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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

President Obama to Recognize Emerging Global Entrepreneurs

WASHINGTON, DC – On Monday, May 11th, the White House will bring together emerging entrepreneurs from across the United States and around the world to highlight the importance of investing in women and young entrepreneurs to create innovative solutions to some of the world’s toughest challenges, including poverty, climate change, extremism, as well as access to education and healthcare. This event comes ahead of the President’s travel to this summer’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya and provides a unique opportunity to galvanize global attention on emerging women and young entrepreneurs.  

The event will recognize the impact made by a number of U.S. government-led initiatives. In 2014, the Administration set a goal for its best entrepreneurship programs, now to be led under the umbrella of the Spark initiative, to generate over a billion dollars in private investment for emerging entrepreneurs by the end of 2017, with half of this goal to be raised for women and young entrepreneurs.  The White House will name nine more top American entrepreneurs to be named as Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship to contribute to this goal. The world’s brightest entrepreneurs still require further support through the commitments and collaboration of governments, investors, businesses, organizations and individuals. The event will also recognize the creation of the Spark Global Entrepreneurship coalition to further these objectives.                                                                                                

Speakers for the event will include five entrepreneurs from around the world and from various U.S. government programs, cast members of ABC’s TV series Shark Tank and other organizations. The event will be live streamed on the White House website. To watch this event live, visit at 2:00 pm ET on May 11th.  Additional details about the event will be made available in the coming days.

Guest Speakers

  • Mark Cuban, Investor on “Shark Tank” & Owner of the Dallas Mavericks
  • Barbara Corcoran, Investor on “Shark Tank” & Founder of Barbara Corcoran Venture Partners
  • Daymond John, Investor on “Shark Tank” & CEO and Founder of FUBU
  • Tony Elumelu, Founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation
  • Antonio Gracias, Founder of Valor Equity Partners
  • Julie Hanna, Founder of Kiva

Entrepreneurs participating in the Event include:

Jimena Flórez, Bogota, Colombia

Jimena Flórez is an entrepreneur in the agribusiness and food industry who founded Crispy Fruits in 2012. Her company was formed entirely by women entrepreneurs and is now operated by a majority of women.  Crispy Fruit’s purpose is to design and develop healthy and functional products to meet consumers’ demand for a nutritious and balanced diet, and in the process, empower farmers.  Her company is developing new products with natural ingredients to enhance people’s health.  She started her business with the mission of increasing the quality of life for Colombian farmers by improving their access to technology and capacity building opportunities, and developing sustainable agricultural practices to produce higher quality products that garner fair trade prices. Through President Obama’s Women's Entrepreneurship in the Americas (WEAmericas) initiative, which leverages public-private partnerships to increase women’s economic participation, Jimena received mentorship and training, and access to new trade opportunities, which helped her expand her business. Through her company Crispy Fruits, Jimena empowers cacao farmers in Tumaco, a predominantly Afro-Colombian community, by building the capacity of farmers to adopt organic agricultural processes, secure organic certification and ultimately access direct trade opportunities.

Felipe del Campo, Weston, FL, USA

Originally from Mexico City, Felipe Gomez del Campo founded FGC Plasma Solutions in 2013 and is currently a junior at Case Western Reserve University. From a research project started at a high school science fair to launching it into a company, Felipe is focused on improving the safety and efficiency of jet engines with a plasma assisted fuel injector. Felipe’s research has found that his product can result in a 10 percent decrease in fuel consumption which will result in significant savings, reduce harmful gas emissions for both jet engines on airliners and industrial gas turbines used to generate power. As a recent recipient of a regional prize in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, Felipe plans to further test and develop the injector at both the NASA Glenn Research Center. Felipe’s efforts to expand his business have benefited from an ecosystem of innovation, mentorship and capital. Felipe aspires to help set up a similar entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico as well to afford Mexican entrepreneurs the chance to develop their innovative ideas. Felipe also serves as President and co-founder of the Case Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

Adepeju Jaiyeoba, Lagos, Nigeria

Adepeju Jaiyeoba founded Mothers Delivery Kits in 2013, after losing a close friend to childbirth, to address maternal and child mortality resulting from unhygienic and unsafe deliveries in Nigeria. With the aim of economically empowering women and teaching behavioral changes in healthcare, her business connects women in rural communities to the lifesaving supplies they need at childbirth at an affordable cost. As a Mandela Washington Fellow for Young African Leaders (YALI), an initiative introduced by President Obama in 2013, Adepeju has been able to collaborate with other entrepreneurs, build employee capacity through YALI courses, and receive seed capital and mentorship from the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF). She is currently partnering with another YALI Fellow in Cote d’Ivoire to develop a mobile application to improve communications capabilities, and working with a YALI Fellow in Ghana to begin to expand her business to Ghana. With the support of the USADF entrepreneurship grant, her business has doubled its distribution in the last four months and expanded its services to internally displaced victims of Boko Haram. The grant has also enabled the company to acquire new machinery, establish a storage facility in northern Nigeria to address transportation challenges, increase its Lagos-based staff, and reach nearly 80 community midwives and healthcare provider across 23 states in Nigeria. Adepeju hopes to expand her work and continue to mentor other young entrepreneurs with her passion for change.

Aazia Mickens-Dessaso, Hampton, VA, USA

Aazia Mickens-Dessaso is the cofounder of FreePing, a software company launched in 2014 that provides free streams of utility information to prepaid mobile phone subscribers in emerging markets. Aazia developed the concept while observing the intersection of social movements and technology in Brazil as a U.S. Department of Education Foreign Languages and Area Studies Fellow. It was there that she discovered the benefits of easily-accessible information on personal and organizational productivity, and observed the ways Brazilians used their phones to interact without using prepaid credits. FreePing has been incubated by a Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Fund Competition recipient, through which her business has received business acumen, access to capital, and mentorship. Currently, FreePing has a presence in Brazil, South Africa, and Kenya. As a young African American woman in the tech industry, Aazia has led efforts to connect underserved groups to programming and engage, inspire and celebrate women and minorities in entrepreneurship. She organized this year’s International Space Apps Challenge, the first her hometown organized in the challenge’s four-year history, to allow local coders to access NASA’s open data and solve the Agency’s mission-related challenges, and to encourage girls in STEM. Aazia seeks to give voice to a startup ecosystem that is reflective of the country’s rich demographic makeup to produce solutions and products.

Ziad Sankari, Beirut, Lebanon

From Lebanon, Ziad Sankari started CardioDiagnostics in 2012. Ziad lost his father to a heart attack when he was seventeen and his family lacked access to proper healthcare.  He decided to pursue his studies in understanding the electrical activity of the heart and how monitoring and analyzing that activity can save lives. Today, the company uses FDA-approved wearable devices that are 24/7 GPS-enabled heart rate monitors allowing for heart monitoring centers to communicate diagnostic and preventive information to patients in the United States, where the center has over 40 employees, and in Lebanon. In 2008, Ziad attended Ohio State University on a U.S. Fulbright scholarship. After returning to Lebanon, he was selected to pitch his idea at the 2011 Global Innovation through Science and Technology’s (GIST) Tech-I competition where he won first place. Through GIST, a U.S. Department of State funded initiative, Ziad received his first round of seed funding and traveled through various U.S. cities to expand his network, learn how to negotiate, and connect with mentors. Given his experiences, Ziad sees education as essential to successful entrepreneurship and to combat rising issues of poverty and extremism. He hopes to support other startups and build a high-performing educational system in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East that leverages U.S. expertise and connections to open a world of opportunities to younger generations.