China Takes Center Stage in the Global Entrepreneurial Revolution
Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute
We are a week away from another historic global entrepreneurship event - this time in Shanghai, China, for the annual gathering of global leaders in the entrepreneurial movement led by the Kauffman Foundation.
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress began as an international meeting of the individuals and organizations driving the Global Entrepreneurship Week movement—an opportunity for startup evangelists from 105 countries to connect. Now, it is slowly evolving into something with a broader concentration. The Congress looks at the state of entrepreneurship in the Host nation—China in 2011—while examining the smartest thinking, research and programs on the planet. For three days, leaders from over 100 countries will connect and generate ideas around the common themes of innovation and entrepreneurship. The momentum generated will benefit more than just Global Entrepreneurship Week—scheduled this year for November 14 – 20—it will sow seeds for a multitude of other collaborative efforts across the planet.
Next week, Start-up Chile meets Startup America. Innovative ideas from creating an entrepreneurship city in Indonesia will be matched by the likes of Startup Weekend going to scale and the Startup Open going global. Some countries such as the UK will even time announcements about policies to support startups from their own heads of state with the opening of the Congress.
Beyond building a global community of entrepreneurs and fostering ideas to inspire and help more of them, the Congress represents an opportunity for transnational collaboration to advance entrepreneurship everywhere – whether in China, the United States or beyond. The recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Bahrain have put a spotlight on the role of a younger, well-educated generation of entrepreneurs peacefully channeling expressions of economic freedom. China, so far ahead in reconciling a strong government with messy entrepreneurialism, offers some useful lessons for all nations.
The growing motivation to start new companies here in China is evident with plenty of examples of founders who have taken the leap and succeeded. Baidu’s Robin Li, Niu Wenwen, founder & president of The Founder Magazine, and many more entrepreneurs are role models. If you are not yet convinced, check out the recent Forbes article that profiled other top young Chinese entrepreneurs, including Shawn Cheng of hoopCHINA.com, one of the largest sports websites in China; Si Shen – founder of PapayaMobile, which turns mobile phones into social networks; and Zafka Zhang – founder of China Youthology, a market research firm helping international companies tap into China’s youth market.
Next week at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress I will join many of China’s entrepreneurship policy champions who have been expanding freedoms to start new businesses. We will also talk to Chinese entrepreneurs and angel investors, who are well aware of the importance of entrepreneurship to China’s future, including: Li Kaifu, the founder of Innovation Works; Hu Run, the chair and chief researcher of the China Rich List (which includes 143,000 millionaires in Beijing alone); Qiwei Chen, the founder and president of the Asia Business Group and Sequoia Capital China; and, a number of other angels who will be recognized for their contributions to China’s entrepreneurial growth.
Global Entrepreneurship Week activities in China are serving as an important outlet for the creativity of young Chinese, giving them an opportunity to develop skills and gain valuable experience that helps them turn their dreams into a reality. The majority of Chinese are confident that they will out-innovate their competitors, according to a recent Intel-Newsweek survey. In fact, 54 percent of Chinese respondents predicted that China will pioneer the next generation of breakthrough technologies and overtake the United States as the global innovation leader in coming decades.
And they have the skills to back their confidence. The Chinese education ecosystem has been offering a growing pool of scientific talent. Not surprisingly, patent applications for Chinese inventions are soaring – growing five times more quickly than those of the United States. Also, China has emerged as a global leader in clean energy technology. Think of JA Solar, Suntech, and Yingli Green Energy, which are setting the pace in solar energy.
Moreover, returning Chinese graduates from foreign universities are planting successful new businesses back at home, and an increasing number of Chinese universities are training its local breed of entrepreneurs. Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for example, has professors that understand entrepreneurship, such Dr. Tony Ni, an entrepreneur both in China and in United States. Moreover, China has established the Entrepreneurship Foundation for Graduates (EFG), the co-host of next week´s Congress with the Kauffman Foundation, with a mission to create a favorable entrepreneurial environment by promoting commercialization of scientific and technological breakthroughs and to cultivate creative entrepreneurial talents.
While China has many remaining obstacles to entrepreneurship, we have a lot to learn from this great nation about spurring entrepreneurship ecosystems. It is therefore exciting that China sought out the opportunity to be at the center of the global conversation around advancing entrepreneurship this year by bringing the Global entrepreneurship Congress to Shanghai.
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress won´t be a one-way exchange. Entrepreneurship leaders from around the world will share their experiences in developing scalable success stories and fruitful collaboration between the public and private sectors to promote entrepreneurship. The Congress will gather those most determined from around the world to turn more dreamers into doers, more employees into employers. It will be a gathering that will inspire us all. Stay tuned.
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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.