Exchange Matters / February 22, 2019

From Detroit to Singapore: My Experience at the Yseali Summit

Jonathan Quarles (right) poses for the cameras at the YSEALI Summit in Singapore this past December.


From December 3-5, 2018, the U.S. Department of State hosted the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Summit in Singapore, bringing together 150 participants to expand their work; exchange ideas on how to foster economic growth in their communities; and find avenues for stronger economic cooperation. Jonathan Quarles, an entrepreneur and member of the Global Ties Detroit board of directors, participated in the Summit as a mentor and expert. He recounts his experience here:

How did you get involved with YSEALI?
As a Global Ties Detroit board member, I have hosted fellows from YSEALI and Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) for the past two years. Then I was nominated to serve as a presenter and pitch coach for the YSEALI Summit.

What was your reaction when you found out that you were going to Singapore?
I was extremely excited and honored. While attending the 2018 Global Ties U.S. National Meeting, I went to the reception at the Embassy of Singapore where I was introduced to the amazing attractions and opportunities for entrepreneurs in Singapore. I decided to find a way to visit Singapore. To my amazement, the opportunity presented itself in 2018.

What was your role at the Summit? What are some of your takeaways?
My role included being a presenter and pitch coach for three of the young entrepreneur groups (in which all three placed top three as prize winners). Throughout the Summit, I served as an adviser, sharing my insights and experiences as an angel investor. I provided insights from my failures and successes as a serial entrepreneur for over 20 years. This included improving interpersonal skills by learning to speak confidently; understanding the art of the “ask” when it comes to funding, advice, or leveraging relationships; and to travel with the clear objective of learning.

I strongly suggested to the participants that their twenties are the time to grind and sacrifice luxury living, but never to sacrifice global learning and culture economics. The only way of traveling is to learn, not just learning to travel.

You are also on the board of Global Ties Detroit, which is a member organization of Global Ties U.S. How has being on the board influenced your opinion of exchange programs and the role they play in local communities?
Global Ties Detroit has been the best experience for me in marrying my passion for diplomacy and entrepreneurship. Having the opportunity to present, host, and engage world leaders has created life-long friendships and ultimately helped expand my consulting practice to international markets. I had the opportunity to help connect dots for NGOs, educators, business executives, government officials, and entrepreneurs through Global Ties Detroit. In return, I was nominated and selected to do two reverse exchanges, and travel on behalf of U.S. Embassies to present on alternative investing for start-ups, as well as provide entrepreneurship training in underdeveloped countries.

Jonathan Quarles is the founder and CEO of the BTL Group. He is also a serial entrepreneur and angel investor based in Detroit, MI. You can follow him on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.