Obama joins Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on panel to promote entrepreneurship, openness

Obama (left) and Zuckerberg wave to the audience at the conclusion of their panel discussion.
Obama (left) and Zuckerberg wave to the audience at the conclusion of their panel discussion.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

PALO ALTO, California - United States President Barack Obama shared the stage with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg on Friday to promote entrepreneurship as a means to better opportunities and stronger linkages between countries. 

"I believe we are better off in a world in which we are trading, and networking, and communicating, and sharing ideas," he said.

"But that also means that cultures are colliding, and sometimes it's disruptive and people get worried,” said Mr Obama, who was speaking on the final day of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford University in the heart of tech mecca Silicon Valley. 

"You're the bridge. You're the glue - particularly the young people who are here, who can help lead to a more peaceful and prosperous future that provides opportunity for everybody.”

The annual Summit is in its seventh iteration and is being attended by almost 700 entrepreneurs from 170 countries - including at least seven representatives from Singapore - as well as 300 investors.

Attendees have heard from US government officials as well as prominent tech leaders, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Secretary of State John Kerry, Uber chief executive officer Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky.

During his remarks, Mr Obama also made his first comments about the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. 

The US President said he was confident that Britain would make an “orderly” exit from the European Union following a vote in the country to withdrawfrom the grouping, and that Britain's “special relationship” with the United States would continue.

Mr Obama also said he had spoken with Prime Minister David Cameron as well as with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After his keynote speech, the leader of the free world took off his jacket to moderate a panel made up of three young entrepreneurs and Mr Zuckerberg. 

The Facebook founder spoke about his own experiences creating the now-ubiquitous social network, which now has 1.65 billion active users worldwide. 

He also noted that the single-biggest obstacle to better global connectivity is making Internet access available to the four billion people worldwide who still do not have it. 

Mr Obama said governments can help foster a stronger entrepreneurship ecosystem by keeping information flows open.

“Many governments around the world want the benefits of entrepreneurship and connectivity but think that top down control is compatible (with that). It’s not,” he said. 

This means governments must remain open to new ideas and not stand in the way of entrepreneurial drive. 

Citing his 2008 presidential campaign, which broke new ground in mobilising thousands of supporters using social media, the President said: "A bunch of 20 year olds came to me and said, "There's this new thing called MySpace."

"Ouch,” Mr Zuckerberg said in response.

MySpace, a social networking site, was an early Facebook competitor.

The three other panellists were Ms Mai Medhat from Egypt, who co-founded event ticketing platformEventtus, a on-stop online portal for people to organise events; Mr Jean Bosco Nzeyimana, Rwanda, founder and chief executive of Habona, a company that uses biomass and waste to develop eco friendly fuels that are used in rural Africa; and Ms Mariana Costa Checa, Peru, co-founder of Laboratoria, which helps women from all backgrounds get the education they need to work in the digital economy.