America’s entrepreneurship ambassador believes startups hold the key to Jordan’s future prosperity.
By Dina al-Wakeel
Nina Vaca’s tech staffing company Pinnacle has been included on Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing companies for over a decade now. It was also named the Fastest Growing Women-Owned/Led Company in the United States by the Women Presidents’ Organization in 2015.
Vaca recently met young Jordanians and decision makers to share her experience and belief that technology and entrepreneurship could be the answer to the region’s unemployment.
What is the purpose of your visit?
I am here as a guest of the US embassy and the Department of State as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship appointed by former President Barack Obama. I wanted to come and share my story with the entrepreneurial environment and I had the pleasure to meet future entrepreneurs—I’ve been to Eureka Tech Academy where I met students, future inventors. I’ve also met with the Minister of ICT and members of parliament and had an accurate read of the state of Jordan today. I was hoping to inspire entrepreneurs by telling them my story and my know-how and encourage them to pursue the entrepreneurial path.
What is the GIST bootcamp?
The GIST bootcamp is put on by the Department of State and it’s an incredible ecosystem whereby they hold these bootcamps in emerging economies around the world. These bootcamps bring together future generations of entrepreneurs who get the opportunity to pitch their ideas, to refine and get personal coaching. It’s basically a competition and a learning bootcamp so they are learning about their entrepreneurship venture, they’re pitching business ideas, and they get an opportunity to an ecosystem that they didn’t have in the past that can result in access to capital, access to mentoring, and sponsoring. When the bootcamp leaves Jordan they also have access to a digital portal where they can continue their association with the Department of State.
Considering the high unemployment rate here and around the region, do you think entrepreneurship could be the solution, and should the focus be on the IT sector in particular?
I think entrepreneurship is an incredible vehicle that can uplift economies, as evidenced by the United States, which is a global leader in entrepreneurship. A large percentage of new jobs in my country are developed by small businesses and so I think entrepreneurship in any country can be that vehicle to uplift a community and I see Jordan as a perfect example of that. What I’ve seen is an incredible focus in Jordan not just on entrepreneurship but technology also. I’m really happy to see that because 80 percent of the vast new jobs in the next decade at least in America will be stem related. And so I think that getting your youth involved in technology early on is a step in the right direction. As you see technology evolved today—the Internet of things and machine learning have allowed many people to get involved in technology. I had a very nice visit with the Minister of ICT and I was incredibly impressed with her vision for e-commerce and getting the government to transform electronically. She believes that this could provide a better life for the citizens of Jordan, create not just efficiencies and technology but a better life.