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

Mexico is another economy on the forefront of Pacific innovation- just look to innovators like Andrea Paz-Lacavex, the winner of Outstanding Ocean Sustainability Entrepreneur at GIST Oceans Series Pitch Showcase, who is the principal researcher and founder behind SPORA, or “Sociology, Planning, and Optimal Restoration of Algae”, an initiative and venture founded to support the development and implementation of the novel technology of “green gravel,” designed to help foster regrowth of kelp forests, an essential part of global ocean pastures, an invaluable source of carbon sequestration, and a key pillar of sustaining ocean life- or look towards CATALYST 2017 Semifinalist Oscar Espinosa of Pellet México, which is using residue from the forestry, food and agriculture industries to create solid biofuels that can be used to substitute fossil fuel consumptions. 

In Papua New Guinea, GIST IHub PNG Digital ICT Cluster is a women-led innovation center, with leader Priscilla Kevin- a technology specialist and entrepreneur who dreams of making Papua New Guinea “the Silicon Valley of the Pacific”- We believe she can! Priscilla has been a volunteer with the PNG Digital ICT Cluster since 2014 and founded the PNG Women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Association in 2017 to encourage more women to take up these often male-dominated fields.

Women ecosystem leaders are making a difference in Peru as well, like Evelyn Gomez at the IHub UTEC Ventures, where she manages accelerator and incubator programs with a strong focus on the student community. She is part of a team that has accomplished incredible achievements, with over $17 million being raised by the graduates of their program and an over $150 million portfolio valuation over 63 companies. 

In the Philippines, Katrian Chan, executive director at QBO | Ideaspace, is working to create a globally competitive startup ecosystem across her country through the dynamic collaboration of local entrepreneurs, talents, mentors, investors, and other stakeholders. Further south, the GIST IHub iDEYA, serves as an incubator for students at Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology, whose programs are geared towards addressing the needs of the local community. Their recent learning session in celebration of Women's Month included nine women-led social enterprises. The event titled "Gender and Development Orientation and Perspective Mindsets: The Gender Dimension of Business and Entrepreneurship" was conducted in partnership with Miriam College Women and Gender Institute, who is also a program partner of the U.S. Embassy. 

GIST has also directly supported Filipino innovators like Jessica Moldez Wu, a previous CATALYST finalist, who competed with her startup, Lesstics, which she co-founded to help the garbage problem in her city. They recycle single use plastics and turn it into different reusable objects such as floor tiles, insulators, Lego Bricks and many more. Environmental innovation is robust in the southern Philippines. Founder Jay Gajudo of Galansiyang Inc. won the People’s Choice Award at CATALYST 2021 with his innovation of using drones to support forest health after mining activity. 

In Thailand, GIST Innovators Korawit Booranakit and Kanchita Kitjansian are finding continued success with SocialGiver, their platform for sustainable goods and tourism. And in Vietnam, GIST IHub Draper Startup House is hosting groundbreaking events and fostering direct entrepreneurial support. 

Next stop: Thailand!

Each one of these innovators, ecosystem builders, and founders is a part of the unique patchwork that makes the Pacific such an exciting region to be in, and we could not be more proud of our work in supporting Pacific innovation thrive. Learn more about our upcoming pitch showcase, CATALYST | ASIA-PACIFIC: Advancing Women in Innovation, and with more opportunities always on the horizon, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to find out first! 

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