What lies ahead for China’s entrepreneurs?

When China implemented its first economic reforms in 1978, the government accounted for more than 90% of GDP. By 2005, public sector contributions to GDP represented less than 50%. Does this mean entrepreneurs are thriving?

In rural China, there were no recorded private enterprises until 1994. Today, self-employment preference rates are in flux in all regions of the country, as the country welcomes back foreign university graduates and continues to experience massive rural to urban migration. Paradoxes abound though. For example, Internet censorship continues relentlessly, while a handful of Chinese ICT public offerings on U.S. exchanges in 2014 are hailed as job and value creators at home.

The size of China’s manufacturing sector should be the envy of the modern day Maker Movement as it works to inject manufacturing innovation in what we know as “industrialized nations”. The size of its population and economy presents a market which entrepreneurs from everywhere are trying to tap. Yet, various socio-political limitations present high obstacles to an innovative manufacturing sector and more entrepreneurs meeting demands from its growing middle-income population. These hurdles affect not only these sectors but also banking, services, government procurement, and even traditional sectors like construction and agriculture.

Beyond navigating a political environment that still favors state-owned enterprises, entrepreneurs also have lots of regulatory hurdles to tackle. For many, these hurdles lower their appetite for risk, deterring new ventures altogether, or limiting the number of ventures to the ones inspired by copy-cat ideas that have proven succesful elsewhere, like the plethora of Chinese versions of Groupon or car apps. According to data collected by the World Bank’s Doing Business project, China is among the most unfavorable business environments, ranking 158th among 183 economies. While piecemeal policy changes have signaled an acknowledgement of the contribution of a new wave of companies, the World Bank reports no significant reforms to make it easier to start a business during the 2009-2011 period.

Insecure property rights represent another major roadblock, and removing it has been on the policy agenda since a system of private ownership officially began in 2004, but progress has been slow. The most recent changes have been in the realm of opening new asset possibilities for raising capital. In October 2007, the new property law in China expanded the range of assets that can be used as collateral, to include accounts receivables and a changing pool of assets to secure a loan. Still, the Heritage Foundation has reported sharp declines in the overall property rights environment.

Despite a comparatively unfavorable policy environment, Chinese entrepreneurs in organic clusters in tier-one cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Gaungzhou have long shown that innovation can still flourish in a top-down economy. They form a critical mass of entrepreneurs that have raised the importance of entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur, and entrepreneur-to-investor networks, creating lots of economic freedom. For example, such strong entrepreneurial ecosystems are visible at the Touch (TNT) monthly meetup in Chinese tech cities, or for the outside world through the writings of TechNode, the official partner of the TechCrunch news and events platform in mainland China that is written in both in English and Chinese.

There are also plenty of positive indicators to be found by looking at the incubators and accelerators for China-based entrepreneurs that can be spotted outside of the main cities, such as Axlr8r, a 90-day accelerator program based in Dalian. Some target specific demographics, such as the Tianjin Women’s Business Incubator (TWBI). Respondents to the EY Barometer survey were most positive about this development — 52% saying that access to such supported services had improved in the last three years.

Further, in terms of startup or scale up capital, the success of many Chinese startups has demonstrated that if ideas are validated, the team is dynamic, and the entrepreneurs are rightly coached, money will follow. Earlier this year, the online education website TutorGroup raised approximately $100 million in venture capital. At the same time, Alibaba’s recent filing to go public has set the stage for what could be the largest Wall Street debut in history.

The government does seem to recognize the importance of new firms. As reported by the EY G20 Entrepreneurship Barometer 2013, China’s Ministry of Commerce acknowledged that entrepreneurial ventures are responsible for 75% of new jobs each year and 68 percent of exports and has started to focus on improving the regulatory environment. In an attempt to reduce the amount of time spent paying taxes, the criteria and accounting methods for tax deductions were unified through China’s new corporate income tax law. More recently, measures to enforce contracts have been directed at streamlining court proceedings. In 2013, the Chinese government reduced the cost of starting a business by exempting micro and small companies from paying several administrative fees from January 2012 to December 2014. The test will come after this period expires when policymakers will have to decide whether they want to continue to find new ways to remove roadblocks for new venture creation and firm growth.

One other important “feat” has been what the Chinese government, prone to a planned economy, did not do, such as organized innovation clusters that more often than not, fail and become mere physical structures with little entrepreneurial life and energy. Vivek Wadhwa has pointed out that “top-down industry cluster is a modern-day snake oil”. As he explained:

“Governments can build infrastructure and pump money into education and R&D. But they cannot manufacture innovation. Innovation comes from creative people who challenge authority and take risks–who exchange ideas and experiment at the fringe.”

There are also some trends outside of government that might give hope for China’s entrepreneurs. For example, overseas-educated entrepreneurs returning to China are adding to the local mass of entrepreneurs you can see, for example, at the Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates (EFG). The returning graduates are injecting cultural capital and demand for entrepreneurial vehicles and support infrastructure such as startup incubators for their patents. EY reported that China is building 150 startup incubators specifically for graduates returning from overseas.

In addition, the rising tide for technology companies raises many other boats. AsTechCrunch reported, beyond a statement about the value of the entrepreneurial path, these success stories are building investor confidence. Moreover, the successful ventures will know how to work with startups as they seek innovation opportunities. More importantly, these rising large companies challenge the mindset of the lifetime employment at state-owned enterprises (known as the ‘iron rice bowl’).

Looking ahead, as in other economies, sustainable growth will depend on meaningful reforms to make the economy less hostile to new entrepreneurs by unshackling this giant nation’s entrepreneurial limb. From my meetings in China with government officials, I doubt Beijing will kill this enthusiasm. The shear size of the economy and strong government will make it hard for China to create a healthier environment where established and young upstart companies can coexist, but despite inherent contradictions within the political and economic infrastructure, the dominant flow will continue toward removing roadblocks that hinder the development of an organic entrepreneurship ecosystem.

They understand the importance of empowering ecosystems where for example, startups have the breathing space to produce agtech solutions that fuel China’s giant food production sector, which the government currently subsidizes to ensure its productivity and competitiveness.

When party leaders sit down and map the future of the economy, I suspect they are already figuring out how to tear down walls in front of China’s younger problem-solvers who are going overseas and tapping into other local, national and global exchanges of innovative ideas. Even in China, the power of the global startup community is incentivizing change for the better at home.

More support needed to enable women entrepreneurship development

Dell’s Gender-Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI), reveals that more than 75% of countries surveyed are not meeting the most fundamental conditions required for female entrepreneurs to prosper.


Commissioned by Dell, the Gender-GEDI is the world’s only diagnostic tool that comprehensively measures high potential female entrepreneurship by analyzing entrepreneurial ecosystems, business environments and individual aspirations across 30 developed and developing economies spanning multiple regions, providing a systematic approach that allows cross-country comparison, benchmarking, and identifies data gaps. The goal of the research is not to provide a headcount of female entrepreneurs worldwide, rather it is future-oriented and designed to be a tool to guide leaders, policymakers and law-makers in identifying country-wide strengths and weaknesses and developing strategies to create more favorable conditions in their countries to enable businesses founded by women to thrive.

2014 Gender-GEDI Results
Among the 17 countries included in both the 2013 and 2014 Gender-GEDI reports, four increased their rankings (Japan, Brazil, India, and United Kingdom), four showed a decline (Malaysia, Egypt, Mexico and Morocco), and the others ranked comparatively both years.

The highest performing countries in the 2014 Gender-GEDI rankings are all OECD member countries with highly developed economies, and for the second year in a row, the U.S. (83) and Australia (80) came out on top, followed by Sweden (73), France and Germany (tied at 67), Chile (55), the United Kingdom (54) and Poland (51). The remaining 23 of the 30 countries studied received an overall index score of less than 50 out of 100, indicating that many of the fundamental conditions for high potential female entrepreneurship development are generally lacking in the majority of countries.

“To harness the full potential of the low performing countries, the Gender-GEDI results demonstrate that basic improvements are required in terms of access to equal legal rights and education as well as acceptance of women’s social and economic empowerment,” said Ruta Aidis, project director for the Gender-GEDI. “For countries with moderate scores, to improve their rankings, they should focus both on current women’s enterprise development interventions and support as well as basic improvements in the business-enabling environment.”

The 2014 Gender-GEDI demonstrates that top-performing countries are not necessarily the ones with the highest GDP levels; rather they are those who have committed to improving the conditions for female entrepreneurship on several fronts simultaneously, and even those with the highest scores still have room for improvement. While these countries tend to have good business-enabling environments overall, they could benefit from supporting programs designed to activate and accelerate the growth of high-potential female entrepreneurs.

To provide tangible examples on how women entrepreneurs can overcome challenges and maximize the opportunities flagged in the study, Dell commissioned an e-book, Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One, featuring case studies of 10 women entrepreneurs, which is available for download starting today on Dell.com/women.


Index Highlights
The Gender-GEDI is focused on the ways in which governments, institutions and corporations can support the effort of improving conditions for high-potential female entrepreneurship worldwide, and the 2014 results indicate that, across all nations, there is still much to be done, but by increasing access to education, technology, capital and networks, significant progress can be made.

  • Access to capital continues to be crucial. Access to a formal bank account is critical for entrepreneurs, especially since it is a necessary precursor to the financing (bank loans, credit lines, etc.) that fuels business growth. However, in 14 of the 30 countries, 50 percent or more of the female population is unbanked, with the gender disparities being highest in Turkey, where there is close to a 50 percent difference between men and women with bank accounts. Worldwide, women also receive less outside funding for their businesses than men.
  • Many industries remain male-dominated. Occupation crowding, or the existence of ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs in a country’s economy, not only contributes to the gender wage gap but also results in the concentration of women’s entrepreneurial activity within specific sectors, which can be detrimental to fully utilizing a nation’s capacity for innovation. Out of the 30 countries, only eight received an overall balanced ratio across employment sectors, and in India and Pakistan, formal employment is so highly sex segregated that no employment sectors are balanced. Some countries and industries are beginning to address these occupational inequalities through voluntary quotas and targeted initiatives in the sectors that tend to marginalize women as a result of their ‘macho lab coat, hard hat and geek’ workplace cultures.
  • Female start-up activity is on the rise in emerging markets. Despite being ranked as top performers and characterized by overall favorable business environments, opportunity perception is fairly low in the United States and Europe with less than one third of the female population measured identifying business opportunities. In Africa, this number reaches 69 percent. Even with challenges around access to education and capital, female startup activity in the region is high at 86 female to every 100 male startups. Ghana has more female startups than male at a rate of 121 to 100. The Latin American and Caribbean countries included in the Index also exhibit high rates, with a regional average of 84 female to every 100 male startups.
  • More women are needed at the top. Even when the business environment is right, social norms can affect general societal support for women as entrepreneurs and their access to experiences as decision makers and leaders. Local attitudes towards women in executive positions can also effect whether women choose to take on these higher roles and responsibilities. Only five countries have 40 percent or more female managers (Jamaica, Ghana, Panama, United States and Nigeria), and in four countries the percentage of women is 10 percent or less: South Korea (10 percent), Turkey (10 percent), Japan (9 percent) and Pakistan (3 percent). While education forms the foundation for high potential entrepreneurship, management experience provides women with additional skills, experience and networks that facilitate female entrepreneurship success.
  • Women’s rights must be addressed first. In 22 of the 30 countries included in the Index, married women have fewer rights than married men, in 21 countries women lack the same access to employment as men, and in eight countries women do not enjoy the same legal access to property as men. A number of countries also limit women’s access to public spaces through legal restrictions and discriminatory practices. In order to foster female entrepreneurship, these countries must first address these fundamental weaknesses and take steps towards ensuring women equal rights.

Medellín to host 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) has revealed that the City of Medellín will host the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC). Jonathan Ortmans, president of GEW and chair of the GEC, joined Minister Santiago Rojas Arroyo, head of Colombia’s Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, and Mayor Anibal Gaviria Correa of Medellín to outline plans to strengthen the national and local entrepreneurial ecosystems to drive innovation and economic growth.

“There is a growing understanding by leaders around the world of the role entrepreneurs play in driving innovation and economic growth,” said Ortmans. “Medellín is an inspiring example of how a strong commitment to helping entrepreneurs start and scale new firms can bring stability and prosperity.” The GEC is an inter-disciplinary gathering of thousands of startup champions from around the world where entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers explore different programs and policies to support the development of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems. It consists of two primary plenary sessions – the Start + Scale Forum and the Research + Policy Summit – as well as dozens of parallel sessions and fringe events that enhance networks and illustrate how collaborative communities can help startups launch and grow.

In addition, during the GEC leaders of Global Entrepreneurship Week campaigns connect to map out plans for the coming GEW in November when millions of people around the world participate in some25,000 events, activities and competitions designed to help entrepreneurs take their next step. Medellín will become the second South American city to host the GEC. Rio de Janeiro hosted the GEC and delegates from more than 100 countries in March 2012. Past host cities include Kansas City (United States), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Shanghai (China), Liverpool (United Kingdom) and Moscow (Russia). In 2015, Milan (Italy) will host the GEC. The GEC is co-hosted by Global Entrepreneurship Week, the City of Medellin and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. It will be held in March 2016 at Plaza Mayor in Medellín and is expected to attract delegates from more than 140 countries.

First big picture of world’s youth






















With half the world’s population under the age of 25 it is increasingly evident that national growth and global development, prosperity and security are dependent upon addressing youth needs and harnessing their potential.

In response, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) partnered to develop an Index as the flagship project of the Youth, Prosperity and Security Initiative.The Index ranks 30 high- to low-income countries in five regions that represent nearly 70 percent of the world’s youth. Yet due in part to disparate and inconsistent data, we don’t have a sufficient understanding of how young people are faring or feeling in their lives. As a result, the needs and aspirations of young people are often unexposed and remain marginalized.

This joint effort is an outgrowth of a commitment made at the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative by IYF and Hilton Worldwide to develop a youth-centered index. More than 50 experts and stakeholders from 35 public and private organizations were consulted in its development. The Index is comprised of 40 indicators grounded in economic and social growth and positive youth development theory and practice. They reflect the national enabling environment, youth specific outcomes, and youths’ outlook and satisfaction levels across six domains: citizen participation, economic opportunities, education, health, information and communications technology and safety and security. The data is drawn from public and independent sources that generally measure youth from 12-25 years of age.
The inaugural Global Youth Wellbeing Index gathers and connects youth-related data to assess and compare the state of young people’s wellbeing around the world. The Index is designed to facilitate both thought and action by elevating youth needs and opportunities and young people’s participation on national and global agendas. It also provides public and private sector decision-makers an easier way to understand the big picture, guide actions and investments, and drive progress over time. 
As this group becomes more economically active this newindex will become an important global measurement of their prosperity and inpact on the world.

GEW UK takes home Country of the Year award from Moscow

Competing against campaigns and host organizations from more than 140 countries, GEW UK, hosted by Youth Business International, was named as the best national campaign for 2013.

With 633 partners and 3,240 activities last November during Global Entrepreneurship Week, GEW UK helped 347,000 participants take the next step in their entrepreneurial path. It also had a successful collection of startup events – including a Google Hangout with Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann and Richard Branson – and a wide-ranging partnership with Barclays that evenextended to the Premier League. In doing so, the campaign secured its first-ever Country of the Year Award.

“There were a number of exceptional and inspirational campaigns hard at work building their entrepreneurial ecosystems,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week. “At the end of the day, the UK team stood out for the work it did in empowering and connecting current and aspiring entrepreneurs with resources to help them succeed.”

The 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Week Awards were distributed as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Moscow. Held in the wonderfully ornate State Historical Museum, the event was attended by delegates that make up the more than 140 countries that drive GEW.

4000 delegates from 153 countries head for Moscow






The 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Congress, GEW’s annual meeting, kicks off on Monday with a Research + Policy Summit. The week is wall to wall events and sessions from the Start + Scale Forum to the World Summit of Creative Industries, along with activities happening across the city.

At the heart of the dozens of other panels and programs that make up the GEC is the 2 day Executive Sessions of Global Entrepreneurship Week.  GEW is the big tent under which top down and bottom up leaders, whether from the old school or the new or from one political system or another can find common ground in inspiring their fellow citizens to experiment, invent and birth the new. GEC will be announcing many new partnerships and programs on opening day of the GEC across the globe.

The GEC offers an incredible opportunity to come together to bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. GEC’s hosts, the City of Moscow will be rolling out the red carpet at the historical Manege for what will be an extraordinary week for the world’s entrepreneurs.

Clean water for childeren in need – by not using your phone


UNICEF’s new Tap Project campaign is based around our mobile addiction. For every minute a person puts down his or her phone, the children’s charity will send the equivalent number of “fresh water days” to someone who really needs them.

Go to uniceftapproject.org with your phone’s browser, and follow the instructions. The app works with the internal functions to calculate how long you go without moving the device. If you want, you can start the clock before you go to bed. It runs for a maximum of 24 hours.

“We thought, ‘What if we could create a parallel between how in our country some people can’t live without their phone, and how in the developing world kids can’t live without access to clean water?” says José Carbonell, a marketing manager at UNICEF. “We decided to gamify that and ask, ‘Would you be willing to sacrifice your phone as a way of experiencing that sense of sacrifice?’ though obviously on a smaller scale.’”

Four days in, phone-users have already given up 7 million minutes. Armani will be footing the bill in March (the project currently has other sponsors), and Carbonell says other sponsors will come on-board soon. UNICEF also raised the stakes to 10 minutes per day of clean water, so it doesn’t bankrupt anyone.

The money will go towards building and maintaining water wells, putting in water pipes to rivers, and buying purification technology. Worldwide, 768 million people still live without clean water, leading to a rash of related disease. Every day, 1,600 kids die from diarrheal diseases, 90% of which are thought to be because of poor water and sanitation.

Carbonell says,”One of the nice things about going mobile is that you can reach everyone. But this really gives us an opportunity to have a conversation with a younger demographic.”

The United Nations of Entrepreneurship

In March 3,000 delegates from over 140 countries will descend on Moscow for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, the annual gathering of startup champions, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers.

The City of Moscow will play host and has hard acts to follow.  Previously the GEC roadshow has been hosted in Shanghai, Liverpool, Dubai, Kansas City, and most recently Rio.  From an awards party on Sugar Loaf Mountain to dancing in Liverpool cathedral to a dinner in the desert, the hosts have made incredible efforts to showcase their cities to the world.  Led by Moscow’s minister, Alexei Komissarov, his team has big plans for GEC2014.  The congress will meet at the famous Moscow Manege off Red Square, originally a military training school building capable of holding an entire infantry regiment, which has seen performances from Berlioz to Kruschchev.

The GEC started as a workshop in Kansas City, hosted by the Kauffman Foundation for the national hosts of the first Global Entrepreneurship Week in 2008.  Subsequently, GEW and the GEC have been instrumental at integrating previously siloed initiatives and activities of government, education and business on an international scale.  Global Entrepreneurship Week last November held 25,000 events for 10 million participants in 140 countries.  Not bad for a 6 year old start-up that claims Prime Ministers, Presidents and world business leaders among its evangelists.

The City of Moscow is involving the whole city.  Venues just announced include the Skolkovo Startup Academy, Flacon Design Factory, Technopolis Moscow, and Digital October. Themes range from mentoring to virtual idea enrichment, all with a red thread – enabling and empowering entrepreneurs.

Among the keynote speakers headlining in Moscow will be Angry Birds’ Peter Vesterbacka, and Vivek Wadhwa from Singularity.  They will be joined by more than fifty speakers from around the world.  Some of those already announced include Sergey Borisov founder of Apps4All, Bernard Moon Co-Founder SparkLabs Ventures, Oliver Gajda Executive Director European Crowdfunding Network, Lawrence Wright Director of Skolkovo Startup Academy, and Doug Richards Founder of School for Startups.

The Congress will focus on awareness, experiential education, startup cities, financing growth, smart top-down government policies and strategies for scaling up.  The World Bank, the Kauffman Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Endeavor Insight will also be launching the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network heralded by President Barack Obama several weeks ago.

In March 2013, over 100 nations gathered in Rio for what I like to think of as the United Nations of Entrepreneurship.  While some have highly developed ecosystems, many are just beginning their journey.  Visionaries like Babson’s Dan Isenberg, TechStars’ Brad Feld, and Dave McClure from 500 Startups provided insights into how startup cultures can succeed.  The GEC in Rio and other cities have effectively created an accelerator program for policy makers and those on the ground to develop programs that combine top down and bottom up thinking.

Rio also saw new nations such as Iran, Finland, Myanmar, Senegal and Vietnam join, welcomed by signing ceremonies and applause from the global family.  While there I witnessed a rare and extraordinary spirit of cooperation. Even those from politically adversarial countries were quietly finding ways to work together.

The GEC grew out of a closed work sleeves meeting in Kansas City.  Now it is the world’s big tent talk shop for a 21st century global religion called Entrepreneurship.  It has attracted a broad church from government to geeks – collaborating at an unprecedented scale.  These new entrepreneurial harmonies are certainly in sync and set to convert this crowdsourced wisdom into successful startups and economic growth around the world.

GEC2014 takes place March 17th to 20th. If you want to register, or find more info, go to gec2014.com

Cities map the future in 2014

Nations have started to compete in a raceto build healthy entrepreneurship ecosystems, demanding better data – such as the World Bank Doing Business IndicatorsOECD-Eurostat Entrepreneurship Indicators and more – to fuel and measure their efforts. In contrast, comparable city-level data is even more scarce and global city rankings are few. Nonetheless, city leaders are seeking to have entrepreneurs and investors pin their cities on their map and they are doing so with efforts that make clusters and technology parks look more like obsolete civil engineering projects as opposed to efficient local entrepreneurship policy.

Over the past half decade or so, it has become increasingly apparent that cities are ahead of governments in their approach (The 10 Cities That Are Leading The Way In Urban Sustainability). This contrast is visible in many places around the world. Take Buenos Aires, which released the city’s first Entrepreneurship Master Plan, using the global platform of Global Entrepreneurship Week last November. The move stands in stark contrast to the worrying policies of Argentina’s national government.

Other new cities are taking center stage as well. In 2012, three cities were among the finalists of the Wall Street Journal and Citi contest for the most innovative City of the Year: New York, Tel Aviv and Medellin, Colombia. Once crime-ridden Medellin was the surprising winner. The city’s burgeoning tech-entrepreneur scene was quietly evolving while the world’s attention was focused on Colombia’s drug-cartel problems. In fact, Medellin has coined the term “e-culture” to refer to its messy entrepreneurial force at the grassroots level.

This e-culture thrives on the so-called “random collisions” that happen in vibrant cities. These are collisions of talent and ideas that mix together then recombine and likely fail before reemerging and ultimately producing value. Today’s rising entrepreneurial cities seek those collisions of ideas through multiple common spaces like coffee shops and entrepreneur meet-ups, sometimes even forming entire entrepreneurial neighborhoods (think Kreuzberg in Berlin). In such places ideas meet talent and funding, hardware developers connect with software gurus, and so on, making innovative products and services possible (e.g. sustainable agribusiness on the rooftops of skyscrapers).

Berlin’s urban policies helped revive old buildings with entrepreneurs. Boston, Denver and Chicago are trying to retain startup tech talent with a bicycle infrastructure that will appeal to young tech-savvy people. Allegedly reacting to this competition, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn promised protected bike lanes for its workers, reports Emily J. Brown on the 1776 blog, a Washington, DC, co-working space.

Tech-entrepreneurship policies are not the only path. Think of one of Seattle’s entrepreneurial rock stars. It all started with one Starbucks coffee shop, which now “brews innovation” across the nation and many cities across the world through its appealing spaces and flavors. Other cities are focusing on creative entrepreneurship to boost employment rates and innovation. A new Kauffman Foundation report offers fresh insights into the role of cultural entrepreneurs in metropolitan areas, offering seven strategies for mayors and city council members to tap into their local creative talent:

  • Know who your local artists are.
  • Encourage convening equipment-sharing artists’ centers.
  • Develop sustainable artist studio and live/work buildings.
  • Provide entrepreneurial training tailored to artists and designers.
  • Build networking and marketing opportunities for artists.
  • Embed artists in city development strategies.
  • Partner with local arts and policy faculty for entrepreneurial research and training.

Inspired by all these experiences, city mayors are taking the plunge. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin of Moscow, for example, is bringing the 2014 edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress to his hometown this March, opening its doors for outsiders to have a first-hand look at how things are evolving there in terms of entrepreneurship. This is a bold move in light of the controversial media attention the country has been receiving around the world. It shows that the city is serious about a finding a long-term strategy to make Moscow an appealing place to start companies despite a national legal and political system that offers plenty of roadblocks, as a recent New York Times article pointed out.

Many local leaders have been smart to acknowledge that their governments are only one component of larger city startup ecosystems and, as such, are engaging stakeholders and hiring top private-sector talent to implement their policies and programs. Such is the case for the newly formed team at city hall in Buenos Aires that reached out to the Startup Nations Policy Network to connect with the best research and practices in promoting entrepreneurship from government.

Cities need data to evaluate their efforts and support their promotion as productive hubs for entrepreneurs. The City of Chicago boasts that in 2012, 367 startups launched in the city, corresponding to one new startup every 24 hours. This compares drastically to 2002, when only 11 digital startups were launched in the city. To build on this strengthening economic force, the City of Chicago has designed a technology plan that includes building a next-generation digital infrastructure, fostering tech education through “smart communities” and providing for civic innovation and tech sector growth.

As projects such as Startup Genome mine data from entrepreneurs, investors and community enablers in local startup communities across the globe, we are better able to evaluate their efforts. Startup Genome is one of a handful of free and open platforms for collecting, curating and analyzing data about the startups in cities. As a result, community builders, entrepreneurs, investors and researchers will all benefit from fresh and constantly updated community metrics.

Many of the mayors jumping into these startup communities will share experiences at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow on March 17, 2014. This network of city policymakers will become increasingly important in a world where data is less static and policymakers have to react faster in removing roadblocks to stronger startup and scale-up dynamics.

Moscow prepares to welcome the world







During GEW13, Global Entrepreneurship Week host, the Center for Entrepreneurship (CFE), a leading force for advancing entrepreneurship in Russia, partnered with the Moscow City government. Taking the lead in conducting GEW across the capital this year, the city government catalysed more than 200 activities in Moscow alone. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin’s team offered some remarkably effective city-level leadership in support of new businesses creation and growth.

Featured events included the CFE international conference focused on entrepreneurship education in high schools, and in partnership with Skolkovo Open University, the Moscow Central House of Entrepreneurs even offered an Entrepreneurial Film Festival throughout the weekend. Moscow was not alone. Other Russian regions were also very active during GEW, with more than 700 events reported across the country. In spite of record levels of activity, Muscovites acknowledge that there is a long way to go - unemployment in Moscow is less than 1% which makes it difficult for leaders to support entrepreneurship on the basis of job creation.

With the baton passed from Rio,Moscow now prepares to convene the next Global Entrepreneurship Congress (March 17-20, 2014) in the historic Moscow Manege—just a stone’s throw from the Kremlin. It is getting ready to prove that Moscow can be as powerful as San Francisco or Berlin in terms of a vibrant startup culture and that the capital of one of the world’s “strong government” economies can work to reconcile a tradition of top-down government control with a recognition of the importance of bottom-up, organic startup communities.

The GEC each March is by far the largest annual gathering of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem—from self-professed coding “geeks” to startup-savvy policymakers. The Congress connects advanced and developing economies keen to leverage the power of entrepreneurs. So the commitment from Moscow to host the next GEC is no small feat—it is great proof of a growing self-confidence in the potential of its own entrepreneurship ecosystem.

That ecosystem is one where leaders are not shy to call practitioners from around the world to emulate their efforts in promoting a new venture creation. The city’s Nagatino Co-working Center, for example, was inspired by similar spaces in Rio and Washington, DC. By the next GEW, every floor of the building will be open with startups and its very façade will be an invitation to explore the entrepreneurial path. When the GEC kicks off next March the efforts of this new generation of entrepreneurs will receive the support of the world’s startup community.