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.”

Kenya prepares for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit

All eyes are on Kenya this month as it prepares to host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. John Wali, executive director of GEW Kenya host organization Junior Achievement Kenya, will be attending the conference to announce the upcoming launch of GEN Kenya. Before heading to the conference, Wali shared his thoughts on GEW, the startup ecosystem in Kenya and the importance of supporting youth entrepreneurship.

Why is Global Entrepreneurship Week important – overall and to Kenya specifically?

Junior Achievement first got involved with GEW in 2008. One of the critical pillars of our programs is the promotion of entrepreneurship culture especially among young people and involvement in GEW was a perfect fit. The alignment of purpose between Junior Achievement Kenya and GEW provided a platform to continue to grow and expand the drive of entrepreneurship in the country.

GEW is important because it provides an opportunity every year where all sectors; that is, the private sector, public sector and social sector, to come together to inspire, motivate and support people around the country. It encourages people to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship as a key ingredient in driving Kenya’s economic growth towards realizing the Kenya Vision 2030.

Through GEW, we have been able to map out and develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem within Kenya that is important in sparking and nurturing emerging entrepreneurs. GEW provides a unique opportunity to seek and pursue continued engagement with all stakeholders in the development of entrepreneurship culture.

What makes your GEW campaign unique?

GEW Kenya engages various partners who run different events that are aimed at promoting and developing entrepreneurship. What makes our campaign unique is the focus on the promotion of the entrepreneurship culture among Kenyan youth, especially at-risk youth.

For example, we have successfully run SlumFest – an event aimed at promoting the entrepreneurship among youth in Kenyan slums and recently we launched the National Innovation Challenge, aimed at unlocking youth innovation and creativity.

How would you characterize the entrepreneurial environment in Kenya?

Of late, the entrepreneurial environment has improved considerably in Kenya. Most notably, progress has been made in supporting emerging entrepreneurs and facilitating success.

One thing I would change however is the access to affordable credit by youth entrepreneurs and startups. Products being offered by the financial sector are still prohibitive and are not responsive to the needs and requirements of young people.

What methods are you using to encourage entrepreneurship? What have been most effective and popular?

In partnership with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the private sector, we have been implementing hands-on experiential entrepreneurship programs that are aimed at equipping young people with critical entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.

The program is currently being implemented in 300 secondary schools nationwide reaching at least 24,000 students directly. The program is being scaled up to at least 1,000 secondary schools this year while leveraging technology to support the classroom delivery.

This popular program is modeled around a national competition that starts at the local level and aims to celebrate the most outstanding student-led enterprise. Over the years, the program graduated successful entrepreneurs and employers who are contributing to the Kenya economy.

Additionally, Junior Achievement Kenya has just commissioned a study on entrepreneurship with a focus on which teaching approach is best in the development of an entrepreneurship culture.

What are the key differences in entrepreneurship in a developed nation and entrepreneurship in a developing country?

In developed nations, the entrepreneurship ecosystem tends to be more sophisticated, while that of a developing nation is still in its infancy. Given that entrepreneurship is still growing in developing nations, there is an opportunity for them to leap frog by learning from developed nations’ experiences.

Of course, there is still room for government in developing the appropriate policy framework that supports youth and women entrepreneurs as well as the private sector, especially the stakeholders in the financial sector space to develop innovative products that can support and drive entrepreneurship.

The government has made efforts to ensure that the information on the topic of business is available to everyone in the ecosystem. Most recently, this has been done through the Huduma Centers that serve as a central tool for information and registration.

However, there is still an opportunity for government to coordinate and provide more relevant support especially to youth and women entrepreneurs. This can be done through appropriate training and seminars that can build their capability on how to do business with government.

Which public sector effort has had the most success at unleashing entrepreneurship?

There are a number of efforts that have been fairly successful in unlocking entrepreneurship. Beyond the creation and expansion of funds such as the Youth Enterprise Fund, Women Enterprise Fund and the Uwezo Fund, the Government reserved at least 30 percent of its procurement for youth, women and persons with disability as a way to promote business between government, youth and women.

Further, through the Micro Small and Enterprise Authority, the public sector has provided infrastructure that allows for dialogue and engagement between entrepreneurs and the government. Currently, the government is working towards special economic and free trade zones.

How has GEW grown in Kenya? What are you doing to build on its momentum?

Since 2008 when we held our inaugural GEW with one partner, we have grown to work with more than 50 partners each year and engage more than 30,000 participants.

We have since been recognized as a Kenya Vision 2030 partner as a leader in the promotion of the entrepreneurship culture in the country. The Kenya Vision 2030 which is the county’s development blueprint recognizes the significant role of entrepreneurship in driving the development of both Kenya and the region.

Startup Nations drive smart startup policy

Many of the policymakers and program leaders focused on exploring different policy ideas and government programs to help accelerate new and young firm formation participated in this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress. It might have surprised some that they looked much more similar to “untucked”-shirt-entrepreneurs than some may have imagined.

In 2012, these important ecosystem players formed a network called Startup Nations (SN), which now counts over 50 member organizations. Early players in the field of nation-wide initiatives to help inform policy included the Startup Canada and Startup Britain, which co-founded the network.

Soon joined by Startup Malaysia and Start-Up Chile, the network began sharing their roadmaps and blueprints.

The structures, goals and strategies of its members vary, accurately reflecting the diversity of entrepreneur types and culture, but they all maintain the following three principles:

  1. Smarter policymaking: At its core, Startup Nations is a network of policymakers and leaders of public-sector supported programs. Critical to SN member interactions is the recognition that policymakers can be open to experimentation to improve the impact of their efforts.
  2. Knowledge- and experience-sharing: Members share what they have learned about interventions (policy, programmatic, evaluation methods, or otherwise) that support their entrepreneurship communities. They embrace openness and candid experience sharing about program successes and failures.
  3. Fostering evidence-based impact evaluation: Startup Nations are committed to assessing whether programs in various startup ecosystems are performing or not,
  4. and believe they will be more effective when informed and armed by efforts such as the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN).

Over the past three years, SN has expanded to include new members, such as Start Up Indonesia, Startup Denmark, Startup Maroc, Startup South Africa, StartUp Australia and Startup Delta.

Startup Korea hosted the annual Startup Nations Summit (SNS) last November at the tail end of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). SNS 2015 will once again provide a grand finale for GEW celebrations this year, but this time in Monterrey, Mexico.

Startup Nations network prepares for new round of policy discussions that promises to unveil new angles and policy perspectives to spur new firm formation and growth. SNS 2015 co-host, the National Institute of the Entrepreneur of Mexico’s the Economy Secretariat, will also provide SN members with opportunities to deep-dive the Mexican ecosystem and see first-hand the gaps they are closing through smart programs and policy.

GEN partners with Compass to rank startup eco-systems

Global Entrepreneurship Network is joining forces with Compass, creator of extensive benchmark data for startup performance, to help rank the world’s top startup ecosystems.

The ranking is based in part on a short survey of entrepreneurs and ecosystem players around the world.

Compass is offering a Startup Accelerator package of eight apps for those who complete the survey — providing free or discounted access to some of the greatest tools for startups: Zendesk, Close.io, Foundersuite, Iron.io, Olark, Wix, Pipedrive and Clara. Plus a 50% discount to the Ultimate Startup Sales Guides: Inbound and Outbound.

The original report in 2012 (download) provided a “deep dive into selected top ecosystems.” It found that while Silicon Valley remained the largest and most influential, other startup hubs had begun to close the gap with Tel Aviv, London, Toronto and Vancouver in the top 10.

Through Global Entrepreneurship Week since 2008—and other more recent initiatives—GEN has been working on building and strengthening entrepreneurial ecosystems.

 

Taking the Pulse of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

“If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” iconic entrepreneur Bill Gates has famously said.

But, when it comes to creating the conditions that allow entrepreneurs to thrive — that is, well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystems — policymakers often wonder whether what they are seeking can be quantified.

While there is a growing consensus among policymakers, from heads of state to local mayors, about the need to support entrepreneurs, there remains a dearth of data and analysis around what works and what does not in creating vital and vibrant entrepreneurial environments. Beyond not achieving the desired results fast enough, this is important because public resources are, at the end of the day, finite, and misallocation is costly in terms of waste and opportunity cost.

When talking with policymakers in this field, they usually seek a framework for understanding the most critical areas on which to focus attention and resources and evidence-based systems for evaluating whether their efforts are having the impact they seek.

Many very serious and even scholarly attempts exist to identify the elements within a community that support firm formation and growth, how they are interconnected, and where bottlenecks threaten to extinguish individual creativity and initiative. However, entrepreneurship is still a messy field and there is not one agreed-upon standard.

Asking a policymaker to read through and synthesize such panoply is obviously a long stretch. Many end up taking one or two approaches to assessing their entrepreneurship ecosystems: focusing narrowly on a limited number of input metrics that fail to quantify outcomes, or taking a “kitchen sink” approach that, because it considers all aspects of the ecosystem equally important, tracks every result while failing to focus adequately on key components.

A new Kauffman Foundation report is intended to offer policymakers across the country, and perhaps the world, a solution. Authored by Dane Stangler and Jordan Bell-Masterson, the report recommends that policymakers look to four baseline indicators — density, fluidity, connectivity, and diversity — as a starting point for evaluating and measuring entrepreneurial vitality. It addresses measurement by providing state and local leaders with sources of data that can be used to track and evaluate over time whether new policies and programs are achieving their objectives.

For policymakers, looking at the density of new and young companies in a given location, be it a city or a region, will tell them how well the local economy is fostering entrepreneurial activity. To gain a deeper understanding, they can then look at the share of employment in new and young firms, and within the sectors that are most important to that local economy.

One of the key reasons entrepreneurship is so vital to human welfare is because of how it facilitates smart use of resources. The idea behind fluidity is to see whether or not regulations allow for or restrict the reallocation of resources so that they can be more efficiently deployed. This can be measured by looking at things like the number of high-growth firms and the level in which people move between cities or regions, providing a constant remixing of talent — which fosters idea generation.

The third indicator Stangler and Bell-Masterson present, connectivity, measures how entrepreneurs interact with each other, mentors, investors, and other ecosystem actors. To ascertain whether or not policies and programs foster such linkages, the authors suggest looking at spinoff rates, which indicate the extent to which successive waves of new companies are created.

It is for policymakers to avoid a startup monoculture mindset. In this context, similarly, to ensure that a city or region is not overly reliant on a particular industry, and to ensure a continual flow of new ideas, policymakers should foster economic and demographic diversity.

By measuring and tracking how well their city or state diversifies economic opportunity, such as through income mobility, and how well their city or region welcomes new immigrants, policymakers can better understand what adjustments are needed.

Tracked over time, “these four baseline gauges will provide a clear picture of an entrepreneurial ecosystem’s health and effectiveness,” replied Stangler when asked how the four indicators were selected. “They also serve to inform entrepreneurs and regional leaders about actions that will make the ecosystem stronger.”

Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt recounted how in every meeting with city, state and national leaders he was asked for advice about how to propel entrepreneurial activity. “Well,” he said, “they all have human capital to do so, people everywhere are endlessly creative, what they need is to fix the environment. And, ultimately, this is a most urgent conversation because this is about growth, it’s about generating jobs. The way you create jobs is by creating new companies, new entrepreneurs, new ideas. The vital point is that every leader needs this because they all have to solve the problem with joblessness.”

Evangelists for entrepreneurship around the world have succeeded in getting the significant attention of a wide range of leaders to this mission Schmidt describes. The challenge ahead now shifts to giving them the most accurate and relevant information from which to act in pursuit of the cause. Stangler and Bell-Masterson’s work, along with parallel contributions it will undoubtedly prompt, is vital in this effort.

This new framework provides a terrific place for policymakers to begin making sense of what matters in their communities and markets.

GEW Poland Wins Country of the Year

Global Entrepreneurship Week Poland was recognized last week for their 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Week campaign when they won “Country of the Year” during the GEW Awards.

“The host organizations that guide Global Entrepreneurship Week in more than 150 countries are at the forefront of efforts to reach new audiences and build the connections necessary to support entrepreneurial growth,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Network. “Each one of them is instrumental in helping millions of people around the world unleash their ideas and unlock their potential.”

Since their inception in 2009, the GEW Awards have been an opportunity to recognize the incredible work that Global Entrepreneurship Week’s host organizations in more than 150 countries around the world do each November. This year’s awards were distributed March 18, 2015 at the Italian Stock Exchange as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan.

The Country of the Year Award is given each year to the country host who runs the best overall Global Entrepreneurship Week campaign. Through a combination of events and a video-driven social media campaign, GEW Poland sought to spread entrepreneurship throughout the country.

The campaign’s motto for 2014 was ‘Entrepreneurship has many faces’. They wanted to convey to people in Poland that not only is there value in being entrepreneurial, but anyone can be an entrepreneur.

GEW Poland also took home the Champion Catalyzer Award for Most Partners. Their campaign had 2,523 partners this year, up from 2,206 partners last year.

“The key to the success of our GEW campaign, as well as a key factor in build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem, is cooperation,” said Justyna Politańska, CEO of the Global Entrepreneurship Week Foundation in Poland. “We as a foundation try to find leaders and people with passion in the community to collaborate with to best engage people on a local level. We also have a fantastic support from partners like Junior Achievement who runs a great project, which connects schools and entrepreneurs.”

GEW Algeria, run by host organization PNB-NAPEO took home the Compass Award, a prize that recognizes the host that best exemplifies and advances the Global Entrepreneurship Week brand throughout the year. GEW Algeria’s campaign is inclusive and enables all players in the national ecosystem to meet, exchange ideas and collaborate. Since it was established in 2011, its campaign has grown from 20 events organized by 10 partners in 5 provinces to over 2,200 events organized by 467 partners in 48 provinces.

The country hosts voted and selected GEW Greece, run by cohosts Industry Disruptors and OSYNE, as the winner of the Hosts’ Choice Award. Greece’s Disrupt Startup ScaleUP event last fall was an anchor event of Global Entrepreneurship Week, during which Ortmans officially launched the Week.

For the second year in a row, GEW Germany run by host organization the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy took home the Research + Policy Award. GEW Germany’s policy efforts in the past months include combining all relevant entrepreneurship/startup statistics in Germany into one database, researching certain Germany specific influential factors such as government influence on entrepreneurship ecosystems, and publishing a book on the German Entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The Rookie of the Year Award, recognizing the country host that ran the best new campaign, was awarded to GEW Nepal, run by host organization Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation. They ran a cohesive campaign this year that engaged numerous ministers and parliamentarians.

A new award, the Buzz Builder Award was awarded to GEW Ireland, run by host organization Think Ireland. It recognized the host that best embraced new and traditional media to grow their Global Entrepreneurship Week campaign. GEW Ireland spearheaded the creation of “GEW Magazine” last year, in collaboration with the Financial Times. Over 30 countries participated in the magazine whichwas the largest circulated publication focused on entrepreneurship with 1.3 million copies circulated.

Other awards that were distributed during the GEW Award Ceremony included the Champion Catalyzer Award for Most Events which was awarded to GEW Brazil, run by host organization Endeavor Brazil, as well as the Champion Catalyzer Awards for Most Events per Capita and Most Partners per Capita, both awarded to GEW Bermuda run by host organization the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation.

The GEW Awards are also an opportunity for GEW partners to recognize the country hosts that run their competitions on a national level. Get in the Ring awarded the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation Best GEW Host, the United Kingdom won the DECA Idea Challenge 2014 award for new country with the most team entries, Startup Malaysia won Outstanding Creative Business Cup National Partner, Future Agro Challenge recognized Morocco and Clean Tech Open Global Ideas Host of the Year went to France and Israel.

Nations battle to attract best global entrepreneurs

Meet Fujia Chen, the Chinese aeronautical engineer who the UK government hopes will grow a successful business. And say hello to Simon Papineau, the Canadian whose software company the Chilean authorities would very much like to see expand and prosper.

While it may at first seem odd that national governments are cheering for foreign entrepreneurs, it is in fact a growing trend. For in the increasingly competitive global economy, a rising number of countries are trying to poach talented young businessmen and women from overseas, encouraging them to set up shop in their nations instead. The hope is that the businesses in question will then grow, creating employment, wealth and tax revenues in the host country.

Such targeting of young entrepreneurial talent is the type of focused immigration that mainstream political parties agree upon. It is a world apart from the rows and concerns about levels of mass immigration. Therefore, such government-backed schemes as Start-up Chile, and the UK’s Sirius programme, invite overseas entrepreneurs, typically recent university graduates, to apply for a limited number of places each year. Successful applicants are then given living expenses, work visas, free office accommodation, mentor support, and access to potential investors for 12 months or so. After this time the hope is that the start-ups can stand on their own feet, and with visas extended, remain in that country.

Ms Chen and her German business partner Julian Jantke, both 30, are part of their current, second crop of 60 participant Sirius start-ups. After meeting while studying at Oxford University, they are now developing consumer products made using patents licensed to them by the European Space Agency (ESA), which has also financially supported their start-up – Oxford Space Structures. While Ms Chen looks after the engineering, Mr Jantke handles the day-to-day running of their business. Both are getting £1,100 a month for a year from Sirius to help cover their living expenses.

Their first product, a lightweight travel cot which opens and closes in seconds, is set to go on sale in the summer. It uses the same technology by which ESA satellites open out after they have been launched into orbit. Now based in London, Ms Chen, who originates from Shanghai, says it would have been very difficult for her to have tried to launch the business in China.

“In China, setting up a company is very bureaucratic… and requires a lot of capital. It is not something that a normal student would be able to do,” she says. “Also in China, it is much more difficult to have access to the capital markets unless you are very well connected – in the UK it is much easier.” Mr Jantke, adds that despite the strength of the German economy, and particularly its manufacturing sector, it is easier for start-ups in the UK to access investment. The company, which was only set up last summer, has so far raised £150,000 of funding. While it will get the cot manufactured in China, Ms Chen says that the firm’s headquarters and design base will remain firmly in the UK. And additional manufacturing in the UK may follow in the future.

More than 7,000 miles away in the Chilean capital Santiago, Start-up Chile is now in its fifth year. Start-up Chile attracts young entrepreneurs from around the world It was set up by the Chilean government to attract young entrepreneurs from around the world, with the hope that it would have the knock-on impact of boosting entrepreneurship among young Chileans. More than 1,000 start-up businesses from around the world have now participated in the scheme. Each is given a grant of $40,000 (£26,055), and a one-year visa to develop their business in Chile. Canadian entrepreneur Simon Papineau, 31, heard about the scheme when he was working in Argentina, and successfully applied back in 2012. His software testing company Crowdsourced Testing now has sister officers in Montreal and Santiago, and he divides his time between the two locations. “Start-up Chile enabled us to go from a small struggling, start-up to one that could start growing,” says Mr Papineau.

Australian Jake Tyler and Canadian Nat Cartwright met while both doing a master of business administration (MBA) course in the Spanish capital Madrid, when they came up with the idea for their mobile payments business Payso. They were offered start-up visas to launch the company in Spain, but instead chose to move to Ms Cartwright’s hometown of Vancouver. Mr Tyler, 32, says: “Spain is a very difficult place to start a business… there is very high unemployment, it doesn’t have a huge amount of financing options, and it is a difficult place to operate if you don’t speak very good Spanish. Canada is a very attractive market for us, we are growing our business out here. Canada in terms of access to banking is very well regarded, and we are next to the US.”

Back in the UK, Serbian brothers Igor and Milenko Pilic are using the help of Sirius – which is run by UK Trade & Investment – to launch their website Hey Success, which lists global opportunities for students, such as scholarships, events, grants and competitions. Milenko Pilic, 27, says: “It would have been impossible for us to launch the business in Serbia. Being in the UK gives us a global profile, and access to finance. We are here for good.”

Global Entrepreneurship Ministers to hold first meeting in Milan

What new approaches can governments implement to leverage entrepreneurs as allies for job creation and economic growth? Ministers responsible for such policies from around the world will soon gather in Milan at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) to explore this very question. Leaders will share ideas and experiences about how to better enable entrepreneurship, new enterprise formation, and SME growth overall.

While the GEC has traditionally been a massive gathering of entrepreneurs, investors and startup support programs, participation from governments — one of the feeders of entrepreneurial ecosystems – is on the rise. It is not clear if this is because startups are fun and dynamic or whether this awakening by decision-makers has been driven by greater awareness of the data on new firm formation and economic growth.

The first-of-its-kind Ministerial for the GEC will be led by Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.  She will be joined on the podium by Federica Guidi, the Italian Minister for Economic Development, who also has extensive private sector experience having served as CEO of a global engineering firm.  They will be joined by the likes of Gordan Maras, Croatia’s Minister of Entrepreneurship and Crafts, and Enrique Jacob Rocha, the President of Mexico’s new agency the National Institute of the Entrepreneur, among others.

As technology has broken barriers to connectivity around the globe, the potential for small and growing enterprises to have an outsized impact on national economies has never been greater. Governments have a renewed role to play in creating the conditions necessary for enabling today’s tech-savvy business founders to pursue new ways of bringing innovative products and services to market, both locally and globally.

The Ministerial is designed to allow Cabinet-level decision-makers  a unique opportunity to side step their usual agendas with each other around issues like trade barriers, and share information about emerging best practices in domestic policymaking and programming within highly diverse entrepreneurship ecosystems.  The goal is that these government leaders will return home with new ideas for spurring new firm formation and supporting small business.

While it is easier than ever to connect with people in all corners of the globe, there are still very few global forums in which the high-level officials responsible for entrepreneurship can learn from one another and, potentially, join forces in developing our one global entrepreneurship ecosystem.  The value proposition of today’s existing multilateral economic forums is questionable.  They may be suitable vehicles for negotiating trade deals, but not for adopting the global economic imperative of finding more effective approaches to stimulate new firm growth.  This requires open source collaboration not secretive economic negotiation.  All boats rise when economies generate more new firms.

While the Ministerial agenda for Milan is being set by the leading Ministers present and still be further defined by staff, here are some of the questions likely to be raised:

Government and the entrepreneurship ecosystems

What are smart ways for government to catalyze enterprise formation and growth without trampling on the chaotic nature of entrepreneurial dynamics?  What processes can governments use to develop the right mix of rules, regulations and incentives to create a thriving entrepreneurship sector?  Is there a government succeeding or failing in this regard?

Fostering young and growing businesses 

What approaches have worked (evidenced effectiveness) and what could work in the future (policy experimentation)?

Supporting innovation 

How can governments level the playing field for anyone anywhere at any time to start and grow a business that sells to anyone anywhere at any time?

Open Competition

How can governments promote competitive markets in which new entrants are not crowded out by large existing firms.  This is a particular problem in many emerging markets where certain economic sectors, such as telecommunications remain dominated by monopolies.

 

The Ministerial at the GEC in Milan will be followed by an open GEC Research + Policy Summit, and a meeting of the Startup Nations group – a collection of startup-savvy policy advisors driving the development of new policies targeted at new firm acceleration.  The broader discussion around stimulating entrepreneurship should build a team atmosphere of leaders and feeders from all elements of the ecosystem, working together on a common goal.

 

Startup Experience joins GEN to educate young entrepreneurs

Startup Experience, a hands-on training program that helps high school and college students build new ventures, joined forces today with the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) to reach aspiring young entrepreneurs in more than 150 countries.

The program is aimed at improving the way that entrepreneurship is being taught in schools around the world. It was launched in 2012 and developed in collaboration with educators from leading universities and experienced entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley.

“In today’s society, we all need to cope with constant change and great uncertainty,” says Henrik Scheel, founder and CEO of Startup Experience. “It is crucial for young people to adopt an entrepreneurial approach to life and become proactive about creating their own opportunities. Startup Experience gives everyone the creativity, confidence and capabilities they need to solve any challenges that come their way.”

The program promotes a six-step process to: Identify an opportunity; understand the user; discover the right technology; generate ideas; create and test a scalable business model and finally; prototype and pitch your new startup.

With offices in San Francisco and Denmark, Startup Experience currently has programs running in 15 countries on five continents. By teaming up with GEN, it immediately gains access to the startup communities and champions that built Global Entrepreneurship Week in more than 150 countries. Scheel will demonstrate Startup Experience in Milan this March where he will run several intensive workshop modules as part of the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC).

The GEC is a gathering of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers and other startup champions who work together to help bring ideas to life, drive economic growth, and expand human welfare. It is scheduled to run from March 16-19 and registration is currently open at gec.co.

25,000 events, 150 countries, 1 week.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is now celebrated in 150 countries by millions of participants through more than 25,000 events and competitions, Global Entrepreneurship Week is the pump fuelling an emerging network dedicated to helping entrepreneurs start and scale new businesses.

From the opening ceremony in Athens, Greece, to the official closing at the Startup Nations Summit in Seoul, Korea, GEW provided something for everyone. Inspirational speeches from successful entrepreneurs to encourage future founders. Pitch competitions to help entrepreneurs sharpen their skills and compete for resources. Networking sessions to connect nascent entrepreneurs with potential collaborators, mentors and investors. Summits and roundtables to explore effective policies and programs to promote entrepreneurial growth. And more.

Cities of all sizes around the world hosted multiple events throughout the week. Kansas City, home of the Kauffman Foundation which founded GEW in 2008, held an impressive 70 events for a mid-size city (population 450,000). Topping the charts for the world’s largest cities is London (population 8.3 million) with an amazing 240 events.

Additional facts and figures will be made available through the GEW Impact Report that is scheduled to be released at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress next March. In the meantime, here are just a few of the highlights:

Creative Business Cup

Creative entrepreneurs from more than 50 countries pitched their projects to an international jury during the Creative Business Cup finals in Denmark, as part of a three-day celebration of entrepreneurs in creative fields. CTAdventure, a Polish startup re-imagining education by involving users in a creative learning process in important areas such as chemistry, physics, and maths using modern technology like augmented reality, took home the top prize.

Get in the Ring

After battling some of the world’s most promising startups in one-on-one pitch battles, Indonesian startup eFishery won the Get in the Ring global finals in the Netherlands last week. The startup takes a data-driven approach to automatic fish feeding. Its smart aqualife feeding system can sense the fish’s appetite and be monitored and controlled through a smartphone or tablet connected to a network. The product is aimed toward large-scale hatchery operations that require efficient feeding solutions.

Global Entrepreneurship Index

A new Global Entrepreneurship Index that ranks 130 countries on the strength of their startup ecosystems and plots the data on interactive maps was a main topic of conversation at policy-driven GEW events in places like Seoul, Korea where the Startup Nations Summit is still winding down Global Entrepreneurship Week with leaders from 45 Startup Nations efforts among 2,500 participants.

Global Entrepreneurship Policy Survey

Each year, GEW Global conducts a survey of current and potential high-growth entrepreneurs to better understand the local climate to start and scale firms in more than 30 countries around the world. The GEW Policy Survey is currently collecting data in 19 languages. Results will be presented during next spring’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan.

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs & Business Angels

For the first time, GEW featured two themed days — celebrating celebrating women entrepreneurson November 19 and recognizing early stage investors on Global Business Angels Day on November 20.

Startup Open

Isreali startup Breezometer, an app that measures real-time air quality and provides health recommendations to its users, emerged from a field of more than 600 startups from 38 countries to win the 2014 Startup Open.

Cleantech Open

Fellow Israeli startup AutoAgronom won this year’s Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition. The startup has developed smart irrigation and fertilization control systems that allow the grower to significantly increase yields while saving up to 50 percent of water and up to 70 percent of fertilizers.

1776 Challenge Cup

The 1776 Challenge Cup is a global startup competition taking place in 16 cities across 11 countries to identify the most promising startups involved in solving the biggest challenges in four categories – education, energy, health and cities. The global tournament is in full swing with regional finals happening into the spring followed by global finals in Washington, D.C.

DECA Idea Challenge

The DECA Idea Challenge 2014 asked competitors to collaborate to generate a new item based on newspaper, this year’s mystery item, and then pitch their invention in a creative 3-minute YouTube video presentation. Winners will be announced in January.

Global Entrepreneurship Summit

In Marrakesh, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden, Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet were on hand at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted by the Kingdom of Morocco, to demonstrate U.S. government support for entrepreneurs around the world. Government engagement throughout GEW was at an all-time high with more than 150 heads of state and ministers from more than 75 countries actively involved.

VC4Africa &CofoundersLab GEW Meetups

On November 20, 2014, VC4Africa members and supporters came together in over 40 cities in Africa, Europe, the US and Asia – to talk Africa, innovation and investment. The VC4Africa meetupsmobilized 2,500 people around the world.

CoFoundersLab brought together entrepreneurs at all stages looking for co-founders to meet, mingle and talk shop.

Future Agro Challenge

Greece kicked off GEW with Disrupt Startup ScaleUP in Athens. The conference hosted a number of competitions including the global finals of the Future Agro Challenge which announced Bermuda Aerial, an innovative startup from Bermuda, as their champion.

Talent Unleashed

The six winners of the 2014 Talent Unleashed awards flew to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in Johannesburg, South Africa for all-expenses paid, four-day entrepreneurship and networking workshop during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

World Series of Innovation

The World Series of Innovation called for participants to select one of NFTE’s seven innovation challenges, hosted by brands like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and the International Red Cross, and come up with a new, unique, innovative product or service to address a market niche. Voting will begin in January 2015.

Global Startup Battle

During the weekend prior to and following GEW, hundreds of Startup Weekend events were hosted around the world with regional and thematic team competitions. Champion winners will receive two free trips to the GEC Milan from GEW. Follow the battle online for updates.

StartUp Cup

StartUp Cup launched WECreate Islamabad in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Program. WECreate is a women’s entrepreneurial center of resources, education, access and training for economic empowerment and is a physical community center. New WECreate centers were announced in three locations in Sub-Saharan Africa and one in the Lower Mekong.

Beyond a week-long flurry of activity, this globalization of entrepreneurship has brought an exciting explosion of programs, startup communities and investments. While GEW is now in our rearview mirror, the Global Entrepreneurship Network continues its work to support the world’s entrepreneurs and will gather next March in Milan at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.