Why successful entrepreneurs live in the present

PresentHere are three ways successful entrepreneurs embrace the journey to make it matter as much as the destination.

1. They embrace uncertainty

Much of entrepreneurship is about taking calculated risks and then adapting and responding to whatever happens next. I’ve spent many sleepless nights wondering about the impact of a decision and thinking through various options for next steps. It’s maddening not having more clarity about how things will turn out.

One of the qualities that will endure is your willingness to embrace uncertainty as part of the journey. I started my company when I moved to a relatively small market years ago, feeling like I’d been bumped off the fast track in my career and unsure of how to reclaim it. But with the help of a talented team, I managed to build a successful business despite the challenges, eventually selling it to a global organization that I’m still part of today.

Life will take you places you never thought you’d go. You can have a plan, but it rarely works out just the way you’d hoped. It’s up to you to be willing to scrap the map and follow the detours, even when the way forward is unclear. You must be nimble, resilient and patient enough to stay on the journey — no matter where it leads. When you do, you’ll find yourself reaching destinations you never thought possible.

2. They don’t sacrifice the journey for wealth and power

Financial success is always a top priority in business. Everyone wants to make money. At some point, however, you must ask yourself how much you really need. When material wealth becomes more important than life experiences and being with those you love, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Only a few years ago, success was defined largely by what people acquired: job titles, bank accounts, homes and cars. But according to a Xero survey, safeguarding your personal relationships makes good business sense, too. Among 2,000 business owners, nearly 60% said the ability to spend time with their families in the evening was essential to their success.

More business owners are striving to build companies that have a positive impact on their employees, customers and communities. They value work-life balance for themselves and those around them, and they want to find passion and purpose in what they do — those things that make life worth living.

The same can be said for power.

Even the best leaders struggle to share authority

Even the best leaders struggle to share authority. But power is unfulfilling if it alienates you from those you want to be close to. The journey is more rewarding when you make it about connection and collaboration, exchanging ideas and bringing them to fruition as part of a team.

Victories begin to feel hollow when you can’t share them with anyone. So be willing to examine your leadership style in a new light: Do you let people in? Are you empowering your staff members so they can excel with you? Do you need to practice trust more often with your team? Sharing power is challenging at first, but freeing up your time and resources is crucial to finding greater balance and enjoying the journey.

3. They define their own measures of success

In a study published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, researchers found a positive correlation between engagement and performance in the workplace and a negative correlation between workaholism and performance. Rather than working tirelessly to hit traditional milestones, focus on doing your best as a leader every day and building an exceptional company along the way. Don’t just try to create the biggest brand or make the most money possible; instead, try to create a company that is known for excellence and empowers people to do and be their best.

Once that mindset became my “there,” the journey became much more satisfying — and, surprisingly, we achieved many of the traditional measures of success, anyway. As long as you commit yourself to these lasting ideals and keep your focus where it should be, you’ll reach the destination.

Embracing the journey requires courage and a shift in thinking. It’s hard to look at the challenges and volatility of running a business with an open mind and a positive heart. But there’s more to being an entrepreneur than making money. Personal and professional success will follow if you make the journey matter as much as the destination.

Credit: Mashable

Finding the impact of Entrepreneurship Education

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Yael Hochberg, head of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at Rice University and the academic director of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, is leading a five year effort to study the effects of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial success. The research project is made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the Kauffman Foundation. 

“Our research agenda aims to explore these new institutions and their features, and to answer a number of fundamental questions about their nature and efficacy,” Hochberg said. “We expect the results of our study to be of considerable interest to many groups, including accelerators, incubators, local governments considering entrepreneurship education programs and educational institutions.”

Hochberg was awarded the 2016 Ewing Marion Kauffman Prize Medal for Distinguished Research — and its $50,000 prize — last week for her work on the venture capital industry, accelerators, networks and corporate governance and compensation policies. In addition to her position at Rice, she holds a research affiliate position with MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is also managing director of the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, which publishes an annual ranking of accelerator programs in the United States.

Kauffman Foundation Recognizes Promising Young Researchers

In addition to Hochberg, the Kauffman Foundation also recognized the potential of promising young researchers in announcing the recipients of the 2016 Kauffman Dissertation Fellowship. The 20 students each receive fellowships in the amount of $20,000 to support their dissertation research in the area of entrepreneurship.

From Medellin to Johannesburg

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The annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC 2016) kicked-off in Medellin, Colombia on 14 March 2017. The GEC is the largest gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, policy makers, innovators and government ministers from around the world. The congress brings together more than 6500 delegates from 160 countries. The theme for this year’s congress was ‘The Business of Next’, and the theme speaks to improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem towards adapting to changes in the business environment, innovative solutions and investments.

The GEC will grace the African continent for the first time at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, from the 13-17 March 2017.

The business sector, education and government leaders have been eager champions, but they need more sophisticated tools, programs and research to help them direct their attention and funds to areas with the greatest impact on future economic growth and trends. The GEC helps address these needs by identifying effective initiatives – in all types of economies, across the macro or micro level; advanced or emerging – that positively impact entrepreneurial eco-systems around the world.

Speaking during the transition ceremony, GEC President Jonathan Ortmans, said “GEC 2017 is just one example of the Global Entrepreneurship Network’s commitment to helping the next generation of African entrepreneurs start and scale – rebranding the continent and permanently shifting perceptions around the world. We look forward to coming to South Africa.”

The successful GEC bid has been a collaborative partnership between SEA Africa, the Department of Small Business Development, City of Johannesburg, Gauteng Province, ABSA and Transnet. The South African delegation in Colombia have hosted 50 key global stakeholders in Medellin to present the roadmap to the GEC 2017 South Africa.

South Africa’s Minister for Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, said “Participating in global community strengthens the SME sector through understanding how different entrepreneurial ecosystems operate, learn best practices and how tools may be used to improve domestic markets. Given the constraints faced by the South African economy a significant boost in SME sector is required to address the current low growth projections and high unemployment especially amongst the youth. The GEC will provide insight on best practices, which we will localise, for the South African market. I am further encouraged that South Africa’s delegation will also use the opportunity to spark networks and create strategic conversations with global investors in preparation for Africa’s GEC in 2017.”

Tech gurus challenge politicians with Mayoral manifesto

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Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates opened the London mayoral election hustings at HereEast in the former Olympic Park.

This important event brought together five candidates hoping to become the next Mayor of London, to hear how they plan to retain the city’s rightful tech crown.

With digital continuing to outperform almost every other sector, gaining its support will be essential to the future mayor’s success. During his term Mayor Boris Johnson threw his considerable clout behind the sector, supporting the development of London’s so-called ‘Silicon Roundabout’ and today expanding that vision to cover biotechnology too. Whoever wins in May will need to continue and improve upon his legacy.

But when it comes to politics, talk is far too cheap. There’s a woeful lack of understanding of the status quo. Considering we’re the digital capital of Europe, our leaders still fail to speak in a language that reflects the world we live in today.

“I’d like to see a tech champion in every school” Those were the weak words of Peter Whittle, the UKIP candidate who boasted to the crowd he uses his phone “all the time”. At my school we didn’t need a “tech champion”. I’m not sure exactly what one would do. When I was at school the internet was growing at a rate faster than any politician could cook up with a meaningless policy idea.

“I’ll appoint London’s first Chief Digital Officer.” All of the candidates announced this idea with a suggestive pause that cried out for applause that failed to materialise from the audience.

The idea was lifted straight from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policy book. In 2011, Bloomberg hired Rachel Haot, an internet entrepreneur, to take New York state’s digital presence to “the next level” pioneering initiatives in the fields of open Government and unlocking the city’s data. 

While a Chief Digital Officer sounds impressive, I hope the new title lives up to more than its name, as Haot did, and actually delivers tangible change.

London still suffers from substandard broadband, but do our politicians really know what it takes to fix the problem? Instead we heard soundbites about “notspots” and cringeworthy namedrops about “..that time I was at Google Campus” and “…when I was last at Twitter and learned about Periscope”.

The leaders had the best of intentions, but most were drowned out by political guff that served to show a worrying lack of understanding.

Sian Berry, the candidate for the Green party, gave an exceptional opening speech, revealing to the delight of the audience she had previously worked for a tech business.

Instead of sticking rigidly to the script, she spoke confidently off the cuff, outlining sensible ideas like acknowledging the potential positive impact for Uber in improving public transport in the city. This was in contrast to the Conservative’s Zac Goldsmith who pandered to the vote-winning powerful black cab driver lobby.

I don’t doubt the political abilities of any of the candidates on show. But if the next mayor wants to be taken seriously by a digital-first electorate, the narrative has to change and better represent the way we live today.

Russ Shaw and Tech London Advocates should be applauded for hosting this groundbreaking event that brought together innovative people from the private sector and showed our leaders how very different this new world is from the one we used to live in.

We already have tech leaders in business. Now we need them in our politics.

Startup Compete Goes Global

The Startup Compete platform for competition management has had a wild year – from increasing the number of participants to finding a new home within the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

In 2015 alone, Startup Compete powered more than 140 competitions. GEN has used the platform since 2009 to setup, manage and judge its Startup Open competition to recognize some of the world’s most promising new startups. It acquired the platform just ahead of Global Entrepreneurship Week in November 2015, with plans to expand its reach to the more than 160 countries covered by GEN.

Startup Compete competitions include Rice University’s Rice Business Plan Competition, that the university has held for the past 16 years — with seven years on the platform. This year 42 teams from around the world will compete on campus in April for more than $1.5 million in cash and prizes. There are more than 300 judges, primarily angel investors, venture capitalists and other investors. Rice is one example of the reach and scope of the Startup Compete competition platform. Three of the ten competitions held in 2016 are part of the Princeton Review’s top six ranking graduate schools for entrepreneurship this year. The platform is made up of 667 competitions, 30,206 business ideas and 3,481 connections made.

Startup Compete will also be at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Medellín, Colombia, this March. Startup Communities Manager Steven Rodriguez will lead a session talking bout the competition platform and what’s next for startup communities in 2016.

From competitions hosted in California to Texas, and all the way to Africa, change-makers are coming up with innovative ideas and preparing to share them with their communities.

One university, 30,200 startups

Just how much impact can one university have on the global economy. Apparently, quite a bit. A new December 2015 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reports that MIT’s alumni entrepreneurs generate annual revenues of roughly $1.9 trillion.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation at MIT: Continuing Global Growth and Impact updates earlier studies and shows that MIT alumni are “engaged in entrepreneurship and innovation at ever increasing rates, and at earlier and earlier stages in their lives.”

The report estimates that MIT alumni have launched 30,200 active companies, employing roughly 4.6 million people, and generating roughly $1.9 trillion in annual revenues. That revenue total falls between the world’s ninth-largest GDP, Russia ($2.097 trillion), and the 10th-largest, India ($1.877 trillion), according to 2013 data on those and other countries from the International Monetary Fund.

While data from the Kauffman Foundation indicates that the share of new entrepreneurs between the ages of 20-34 is on the decline in the U.S., the average age of MIT alumni founders is heading in the opposite direction. The MIT report shows the median age of first-time alumni entrepreneurs decreasing steadily over the last eight decades. The age dropped from 39 for alumni who graduated in the 1940s to 30 in the 2000s, with today’s median age for entrepreneurs being 27.

Other key findings include:

  • 25 percent of alumni have founded companies, with more than 40 percent of these labeled as “serial entrepreneurs” (founding two or more companies)
  • 38 percent of early-stage employees eventually launched their own companies
  • 11 percent of alumni who have graduated in the 2010s have already founded companies, compared with 8 percent who founded companies within five years of graduating in the 1990s, and 4 percent in the 1960s
  • 80 percent of alumni-founded companies have survived five or more years, while 70 percent have survived 10 years
  • 31 percent of alumni hold one or more patents

The report was co-authored by Edward Robert, Fiona Murray and J. Daniel Kim of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

China embraces entrepreneurship across 123 cities

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week China aimed to break three records across the country. The first record was to achieve the closest distance to angels with the “Talks with Angels” session, involving more than 50 investors. The second goal was to organize the highest number of large-scale activities, and GEW China achieved this by organizing 75 large-scale activities, more than 30 of which involved roadshows. The third aim was to create the most concrete and valuable content and thus the organizing committee focused on a problem-solving week for entrepreneurs. The week also gave Chinese people the chance to network and see more than 30 roadshows showcasing a wide range of opportunities from the Internet to gaming, hi-tech to healthcare, and even new media entrepreneurship. The Entrepreneur Charging Station, the Entrepreneurship Forum for Graduates and the Eaglets Awards were some of the highlights of the week.

China kicked-off GEW with Shen Xiaoming, a member of Shanghai Party Standing Committee, director of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Administrative Committee and Party Secretary of Pudong New Area, presided over the opening ceremony and gave the commencement announcement. The ceremony had the involvement of nearly 60 institutions and approximately 113 enterprises. Shen Xiaoming pointed out during this speech that the future success of Chinese entrepreneurs depends on institutional innovation; an equal, efficient and transparent business environment in accordance with international standards and the successful investments in entrepreneurs.

The winners of the Eaglet Prize – an influential award aimed at creating an ecological environment for startups and encouraging the growth of excellent entrepreneurial enterprises – were announced at the opening ceremony. This year, the evaluation committee assessed the startups applying for the prize based on their speed of growth, technological breakthrough and innovation model. They selected 11 winners. At the ceremony, the 2015 list of “TOP30 angel investors” was also announced. Pang Xiaowei, CEO of tisiwi.com, delivered a speech representing angel investors at the ceremony.

At the Entrepreneur Charging Station, a signature event of the week, 90 entrepreneurial institutions offered entrepreneurs services regarding site selection, financing, recruitment, media promotion and policy consultation. The financing area of the station, “Talks with Angels,” focused on different stages of support. The first experience of financing was where entrepreneurs talked face to face with investors providing for them. Then there was the diagnostic consulting service, to obtain a “PASS” card; then Face the Investor, where entrepreneurs with a “PASS” card talked with investors to obtain a “BOSS” card; and Meet with the Partner, where entrepreneurs with a “BOSS” card could meet a potential partner. If an entrepreneur was favored by many investors and received many “BOSS” cards, it enabled the entrepreneur to flip through the cards of investors and pick one.

The Entrepreneurship Forum for Graduates “‘Chuang’ Out Your Future – Be Pioneering Entrepreneurs!” was themed after the currently popular roadshow model of live commenting by audience on stage. The aim was to ignite the passion and entrepreneurial spirit among future innovators, and promote communication among experienced and future entrepreneurs.

At the New Media Trend Entrepreneurship Incubation Forum, the first forum designed to analyze the development trends of new media, distinguished guests from the sector shared their ideas and emerging new media projects.

A great variety of activities during GEW were “entrepreneurship classes,” which worked to educate entrepreneurs about winning the heart of investors, circumventing legal risks related to entrepreneurship, and learning how to apply the right marketing strategies. The classes also focused on hot to become a good manager, embrace science, technology and media, as well as take advantage of the entrepreneurial environment and new trends from financing, marketing, management, legal and media. Entrepreneurship courses throughout the week included STEP Growth Camp, taught by three industry heavyweights Jin Cuodao, Zha Li and Yang Ning, and a course on how small and micro-businesses can save on the workforce with EAP.

The 2015 global innovative product launch event featured innovative products from eight enterprises through keynote speeches and on-spot roadshows. This year’s event partnered with chaodianjie.uz.taobao, where some of the products were simultaneously sold online.

As of last year, GEW China expanded beyond the week, as programs will continue throughout the year, with the Global Entrepreneurship Week Campus Center (GCC), which brings together entrepreneurial societies, associations and clubs with college students across China. So far, GCC has admitted nearly 200 entrepreneurial societies, conducted 444 activities in 223 colleges and universities, with the participation of more than 280,0000 college students in 28 cities across China – at campuses including Tsinghua University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Fudan University and Zhejiang University.

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week this November – 10 million people, 160 countries

The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) will be its largest celebration of entrepreneurship yet, with events in 160 countries. From November 16-22, roughly 10 million people will take part in the eighth annual celebration, recognizing and supporting entrepreneurs from around the world.

This year’s Global Entrepreneurship Week features several themes meant to provide innovators the tools, resources and advice to launch new businesses. Throughout the week, GEW partnersaround the world will help entrepreneurs of all levels start and scale new ventures through events, activities and competitions that introduce participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors. While the activities will vary greatly in size and scope, many will touch on trends in the following areas:

  • Investors: On Nov. 17, GEW will highlight the role that early-stage investors play in developing robust entrepreneurial ecosystems through partner events that enhance the connections between business angels, venture capitalists and individual investors with entrepreneurs and policymakers.
  • Youth: On Nov. 19, GEW will spotlight partner activities, such as the DECA Idea Challenge, to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and help them acquire and sharpen the skills needed to launch and grow a startup. .
  • Cities: On Nov. 20, GEW will explore the efforts by policymakers around the world to support the development of local entrepreneurs, ensuring they have access to the resources necessary to help them launch startups. The first-ever Startup Nations Awards will recognize local and national policymakers alike, as well as ground-breaking intellectual work in the field.

“As more and more countries turn to their entrepreneurs to drive innovation and economic growth, they need to focus on developing their local and national startup ecosystems,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week. “GEW provides a jolt of energy that strengthens those connections and helps foster an entrepreneurial culture necessary for sustained growth.”

Featured events in 2015 include:

  • Startup Open, a global competition to identify and recognize new and promising startups. It is open to any entrepreneur who has just started or is about to start a new venture.
  • Startup Nations Summit: Startup-savvy policymakers and program leaders gather in Monterrey, Mexico to explore policy ideas and programs to help accelerate new and young firm formation.
  • One in a Million: The Kauffman Foundation’s inaugural pitch competition, providing startup owners who have previously presented at a 1 Million Cups program around the country, the chance to pitch their ideas to seasoned entrepreneurs. Five finalists will compete in a live-streamed event on Nov. 18 for a grand prize of $10,000.

Launched in 2008 by the Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Week has quickly grown to include more than 25,000 events, activities and competitions. To learn more about all of the Global Entrepreneurship Week events and see a list of participating countries and supporting organizations, visit www.gew.co.

UN agenda may support entrepreneurs

As the world prepares to create 600 million new jobs by a deadline of 2020, Dell entrepreneur in residence Elizabeth Gore is trying to put entrepreneur support on the UN’s official agenda for the next 15 years.

She says almost all of those new jobs will be generated by entrepreneurs instead of existing corporations or government agencies. In fact, 70% of job creation in the U.S. comes from entrepreneurs and new businesses, and 90% of new jobs come from the same source globally, according to Gore, who also chairs the UN Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council.

But Gore says necessary resources are lacking to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses and add jobs. “We looked at the fact that there was really no global roadmap for policy makers on entrepreneurship,” she says. “What do they need to scale?” So Gore helped develop the Entrepreneurs UNite initiative with Dell and the UN Foundation to generate buzz around the idea of fostering entrepreneurship and getting it on the global agenda.

Her efforts have started to pay off. The UN has added entrepreneur support to its Sustainable Development Goals agenda for September in the form of SDG8. The General Assembly will vote on Sept. 25 whether to include SDG8 and 16 other goal proposals in its next round of SDGs, which are updated every 15 years. Nancy Pelosi, Aaron Levie, and Sean Parker are among those supporting Sustainable Development Goal 8 to foster entrepreneurial growth worldwide.

Since the UN acts as a global recommendation for countries on which laws and initiatives to pass, Gore hopes SDG8 makes supporting entrepreneurs a global initiative. And executive supporters of the goal include entrepreneurs like Aaron Levie, Sean Parker, Alison Pincus, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Ted Turner, and more.

Through her work liaising with entrepreneurs and organizations like the UN and now Dell, Gore says she noticed overregulation and ambivalence were common problems hindering new business owners. They’d either rub against restrictive policies and fail, or they’d experience total lack of support from their communities. Furthermore, conversations about entrepreneurs’ needs tend to erupt only in emergency situations.

“There is an intimidation or even a lack of understanding of how to engage with policymakers, how to communicate which policies and laws are a positive-negative, until there’s something bad happening. You’re bumping up against something, and your business is not going to scale because of it. There are extreme examples like an Uber or a Lyft, but there are examples every single day of entrepreneurs all over the world who are having trouble here,” Gore says.

Companies like Uber and Lyft have long been at the forefront of policy fights for their businesses, hiring policy heads to liaise with government agencies. Airbnb made headlines this week for hiring its first policy head, Chris Lehane, a former Clinton aide.

Gore wants to create ecosystems that foster entrepreneurial growth everywhere and says that if passed, SDG8 will challenge governments at all levels to push for new business with federal appropriations, tax incentives, immigration suggestions, and more. So far, the Entrepreneurs UNite campaign has reached about 74 million people through social media and garnered 27,000 signatures for its petition.

“This is something that we think is critical, and it’s going to be the first roadmap that will help entrepreneurs scale,” Gore says. “We are very happy that we have a White House here that really understands us and is going to support it. But this is a global policy, so we need as many folks from as many countries to be looking at it.”

GES call to entrepreneurs to ignite economic growth for Africa

Since 2010, when President Barack Obama presided over the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Washington, D.C., it has expanded to a global event, subsequently hosted by the governments of Muslim majority nations, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Morocco. This past weekend, the focus shifted to Africa as the U.S. president travelled to Nairobi where he joined Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on stage for GES 2015.

The promise of high-growth entrepreneurs is just as high in Kenya as in more advanced entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) offered a preview of its 2016 report to be released this November, showing that Kenya’s performance in tech transfer is far above the regional average. Kenya is also a top country in the region for R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP. Another Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN) member Endeavor Insight also recently put the spotlight on Kenya, showing that scale-ups have created 72 percent of new jobs in the past three years, despite representing only five percent of Kenyan firms. However, given the country’s projected population growth of 3.4 million additional people by 2020, Kenya will need to create over 3.9 million new jobs for young people. Several other countries share this is enormous challenge.

In order for Kenya and the Sub-Saharan region to grow and add more jobs, economies will need a new wave entrepreneurship. Experts at the GES this weekend argued women and youth are in the best position to create a strong current that can drive new wave of high-potential startups.

The Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI) is keeping track of improvements in this regard across 77 countries, but data for Sub-Saharan countries is scarce. Of the nine countries included in the report, South Africa leads the way in the region, and ranked 36th globally.

The Summit kicked off with the GES Youth + Women event, featuring opening remarks by Akon, a Grammy-nominated R&B and hip-hop artist and entrepreneur. Born in St. Louis but raised in West Africa, he founded the Akon Light Africa project, an initiative to bring solar power to streets and households across 14 African countries. He was joined by Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of Kiva, the microfinance platform that has lending teams focused on youth and women.

Catherine Russell, U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, announced a new exchange program to help young female founders in Africa grow their startups and reach new markets, the Women’s Venture Xchange—Africa. The pilot program – starting in Nairobi and Kampala – will serve as an exchange and mentorship program for high-potential women entrepreneurs, tapping the partners and programs of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, the Case Foundation, Mara Foundation and the U.S. State Department.

President Obama announced that the Administration’s goal to generate over a billion dollars in private investment for emerging entrepreneurs around the world by the end of 2017 has already been exceeded. Half of this goal will be specifically for women and young entrepreneurs.

Other programs focused on women and the young highlighted at the GES included:

African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), an outreach, education, and engagement initiative that targets women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa to promote business growth, increase trade both regionally and to U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), create better business environments, and empower African women entrepreneurs to become voices of change in their communities.

Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which is creating four regional leadership centers in Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, and South Africa to improve the availability and quality of leadership training programs and professional development opportunities for young African leaders. In addition to in-person training and opportunities, the YALI Network provides more than 130,000 members with virtual resources and vibrant physical spaces that equip young African leaders with the skills and connections they need to improve their businesses, communities and their countries.

The focus on youth and women wasn’t confined to Kenya and the GES. The WiSci STEAM Camp opened on the same day as the GES and will continue through August 15 at the Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda. The camp brings together 120 high school students from across Africa and the United States who have demonstrated interest in the STEAM fields — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — and have leadership abilities. The program is part of LIONS@FRICA, an initiative founded by the U.S. Department of State and Global Entrepreneurship Network with Microsoft, Nokia, DEMO Africa, VC4Africa and other partners to help entrepreneurs start and scale new businesses throughout Africa.

GES organizers brought mentors to Kenya to help the selected promising growth-oriented startups from across the world and instill a mentorship culture among this cohort of entrepreneurs. In addition to Airbnb’s Chesky, three additional rockstar entrepreneurs were in Nairobi to demonstrate their commitment to serving as mentors and global ambassadors: Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution, LLC; Julie Hanna, Executive Chair of the Board, Kiva; and Daymond John, Founder, FUBU and CEO, Shark Branding. The four serve as part of the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, a group of America’s most respected business creators who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs around the world.

African leaders will meet again in the next two years, culminating in the convening of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2017 in Johannesburg. Expect many lessons to be shared as Africa positions itself as ground for policy and program experimentation. As Steve Case, Co-Founder of AOL said, “Historically, Africa has been viewed by many as a problem to solve – but now there is a growing recognition it is in fact an opportunity to seize and entrepreneurs are leading the way.”