The work to support entrepreneurs continues and it reaches a high point this week as Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) launches today in 140 countries with more than 7.5 million participants involved. Thousands of brand new startups are taking their first step this week, while others are driving their next growth phase.
An anecdote that I enjoy telling on occasion is that of the CEO of a shoe manufacturing company who sent two sales people to Africa. One of them reports back and says that he is returning with bad news, “Sorry boss, they don’t wear shoes.” The other sales person calls with excitement and says: “Boss, they have no shoes!
Global Entrepreneurship Week is, of course, all about the optimistic second sales person who identified an opportunity to do well – and to do good at the same time. Started in 2008 as an awareness campaign, Global Entrepreneurship Week is now a movement that outsizes its name. Its work extends throughout the year as a platform for developing and strengthening the national entrepreneurial ecosystems in 140 nations around the world. Those ecosystems are large and diverse – with support from expanding startup communities, investors, government agencies, entrepreneurship support programs, thought leaders, media and more.
This top-down meets bottom-up phenomenon is omnipresent through GEW. For instance, last year more than 90 ministers in 50 countries took part in GEW activities with nascent entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs alike while researchers explored the underlying policies to support new firm formation in order to stimulate economic growth.
Yet, the work is still not finished.
While we have seen great strides in nations realizing the real value of their entrepreneurs to their economies and societies, and some think we have done our job too well, GEW continues to reach out to the rest of the world who have never considered starting something or realizing a new idea as part of their career path.
Becoming an entrepreneur no longer depends on business pedigree or education or old money, but teams of founders certainly benefit from smart thinkers and people with a talent in diverse areas. If you look at statistics analyzed by Richard Vedder of the University of Ohio, for example, you realize there is still much untapped capacity for more doers and makers in America. Using official statistics from 2010, Vedder shows in the United States alone, more than 8,000 waiters have PhDs or equivalent qualifications—as have 5,057 cleaners. More than 317,000 waiters have university degrees—as do 80,000 bartenders and 18,000 parking attendants. The entrepreneurial career path offers a way for this untapped talent to reap benefits for us all, especially in light of the worrying trends identified by the World Economic Forum for the coming year, such as inaction on climate change, rising social tensions in the Middle East and North Africa, and persistent unemployment throughout the world.
GEW offers a platform to start solving these economic and social imperatives, tapping talent from across economic sectors and cultures. Roughly 20,000 activities in 140 countries seek to develop and connect entrepreneurial ecosystems. Global competitions like Get in the Ring, Creative Business Cup, Startup Open and the Global Startup Battle will be identifying the most promising startups throughout the week. Hundreds of gatherings like VC4Africa GEW Meetups and CoFoundersLab Matchups will connect entrepreneurs with potential collaborators, mentors and even investors to help them launch and grow firms using innovating technologies such as 3D printing.
A new Global Entrepreneurship Library is launching that will provide resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow firms around the world beyond the Week. The library is a partnership between the Kauffman Foundation and World Economic Forum & powered by the GEW host network.
GEW is Also for Policymakers
Since more and more policymakers have joined the cause to make entrepreneurs allies in solving the pressing challenge of unemployment and the need for innovation, GEW also offers them a platform for them to exchange ideas based on research. The GEW Policy Survey opened the week by evaluating the entrepreneurship environments in 30 countries and informing important policy discussions. What do entrepreneurs in America have in common with those from Qatar? According to the survey results, more than you might imagine.
The City Government of Buenos Aires, Argentina will be presenting the its Entrepreneurship's Master Plan. In Sofia, Bulgaria, the “New Vision for Entrepreneurship and Education” Forum will gather 150 ministers and deputy ministers, university rectors, high school directors, company managers and owners, trainers in entrepreneurship, and PhD students to discuss innovative approaches and cooperation opportunities in entrepreneurship education and will come out with concrete policy proposals. In Ahmedabad, India, the national government’s Department of Science & Technology will lead a workshop on successful incubation models in United Kingdom and India, following a study undertaken by researchers from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), and the University of Edinburgh. In Ottawa, Canada, entrepreneurs will go to Parliament Hill to meet with the nation’s elected representatives for a national celebration manifesting the momentum, impact, and scale of the grassroots start-up movement in Canada, and a discussion on the crucial role government plays in maximizing entrepreneurial success. These are just some examples.
GEW is global collaboration at its best. The Week calls us to find a common ally in solving challenges – entrepreneurs who turn ideas into innovations. Let the GEW work continue.
Stay tuned as I will report on our experiences at GEW developments in four ecosystems this week: Iran, Berlin, Turkey and Moscow.
GEW Policy Survey Tracks Opinions in 30 Countries
A Look Back at Innovation Daily