The Globalization of the Startup Movement


As another November fades into our rearview mirror, we are again reminded that the phenomenon of entrepreneurship is not something that belongs to any one particular community or country. Economies that have been historically less supportive of capitalism—like Venezuela or Iran—are seeing the rise of strong entrepreneur-led startup communities. And equally as important, those communities are bolstered by increasing support from policymakers, academics, investors, media and other startup champions.

Last week, roughly 10 million participants took part in Global Entrepreneurship Week events and activities in 140 countries. It was the sixth year that GEW has been celebrated—and the number of countries has increased each year to match the growing demand from entrepreneurial communities and policymakers alike for programming to help startups thrive.

That demand is not coming solely from established economies in the west—or even from countries like Croatia that just joined the European Union this past July. Last week, Libya and Iran were among more than 10 countries that celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week for the first time.

The initiative is run out of GEW Global headquarters in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, host organizations in 140 countries run national campaigns with a considerable amount of flexibility and freedom to tailor them to best fit their country’s needs and culture.

The story of Libya is especially poignant. With violence in the capital city of Tripoli forcing the postponement of a number of events and activities, GEW carried on in Benghazi.

“Despite the struggles we are going through in Libya now, our country is full of young people who are ready and willing to work hard to build a new Libya,” said Zeyad bin Halim of Silatech, the country’s GEW host organization. “A new movement of creative, positive entrepreneurs is what we in Libya need, and we are proud that Silatech and our many partners have been able to give this movement a strong boost through Global Entrepreneurship Week.”

As I mentioned last week in a piece for CNBC, there is a convincing argument that entrepreneurship is viral. In Paul Kedrosky of the Kauffman Foundation quantifies the importance of connections and shows that there is a strong link between knowing an entrepreneur and being one yourself. His report, ’Getting the Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious?’ shows that 37.8 percent of respondents who knew a "growth" entrepreneur—founders of companies with more than $1 million in sales growing more than 20 percent a year—were entrepreneurs themselves, as were 35.5 percent of respondents who knew entrepreneurs overall. This reinforces what many of us already believed to be true – that there is now no doubt that the entrepreneurship bug is a behavior learned in part through imitation.

That line of reasoning is the foundation for Global Entrepreneurship Week and why it focuses on creating connections that build and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems in communities and countries around the world.

So what happens during Global Entrepreneurship Week and how diverse are the events and activities? Here are just a few highlights to help illustrate:


  • Creative Business Cup — Startups from 36 countries focused on the creative industries pitched for investment and prizes at the global finals in Copenhagen, Denmark. Teddy the Guardian, a startup from Zagreb, Croatia, won the title for its teddy bear stuffed with medical sensors that measures children's vital signs seamlessly as they play. [ ]
  • Get in the Ring — Eight national competition winners squared off in a boxing ring in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to pitch for up to $1 million in investment. Kansas City-based EyeVerify, a startup with a biometric eyescan software for mobile devices, took the title belt as it defeated finalists from Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. [ ]
  • Startup Cup — A virtual competition to identify the most promising young startups (under a year) around the world. Teddy the Guardian from Croatia took the top honors for this competition as well and won a free trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow next March. [ ]

Virtual ‘Hangouts’:

  • Google for Entrepreneurs — Richard Branson and Ben Silbermann, founder of Pinterest, shared their experiences and advice in a Google Hangout. [ ]
  • We the Geeks Hangout — White House officials joined young entrepreneurs who started their companies during high school, college, and grad school. Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John from ABC-TV’s Shark Tank and other entrepreneurs provided advice. [ ]

Bootcamps & Hackathons:

  • Startup Weekend — In 200 cities around the world, thousands of participants split into cofounder teams to go from idea to startup in 54 hours (one weekend). [ ]
  • Startup Bus Africa Tour — 30 entrepreneurs—from engineering, design and business backgrounds—participated in a 96 hour hackathon that traveled 2,500 kilometers through Africa. [ ]

Youth & Idea Challenges:

  • DIY Entrepreneurship Challenge — Kids aged 7-15 had an opportunity to finish three challenges to earn the official entrepreneurship badge of GEW, provided by DIY—the new project of Zach Klein, founder of Vimeo and CollegeHumor. [ ]
  • DECA Idea Challenge — Thousands of HS and college students split into teams and try to come up with an idea for a startup based on a common object and how to maximize its value. This year the challenge was an aluminum soda can. [ ]

Corporate Program Launches:

  • Dell Center for Entrepreneurs — Dell opened its first non-US Dell Centre for Entrepreneurs in London and announced its plans to expand globally. [ ]

Government Summits & Roundtables:

  • Anelia Klisarova, the Bulgarian Minister of Education, led a discussion on "A New Vision for Entrepreneurship and Education" in Sofia with support from President Rosen Plevneliev.
  • India's Department of Science and Technology conducted a policy workshop with researchers at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the University of Edinburgh on advancing innovation and enterprise creation at higher education institutions.

Networking MEETUPS:

  • VC4Africa GEW Meetups — Angels, VC’s and entrepreneurs in 26 cities around the world participated in networking events to empower African entrepreneurs to drive wealth and crush the cycle of poverty on the continent. [ ]
  • Co–founders Lab GEW Meetups — Entrepreneurs connected with potential collaborators and cofounders at meetups in 13 cities in the US and Canada. [ ]

Mentoring Sessions & Competitions:

  • Canadian Mentorship Challenge — Run by Startup Canada and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, the Challenge connected 10,000 promising young entrepreneurs with 10 rockstar entrepreneurs and hundreds of other entrepreneurs in communities across the country. [ ]

As we finish another chapter in the GEW story, our focus is now on continuing the momentum through the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Moscow, Russia, that is scheduled for March 2014. All 140 nations will send delegations to Moscow.

Stay tuned as in the next weeks I will share a post on how Moscow is testing support programs and interventions, building ecosystems and legitimizing entrepreneurship throughout the city—and elsewhere in the country.


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