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Christian Paradis at the Toronto Economic Forum on youth entrepreneurship

By: Charlotte Cardona, M.Sc, PMP
September 13, 2016

The Honourable Christian Paradis, Senior Vice-President, Strategic Development at GardaWorld Protective Services, was invited to moderate a roundtable discussion, “Fostering youth entrepreneurship”, with three international speakers on September 12 at the 10th edition of the Conference of Toronto, part of the International Forum of the Americas.

Youth entrepreneurship has become a priority for most governments and is often considered as a decisive factor for boosting short and long-term economic growth. In his career, Christian Paradis was a Federal Minister of International Development and could appreciate the importance of fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, both in Canada and abroad, particularly in emerging markets. To understand the main challenges and motivations behind today’s young entrepreneurs, Christian Paradis invited the speakers to introduce themselves and present their valuable experiences.

Amnon Neubach, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), served the boards of several public and industrial companies, bringing experience and expertise as a recognized economic consultant to former Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, during the 1980s. According to him, there are two fundamentals pillars for young entrepreneurs to succeed: the ecosystem and the global spirit. On one hand, the government should lead by example and provide a positive business environment. For example, the Israeli military intelligence greatly benefits civilian technologies. This article compiles several examples of today’s technologies in use around the world that were originated by Israeli Unit 8200. One the other hand, adopting a global approach is a major factor. Young entrepreneurs should, from day one, adopt a professional attitude and assume that their ideas will be adopted globally.

Erica Mackey is the Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Off Grid Electric, a company that brought clean, modern and affordable energy to households throughout Africa. Youth and social entrepreneurship is fundamentally at the heart of the company’s business model as it employs a huge distribution workforce across Africa, and most of the employees are under 35. From recruiting to onboarding to training, the company empowers distributors to manage their own small business units. Their role is not limited to distributing or selling, but it also consists of building strong and sustainable relationships with local partners and customers. On the company website, we can read “rural distribution is one of the biggest challenges to serving off-grid markets. […] We don’t outsource our distribution; we build it from the ground up. This allows us to deliver anything on demand, anywhere for a low cost to customers.”

Adam Khan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Akhan Semiconductor, is a young entrepreneur specialized in physics research and electrical engineering. His company aims to manufacture next generation diamond semiconductor technology to enable the fabrication of complex devices. Mr. Khan explained how a grant from the Illinois state has allowed his business to grow dramatically in the recent years. The firm has also collaborated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to develop a platform using diamonds as semiconductors for the U.S.’s defense, aviation, telecom and power industries.

As a conclusion, Christian Paradis shared the GardaWorld’s success story with the audience to remind that entrepreneurs shall be ready to take risks and be determined to grow substantially in the long-run. Indeed, in 1995, Quebec-born entrepreneur Stephan Cretier founded Trans-Quebec Security with an initial investment of C$25,000 from a second mortgage on his home. The company completed its first year of operations with $600,000 in revenue. Only two years later, it made almost C$15 million in revenue. Today, Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, GardaWorld is the world’s largest privately owned security services company, offering a range of highly focused business solutions including cash services, protective services and aviation services. Our 62,000 highly trained and dedicated professionals serve clients in countries throughout North America, Africa and the Middle East.