Entrepreneurs, Startup Advice

Why Thankyou Group’s Daniel Flynn was talking about isolation with Barack Obama

Emma Koehn /

Daniel Flynn (Thankyou Group), Barack Obama

Source: Obama Foundation Summit

Former US President Barack Obama is using life after the White House to empower young people to engage in social entrepreneurship — and he recently asked one Aussie founder to weigh in on how to achieve this.

The Obama Foundation held its first global summit at the start of the month, with tens of thousands of entrepreneurs and experts applying to gain one of 500 places to attend the conference’s workshops with Barack and Michelle Obama.

Thankyou Group co-founder Daniel Flynn was one of three entrepreneurs selected to sit down with the President to discuss social change and motivation, taking the chance to highlight how businesses can leverage the resources of customers to “make an impact and solve issues like extreme poverty”.

Flynn appeared on the panel along with Mandeep Singh, co-founder of US higher education not-for-profit FLIP National, and Cassandra Begay, tribal liaison for native and environmental rights organisation Pandos.

Explaining how he came to develop an entrepreneurial spirit, Flynn told Obama he cut his teeth young by selling “Gobstoppers and pet yabbies” to kids in the schoolyard. While impressed, the former President had to ask Flynn to clarify what those two uniquely Australian products were.

The summit’s focus was on encouraging young entrepreneurs and leaders to develop strong ties to help each other solve big social problems. When asked what tools were needed to help with this, Flynn said many entrepreneurs felt they were working alone, rather than feeling connected.

He reflected that when speaking to other young leaders at the event, “we went down into the core, there’s a feeling of isolation”.

Moving away from superficial discussions and social media pitches and into real discussions with other founders and entrepreneurs was the key for future success, Flynn said.

“The generation we live in is this selfie generation, but we want to have an in-depth conversation,” he said.

Obama said the goal of the conference was to find was to foster a sense of problem solving and creative spirit in teenagers so they could take control of big problems in future.

To do this, he said relationships had to go beyond conference networking. Instead, founders need stay in touch with colleagues to form strong ties.

“We don’t want this to be a one-off,” he said.

Watch the full conversation below.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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