The inaugural Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program took place from May 11 to 20 in Portland and was organized by our WorldOregon high school intern and Co-Director of Global Youth Entrepreneurs, Seth Talyansky. The goal of the program was to provide a group of enterprising high schoolers from Georgia with the opportunity to participate in a collaborative entrepreneurial project and citywide startup event, experience academic and student life at one of the top grade schools in the country, network with like-minded Oregon students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, and tour the city and state in the spirit of exchange.
The Georgian Association in the USA, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, and Kargi Gogo (the Northwestern United States’ only Georgian restaurant, located in Portland, OR) generously sponsored the students’ travel to Portland, and the United States Embassy in Georgia hosted the students for an orientation prior to their visit to the United States. WorldOregon intern Seth Talyansky accompanied the group throughout the week and helped to arrange the group's itinerary in the U.S. along with Solomon Olshin, Britton Masback, and Li Lambert of Global Youth Entrepreneurs.
On the weekend of May 17 to 19, and together with around 30 peers from ten Portland-area high schools, the students took part in Startup Camp Youth Portland 2019 hosted at Catlin Gabel School. It was Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ third such event and the first youth-led startup event in the history of Portland.
During the startup Camp, students pitched business or non-profit ideas and coalesced around the five most popular ideas. The teams then developed their concepts under the mentorship of about a dozen local business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education experts before presenting to fellow students and distinguished guest judges on Sunday evening.
The first place prize went to the group designing motivational programs for youth with speech impediments, with second place an app to incentivize carbon consciousness among those who commute by car--both of whom received prizes from sponsors Intel and Nike. Two additional participants were chosen to receive a special award for leadership from Young Entrepreneurs Business Week.
“Luka and I valued the experience: getting to know American teens, looking into homelessness and other traits of the city. From meeting with the companies and leaders, we realized that if you have a goal to achieve and you are doing everything to make it real, nothing is impossible."
—Levan Gvineria, 10th Grade, School XXI Century, Tbilisi
The Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program program holds promise as a model of youth-led cross-cultural engagement and exchange that can be replicated between any pair of cities or countries. The government, commercial, and non-profit actors who interfaced with the students underlined the value of—and their support for—bringing in fresh cultural perspectives on local issues--especially those like homelessness. Gogidze, Gvineria, and Todua are eager to continue developing the projects they began in Portland, inspired by the lesson all youth involved in this program took away: organic collaboration between youth across borders is key to strengthening international understanding and ties.
”During the startup camp, I worked on problems that I'd never faced before which was a very rewarding experience for me as I had to collaborate with people of diverse cultures and ethnicity to form an understanding of those problems.”
—Mariam Gogidze, 11th Grade, European School, Tbilisi