Elmira Bayrasli

Author of From the Other Side of the World

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON November 03, 2015

Discussion

Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
Passionate about foreign affairs, entrepreneurship, and writing, I have spent the past two decades working on foreign policy, international development, and with startups worldwide. I am the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a lecturer at New York University. Prior to that, I lived and worked in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, worked at the State Department for Madeleine K. Albright, and delivered mail at Sullivan & Cromwell, a white shoe law firm on Wall Street. Proudly from Brooklyn, pre-hipsters, I love yoga, Turkish simit, and the New York Mets.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
Do you have a writing "process" or any habits to help you write?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@katesegrin While I was writing my book I received a deluge of advise on "how to write." Write in the morning I was told. Write without distractions. Write for two hours and then take a walk. I tried those. What I found works for me the best is when I find a chunk of time - without distractions - where I can focus. That may be in the morning. That may be at night. Where it is most useful is when I actually schedule it on my calendar and treat it like an appointment. Elizabeth Gilbert talks a lot about this in her book Big Magic. She treats writing as a job that she goes to or as she says "she turns up to."
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@katesegrin The one thing I'll say is that writing requires a lot of discipline and patience. It doesn't happen in one sitting. The first draft of anything is awful. The key is not being defeated and continuing to work with what you have and adding to it - until you feel it is in a place where you can share it with others. The most important process of writing is editing and getting feedback. If you do want to write - make sure you can send your work out to a friend, a colleague or someone who can provide constructive feedback. That has helped me tremendously.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@endeavoringe Hi! Thanks for being here today. Where has been the most interesting place you've lived?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@ems_hodge Hi Emily: Thanks for your question. I've loved living in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It's one of the most beautiful places I've visited - in my many travels. Though I've only spent large amounts of time there, I am absolutely in love with Istanbul, Turkey and hope to make that home one day.
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
During your career to date what was your a) most challenging moment and how did you overcome it? b) proudest moment and why c) most surprising moment? Thanks!
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@ems_hodge Most challenging moment: I have to admit that I find every project I start to be a challenge. The prospect of failure looms large - and, hey, who likes failure? I don't let that prospect stop me though. I acknowledge it and work toward whatever goal it is I'm trying to achieve. In terms of an actual challenging moment: when I found myself out of a job and not sure what to do. I've always been someone who sought the safety of an organization and a regular job. When I didn't have that I had to figure out how to support myself and move forward. While it was hard, it is also the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am now the author of a book, the co-founder of a startup and working on a number of different projects.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@ems_hodge Proudest moment: I'm proud when I can help someone out and know that I've played an important role in someone else's life.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@ems_hodge Surprising moment: Not sure if it's a surprise or a revelation but when I finished the NYC marathon in 2001, right after the 9/11 attacks I had an epiphany that anything was possible if I put my mind to it and worked for it. 26 miles will do that for you!
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
Hi @endeavoringe thanks so much for joining us today. Would love to hear who you think can bring technology to the masses? Who will make internet in Africa possible? Who will provide smartphones for the poorest parts of the world?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@harrystebbings Hi Harry - thanks for your question. I think the masses already have access to technology - its naturally proliferated. What has been interesting to watch is how the masses use the technology. Here in the U.S. we use technology to organize our lives, access information, communicate, and work. Elsewhere technology has become pivotal in solving basic challenges such as a lack of banks, poor infrastructure, and insecurity. In these places technology has become not a luxury but an essential tool for progress.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@harrystebbings In terms of who will make the Internet in Africa possible? Africans will. As I traveled around the world, researching stories for my book, From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places, I came across numerous men and women working on mobile and Internet businesses. They are using digital technologies in ways that we haven't imagined in the U.S. - mobile money being the best example. Because so many throughout Africa do not have access to banks, moving and storing money is a challenge. Men and women in Africa have figured out ways to move and store that money through mobile and Internet technologies. That is solving a huge problem in the continent. And it is forcing Africans as a whole to build up their digital infrastructure.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@harrystebbings In terms of smartphones - Again, Africans are building the products and services that their citizens are using. There were a number of tech entrepreneurs I met in Nigeria who were working on solar-powered phones. Since Nigeria suffers from electricity shortages, powering phones is a problem. These entrepreneurs are working around that "obstacle" by using resources available. But if you're curious about what kind of smart phones are popular in Africa - Blackberry is number one in Nigeria. Apple products are a bit out of reach for the average Nigerian. China and Chinese products are gaining in popularity in Africa. There are many Chinese entrepreneurs and business people investing in Africa. China has invested huge resources in Africa. Don't be surprised to see Xiaomi phones spread in popularity in Africa.
Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Founder, CultureBanx
@harrystebbings Some good podcasts here to get a sense of the tech scene across Africa: http://techcabal.com/2015/10/27/....
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@kwamesompimpong @harrystebbings Thanks Kwame - this is great.
Kate@katesegrin · Community @Tierion
What kind of yoga do you practice, and have you ever had an "aha" moment on your mat (whether it's finally getting into a pose or other revelations)?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@katesegrin Hi Kate - I'm a devout vinyasa yoga practitioner. I love the variety that each class has - it's a bit like life - you never know what kind of a day is ahead. I don't recall ever having a particular "aha" moment on the mat. What I have realized is that yoga allows me to turn off for an hour and focus on me. I don't have to worry about deadlines or challenges. I have to listen to the instructor and figure out the next pose. There is such freedom in letting the daily grind go - and focusing on your body. It's restorative and helps keep my anxiety at bay. It's also been helpful in building flexibility ;-)
Lejla Bajgoric@lejlahunts · Intern, Product Hunt
Thanks so much for being here Elmira! You said in a previous interview: "after living and working in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 2000s... I started to become interested in entrepreneurship." Was there a specific experience during your time in BiH that sparked the interest, any accounts of entrepreneurship happening there that inspired you? Followup: I was born in Bosnia myself, so I'd love to hear about what you most enjoyed during your time in Sarajevo, what's most memorable? Hvala! :)
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@lejlahunts Zdravo Lejla. Volim te Sarajevo. I landed in Sarajevo with great hopes of helping the people there recover from a brutal series of wars. I had been working on human rights issues and democracy development programs. Yet when I traveled around the country, particularly to eastern Bosnia I found that people kept talking about the same thing: jobs. "Where can we get a job?" "Can you help me get a job?" On one visit to a town near Srebrenica, which was the site of the awful genocide in 1995, one woman told me that she didn't need our human rights projects. "Our men and boys need jobs - they can only find work in Europe. How can we as a country heal if our men and boys leave?" That was my "a-ha" moment; the moment I realized that job creation was THE most important thing we could do for Bosnia. I quickly became interested in entrepreneurship. The rest is history :-)
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
What do you think the Mets can do to make sure they're back in the big game next year?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@jeffumbro Oh Jeff. The Mets. Unfortunately I think we had our one shot for the big title. With all the rumors going around about trades and free agents, I doubt we'll see the same team next year. That makes it hard to believe that they'll do as well in 2016. But then again being a Mets fan is all about believing - however hard that is.
Hash_tag_jeff@jeffumbro · Book Marketing and PR - get in touch
What are your favorite tech companies founded and operating outside of the US?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@jeffumbro Great question Jeff. As I write in my book, From The Other Side of The World, I came across numerous men and women who were leading interesting startups - from Turkey to Nigeria; Pakistan to China; Mexico to Russia. I obviously am partial to the companies in my book. AirTies is a technology company headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey. It produces WiFi routers and set top boxes. Paga is a digital payment company headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. Paga has tremendous potential to disrupt financial tech not just in Nigeria but throughout Africa - and perhaps in the West. Though not a technology company per say but I really admire the work that Optima Energia does in Mexico. It's an energy efficiency company that has produced solar panels, moved on to energy saving mechanisms for hotels, and is now focused on street lighting in several cities throughout Mexico. The company's founder Enrique Gomez Junco is a bright entrepreneur who has recognized the importance of energy efficiency and is leading a company to improve his country's energy consumption and usage.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@jeffumbro Other places where I think there are impressive companies to watch for are Israel, South Korea, China, and many parts of Eastern Europe. Hey, Skype came from Estonia!
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@jeffumbro Getting back to your question about fav tech companies outside the US. What I love about tech companies outside the US is how they use the technology -in creative ways to solve problems and overcome challenges. I've talked a bit about mobile money. But technology and tech entrepreneurs are starting to use creative ways to bring improved healthcare for citizens, especially in rural areas. Entrepreneurs outside the US are using technology to work around poor infrastructure and bring improved lighting and energy solutions. In Pakistan, I came to understand the importance that the Internet plays as a forum and platform for people to convene. One of the challenges that Pakistan faces is a lack of collaborative spaces. The Internet allows people from all backgrounds and genders to connect, collaborate, and create - which is something that Pakistan desperately needs. While I don't think the Internet will solve all of Pakistan's problems -it won't solve all problems anywhere - it does provide an important "space" for people to come together. Community is the basis of any entrepreneurial society. Technology is enabling that throughout the world.
Theoharis Dimarhos@theo_dimarhos · Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
@endeavoringe Hi! Is there a place where children that come from other countries to the US can continue to learn their native language, history and culture? Besides home?
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@theo_dimarhos Hi Theoharis - thanks for your question. Language is a tricky thing. I don't think everyone has the capacity for it. Each of us is wired in different ways. I, for example, am great with languages and so am able to speak Turkish, which is the language my parents speak. My brother isn't. He understands a lot of it but can't speak it per say. In terms of holding on or learning it - there are number of resources that help with that. Dulingo is one. But nothing beats going to a place and making friends with the people. You can only really learn a language when you practice it.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
@theo_dimarhos In terms of history and culture - books! Sure the Internet has lots of resources but you can't really substitute Wikipedia for a novel. Whenever I go to a new place I always pick up a handful of books by authors from that country; I also get books by outsiders who have written about the country as observers. It's an interesting way to understand a place.
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
Thanks for engaging everyone - Love this forum!
Elmira Bayrasli@endeavoringe · Author, From The Other Side of The World
Please check out my book, From The Other Side of The World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places http://www.amazon.com/Other-Side...
Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Founder, CultureBanx
Over the course of writing the book, what realizations did you have that scared you?
Kwame Som-Pimpong@kwamesompimpong · Founder, CultureBanx
I ask the question while I am in the middle of reading Niall Ferguson's Kissinger biography, and I feel like I get shivers every couple of chapters.