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Learning from other nations to advance a shared future of entrepreneurship

Lindiwe Zulu, minister of small business development in South Africa, speaks at the 10th annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Istanbul, Turkey.

At Global Entrepreneurship Congress, champions of entrepreneurship from all backgrounds, representing 171 nations, came together to share insights and learn from others about creating a world where anyone with a dream can create something new.

What is the universal language spoken by people from all over the globe? It is the language of entrepreneurship – a means to create innovation and economic security where none existed before. And last week, champions of entrepreneurship from all backgrounds, representing 171 nations, came together to share insights and learn from others about creating a world where anyone with a dream can create something new.

In the coming weeks, we will share more of the emotion, the inspirational stories, and the camaraderie that were part of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) held last week in Istanbul. But first, some background:

An initiative of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), the GEC celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. In the past decade, not only has a global startup revolution begun to democratize entrepreneurship, but it has fought back since the Great Recession of 2008.

However, while we have seen strong global growth, prolonged expansion and rising venture capital investment – all positive developments – it has come at the price of bigger gaps in participation in our ecosystems that need more diversity and inclusion.

You just had to listen and to look around the room to see how the GEN community that gathers at the GEC has been tackling that challenge. It is the face of diversity pointing to an optimistic, more inclusive future.

This year’s Congress brought together those categories of leaders – numbering in the thousands–to focus on “Building One Global Ecosystem.” The event concentrated on three main topic areas: Innovation Culture (from the individual to institutions to society); Zero Barriers (from personal mindsets to systemic discrimination to engrained cultural hurdles); and Exponential Thinking (from incremental to disruptive innovations in how we live, work and interact).

The fact that the GEC has grown to become a true community of that magnitude is heartening. The four-day event occurs annually and serves as a “Davos of Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders” with government officials, entrepreneurial catalysts and business executives from startups to the best-known global brands all in attendance. They share a commitment to identifying and advancing new ways of helping founders start and scale ventures around the world.

It’s the combination of leaders from government, corporations, and entrepreneurial catalysts that makes the convening so powerful in its ambition, its interrelatedness, and its potential. However, it is the genuine diversity of cultures and backgrounds that makes it unique in both underscoring the importance of entrepreneurship globally and creating the far-reaching opportunity to learn from other nations. Another melting pot, the United States, like all nations, stands to benefit greatly, as new businesses account for nearly all net job creation in America.

The Istanbul host committee, comprised of Turkey’s leading entrepreneurs and business advocates, have adopted a sophisticated ecosystem building strategy. The participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is evidence of the importance Turkey still places on its entrepreneurs and their advocates for a promising future of innovation ahead.

The participation of government ministers from other countries underscored the importance of entrepreneurship as a national priority. The names of their ministries highlighted its relevance across multiple areas of government.

The scale and reach of the event highlighted how far the Global Entrepreneurship Congress has come in 10 years. The GEC evolved from Global Entrepreneurship Week, both of which were launched in Kansas City by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation a decade ago. Both are now organized by the GEN and continue to be supported by the Foundation.

Global Entrepreneurship Week has become the world’s largest celebration of innovators and job creators and is observed annually with 35,000 events in 167 countries (and climbing). Starting in 2009, the host organizations in those countries began convening in the Global Entrepreneurship Congress with a primary focus of improving their national campaigns during one week out of the year.

Over the years, the GEC, along with Global Entrepreneurship Week, has expanded and evolved, advancing the globalization of entrepreneurship. It has identified effective initiatives – in all types of economies, large or small, advanced or developing – that positively impact entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. It has built a community of entrepreneurial champions on a global scale.

That community is building one global ecosystem; a shared learning environment in which barriers fall away. Barriers to entrepreneurship are the priority, but in the process barriers to a shared humanity are removed as well.