Elizabeth Filippouli, founder and CEO of Global Thinkers Forum

Photo of Elizabeth Filippouli

Elizabeth Filippouli is a writer and the founder and CEO of Global Thinkers Forum, an international organization promoting accountable leadership, women’s empowerment and youth development through its mentoring programmes and international initiatives.  Founded in 2010, Global Thinkers Forum’s mission has been to connect visionary thinkers.  Through the programmes it touches lives in more than 70 countries.  Filippouli completed her MBA-level Diploma in Strategy & Innovation at Saïd Business School in 2010. She has obtained her MA in Media at London City University and her ALM in Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University.  
In 2018 she was named among the Said Business School’s 42 top graduate entrepreneurs.  
Her book ‘From Women to The World-Letters for a New Century’ was published by Bloomsbury in 2021. 

What is your background? What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?

My background is in journalism; I have always been fascinated by the speed of change triggered by innovation and disruptive technologies. The ways we work, do business, meet people, access new markets, and the way we look at the world have changed completely over the past couple of decades. In 2010, as these changes were emerging, I sensed the need for new thinking and promoting our universal values that would become a compass for leaders in their decision-making. 

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Global Thinkers Forum Logo

Entrepreneurship is a combination of strategic thinking and risk taking. Thinking entrepreneurially means to not be afraid to break your own boundaries.   

How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
There comes a point in time when you feel deep inside that you are ready for your next move. In 2010 I felt that time was right for me to share my vision, to launch my mission to advocate for values-based leadership. I knew that it was time to move on into social giving and utilize my journalistic expertise, and networks, to create initiatives that would add value to people’s lives and our societies.   

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Perseverance; a vision that keeps you focused and hard, hard, hard work. Then it is important to develop your management skills and the ability to change, transform.  

What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?

When I started Global Thinkers Forum there were some voices trying to ‘protect me’ from losing my money and time in what seemed like an overambitious project. Well, my gut instinct was that there were people out there who would find resonance in an organization that is non-political, nonpartisan, born out of a genuine vision to promote our universal values and link people to opportunities. My instinct was validated. Within the last 13 years years Global Thinkers Forum hosted some 70 events, launched a mentoring program that has supported more than 350 mentees/social impact leaders from all over the world and started our Athena40 initiative, which has developed into a platform connecting dynamic women from around the world, engaging them in a ‘global conversation’. You can see more on www.athena40forum.com.

What individual, company, or organization inspires you most? Why?

Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. They were restless souls and restless minds, driven by the mission to serve society. I’m also very inspired contemporary women leaders such as Queen Rania, Elif Shafak, Ruth Bader Ginsburg-women who make this world a more human and compassionate place.  

If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
5’ with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle? I would invite them to connect on social media, and ask for their thoughts about this chaotic, anarchic online world.    

What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures, or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
I invested in an online business network in 2008/9, which run out of funds at the marketing stage so I had to sell it. I came out wiser and I applied the lessons I learned in the launch of Global Thinkers Forum.     

How have you funded your ideas?

Own funds, investors, grants, private sponsorships and donations. 

What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Ideas, new knowledge, brilliant classes, talented classmates, Oxford has been an amazing space for me.   

If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?The Oxford Foundry is a brilliant new hub for young entrepreneurs looking for support. The Skoll Forum is another fantastic venue for social impact driven entrepreneurs.  The Prince's Trust also supports entrepreneurship.

Any last words of advice?
Always try to spot the weak signals as this will give you first-move advantage to stay ahead of competition.  Look at the bigger picture, try and connect the dots. Lastly: read fiction as much as you can. It triggers our imagination in many great ways. Reading makes us better people.