MIT aims to spark innovation in Southeast Asia with its Global Startup Workshop

Jon Russell

MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the world's most hallowed educational institutions is turning its attention to Southeast Asia where it hopes to plant the seed of innovation among a new generation of potential entrepreneurs.

That's through MIT's Global Startup Workshop (GSW), a 20-year-old conference on innovation and technology, which is headed back to Southeast Asia for the first time since a 1999 event in Singapore.

This year's MIT GSW will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from 26-28 March in association with local partner Sasin School of Management, and the team behind the show told TechCrunch of their excitement at helping to stoke the fire of tech disruption in Southeast Asia, a region of over 600 million people that now has more internet users than the entire population of the U.S..

"We try to bring real hard tech expertise and entrepreneurial expertise to other markets to share what we know, meet key shareholders, and get conversations going that can hopefully have an impact," Juan Ruiz Ruiz, one of three lead organizers of the event -- which is managed entirely by MIT students -- told TechCrunch in an interview.

"We've been focusing more on emerging markets because it's such an exciting space to be in and it's a space where GSW can have the most impact," he added.

The most recent MIT GSW event in India was Hyderabad, India, in 2016

The event itself isn't your typical startup event in Southeast Asia, and other parts of the world for that matter.

Rather than the normal lean back experience in which attendees listen to speakers on stage, tour startup exhibition booths and perhaps take in a startup pitch competition, MIT GSW offers a more hands-on experience with speakers from MIT's deep-bench of tech expertise.

"We want to make an impact, and teach people what MIT and what people are capable of anywhere. Sometimes it just takes a shift in mentality," Diana Lu, another of the MIT students organizing the event, explained.

The three-day event features over 20 panels, keynotes and workshops with more than a dozen speakers from MIT, including the executive director of the organization's regional entrepreneurship acceleration program, the head of its technology licensing office, a number of entrepreneurs in residence and professors.

Mixed in with MIT figures are executives from the local tech and startup world, such as the head of Line Thailand, co-founder and CEO of learning service Taamkru, executive director of Grab Thailand and the vice chairman of the executive committee for telecom and media giant True. Others include the founder of motorized bicycle wheel maker Superpedestrian, and Peng T. Ong, managing partner of regional VC firm Monk's Hill Ventures.

Aside from speakers, the event will include a business plan competition with a top prize of $10,000, a 60-second elevator pitch contest with a $1,000 prize, and a 'Startup Showcase' section that will feature exhibition booths from startups selected by the MIT GSW team.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton is among those to have spoken highly of MIT GSW, calling it an event that plays "an invaluable role in harnessing the power of innovation and developing practical solutions to the world’s most pressing issues." India premier Narendra Modi praised it ahead of the 2016 event in Hyderabad.

The Bangkok-based event is expected to attract over 700 attendees. Tickets are priced at $70 for students or $500 for professionals with discounts for groups or those working within the world of academia. TechCrunch readers can claim a 10 percent off a ticket using the 'GSW-TECHCRUNCH10' discount code.

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