Building One Global Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Global Entrepreneurship Week

The reach of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) expands once again as the annual celebration of new and young firms – and all those who support them -- officially opens today in 150 countries.

This weekend, I was fortunate enough to participate in an opening ceremony in Athens, Greece, and was shown that the ethos of Greek youth is not the mindset of “the country that has suffered badly throughout the global financial crisis” but rather the country that can innovate its way out of its economic woes and onto the global stage. I have spoken to hundreds of audiences and thousands of entrepreneurs since launching the original GEW in 2008, and I’ve found that positivity and passion among entrepreneurs is not uncommon – and in fact, it’s quite contagious.

Founded and supported by the Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Week is a shot of adrenaline at one point in the year but it has led to the creation of a year-round platform that is creating one global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Book-ending the week are policy-driven discussions in numerous countries on every continent.

The week opens today with a new Global Entrepreneurship Index that measures the entrepreneurial ecosystems in 130 countries. The researchers responsible for the Index argue that entrepreneurship is at an historic high in the United States as American entrepreneurs top the rankings and set an example for those in other countries to emulate. But the ranked list of 130 countries isn’t as important as the fact that the Index serves as a compass to guide effective policy interventions to help entrepreneurial ecosystems thrive – and spread. It is also a topic of conversation at policy-driven GEW events featuring the Index findings in Athens, Cairo, Frankfurt, Gaborone, Jakarta, London, Lusaka, Nicosia, Prague, Riyadh, Sofia and more. Given it draws from so many data sources, like all such ambitious studies, it will prove to have its limitations.  However, it serves to fuel what has become a healthy interest from senior decision makers around the world in policies that stimulate new firm formation and is already driving increased engagement from policymakers in GEW.

Later on in the week, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Marrakech – organized by the U.S. Government and Kingdom of Morocco – and the Startup Nations Summit (SNS) in Seoul gather thousands of startup community leaders and policymakers from around the world to explore effective policies and programs to support entrepreneurs. Vice President Joe Biden and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker join Mohamed Boussaid, Minister of Economy and Finance of Morocco, and other ministers and leaders at the GES against the backdrop of an Innovation Village showcasing promising young Moroccan and African entrepreneurs.

Also in the spotlight this week is the important role that early-stage investors play in new firm formation as well as the unique challenges that female entrepreneurs are forced to confront as they start and scale. GEW has partnered with Women’s Entrepreneurship Day for Wednesday, November 19, and the American Capital Association, EBAN and others for Global Business Angels Day on Thursday, November 20. 

Meanwhile, a number of global competitions throughout GEW are identifying some of the most promising startups around the world while other events aim to reach students and others to inspire them while connecting them to potential collaborators, mentors and investors. These include:

Startup Open
Founders and founder teams from 38 countries submitted more than 600 startups for a shot at the grand prize of an all expenses paid trip to Milan, Italy for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2015. The winner will be announced tomorrow at http://gew.co.  

World Series of Innovation
High school and college students from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship form small teams to compete in a series of innovation challenges that include game development, geolocation apps, school improvement, business growth and more.

Get in the Ring
Kansas City’s EyeVerify took the global title belt in this startup pitch competition during GEW last year. This year, regional winners from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Middle East, North America, South America, Southern Europe and Western Europe pitch angel investors from a boxing ring in Rotterdam, Netherlands, for a prize package worth 25,000 euros and a chance at up to 1 million euros in investment.

Creative Business Cup
Entrepreneurs from the creative industries--including art, entertainment and design —in 50 countries compete starting today in Copenhagen, Denmark, in the global finals while receiving training and support through one-on-one sessions, investor matchmaking and more.

VC4Africa Meetups
More than 1000 people have signed up to participate in Africa’s largest startup event with networking meetups in roughly 40 cities—reaching African entrepreneurs on the continent as well as those spread around the world.

And those are just several of the highlights in what will eventually include 25,000 events organized by 10,000 partners with more than 7 million participants.

CNBC is calling this a global entrepreneurial revolution, “sparked in Silicon Valley (and) taken root in all corners of the globe – from Buenos Aires and Berlin to Nairobi.” As I have said before, GEW is global collaboration at its best and is leading to the creation of one global entrepreneurial ecosystem. Follow along at gew.co and on Twitter at #GEW2014.

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