Catalyzing Global Entrepreneurship Support
Following up on chatter following my blog last week discussing the need for caution around the quality of interventions that seek to provide technical support to entrepreneurs, I will continue the conversation thread this week with a post discussing another innovative entrepreneurial support program - iStart, which happens to open for business today.
The creators of iStart at the Kauffman Foundation took a tool already in use - business plan competitions - and expanded its impact by simply broadening the competition life cycle. This white labeled online platform provides back office support for a common, yet complex, engagement and education method for encouraging entrepreneurs. Business plan competitions often serve as the spark that gets great entrepreneurial ventures started. The program is a resource for those running and judging a competition, as well as for those competing in one, anywhere in the world.
There are several reasons why I’m excited about this platform. First, it is global in reach. Second, iStart is an entrepreneurial innovation itself. Beyond help with logistics and guidance on building a strong business plan, iStart offers a way to connect entrepreneurs, mentors and investors. And it does so beyond the competition period by allowing applicant teams to make their plans and their companies searchable on its website. This will make thousands of plans available to the world as models for aspiring entrepreneurs and possible mentorship and investing opportunities. As the iStart entrepreneurs put it, “there’s a big, wide entrepreneurial world out there. Established business owners. Student entrepreneurs. Investors. Researchers. Financial gurus. Legal eagles. Mentors.” The program aims to connect them.
Connecting all these members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem by leveraging current technology is a smart way to support new business creation. I encourage our readers to share other innovative ways to boost entrepreneurship to foster a global policy dialogue on entrepreneurship support programs. The "global entrepreneur" appears to have a solid place in all of our immediate futures because new generation entrepreneurs are global in their mindset and national boundaries are porous to innovation. We should approach support schemes in a similar fashion, taking steps to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment at home, while at the same time scouring the world to help those with the best innovative ideas, programs and policies that nurture innovation.
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Jonathan Ortmans is president of the Public Forum Institute, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fostering dialogue on important policy issues. In this capacity, he leads the Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship, focused on public policies to promote entrepreneurship in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, he serves as a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.