GIST Launches Innovates Bhutan Program to Support Early-stage Innovators
You have always dreamed of starting a science or technology business. An idea for an innovative new product has been forming in your mind for some time. You might have started researching the market for your product, or maybe you’ve even discussed your innovative solution with a few potential customers. But there’s one big roadblock preventing you from realizing your dream. You don’t know what your next steps are to create a business plan around your idea.
Thanks to a partnership between the U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, iHUb Bhutan, the Loden Foundation, and the Bhutan Foundation, seventeen Bhutanese innovators will begin work this month toward realizing their dream of starting and scaling their business. GIST Innovates Bhutan is a 10-week, accelerated online training program modeled after the Lean Startup methodology, a structure for quickly developing a viable product and creating sustainable business development.
The official launch of the program on 18 May, 2021 was attended by the program participants, instructors and mentors, as well as staff from GIST’s primary implementing partner, VentureWell.
Craig Dennison, Nepal and Bhutan Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of State, welcomed the cohort and staff at the kickoff event. He praised His Royal Highness the King of Bhutan for bringing Bhutan to the forefront on many pressing issues such as fighting COVID and tackling climate change. Dennison explained that the GIST Innovates program is part of a larger cooperative initiative between the U.S. and Bhutan that also includes the involvement of programs facilitated by NASA.
Mark Marino, VentureWell’s Vice President of Growth Strategy & Development greeted the group of innovators and welcomed them as they joined the 15,000 other startups who have come through GIST’s training programs. He stated, “We’ve brought together the best instructors from the U.S. to help guide you as well as mentors to support your efforts.”
Participants in the GIST Innovates Bhutan program will spend time with GIST’s dedicated training team, who will mentor and support them as they test their business and create an action plan for launching their venture. This cohort of innovators is already shaping up to be an exciting, dynamic mix of solutions addressing issues facing the Bhutanese economic landscape.
One innovative Bhutanese team, Gross International Nature, seeks to address the issue of low value plastic with their product Shobuj Bricks.
Another team, DrukRide, is revolutionizing transportation in Bhutan, by making it simple for travelers to quickly buy tickets online for any of Bhutan’s bus routes.
LifeChangers Bhutan is a social enterprise that transforms used clothes into value added products such as reusable bags, kitchen items, and gifts. Their focus is on addressing environmental issues and empowering unemployed youth and women.
In addition to the 10-weeks of intensive training, the teams will also network and share experiences with other startups in their region who are engaged in similar work. Serving as the GIST Innovates Bhutan program manager, VentureWell’s Mandy Sutton stated, “The opportunity for Bhutanese innovators to quickly learn foundational and advanced business skills will be coupled with the chance to broaden their experiences through networking and mentorship.”
Next up, the innovators will begin their deeper dives into business skills, testing their solutions to ensure they are viable, and working directly with their potential customers to determine product market fit.