GEW Policy Survey Tracks Opinions in 30 Countries

Mark Marich

What do entrepreneurs in America have in common with entrepreneurs in Qatar? More than you might imagine, according to a recent survey sponsored by the organizers of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world's largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

The 2013 GEW Policy Survey results, released today by GEW co-creator and co-sponsor, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, reveal both similarities and differences among entrepreneurs around the world in their perceptions of entrepreneurial policies and other resources. Participants were asked to respond to 12 statements about their experiences in the areas of regulation, access to resources and entrepreneurial environment. The survey also gathered respondents' demographic information, including whether they currently owned a business or planned to start one in the next year.

While the response rate was relatively low -- approximately 2,279 current or expected entrepreneurs in 109 countries -- the results nonetheless begin to paint a picture of the cultural and regulatory conditions entrepreneurs experience around the globe.

"The survey was designed as an experimental means of gathering and publishing a standardized set of information worldwide on the entrepreneurial experience to inform government policies," said Dane Stangler, director of Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. "The sample size is large and dispersed enough to indicate differences among regions and nations that are both logical and, at least in part, statistically significant.”

Globally, survey respondents were a little less than two-thirds male and 36 years old on average -- 59 percent were 35 years old or younger. More than three-quarters of respondents globally owned a business (76.9 percent) -- two-thirds of which had been started within the past five years -- with the remainder planning to start a business within the next 12 months. North America had the highest rate of current business ownership at 91 percent.

In terms of their respective entrepreneurial environments, respondents worldwide had a slightly negative experience, with a composite score of 3.9 on a scale of 1-7, with 4.0 being "neutral." However, this varied among the eight different regions represented: composite scores for Australia & Oceania and for North America were significantly more positive (4.9 and 4.6, respectively), while scores for Latin America & Caribbean and Eastern Europe were significantly more negative (3.6 and 3.4, respectively).

Responses to the four statements regarding regulation -- including "the process for registering a business with the government is clear and easy" and "public officials who regulate business are competent and honest" -- received the lowest average scores. The most positive response worldwide was to the resources-related statement "entrepreneurs like me have access to advisors and mentors who can provide helpful guidance." Interestingly, the statements with the lowest average scores also had the largest variances, suggesting that entrepreneurship-related regulations vary significantly from country to country.

Other survey findings include:

  • Respondents from the Pacific and South Asian region had the highest percentage of males (82.2 percent) and the lowest average age (33.7 years). North America had the lowest percentage of males (53 percent), while Western Europe had the highest average age (40.5 years).
  • Of the countries surveyed, Qatar had the highest (i.e. most positive) composite score with 5.0, while Greece had the composite score with 2.5, the latter likely a reflection of that country's recent economic woes.
  • Worldwide, access to advisors/mentors (4.3) and fairness of competitors (4.3 -- operating in compliance with the law) were most commonly rated positively. Tax laws were most likely to be seen as impediments (3.5) and courts perceived as not resolving disagreements effectively (3.5). 
  • A higher score on any one statement increased the likelihood of a higher score on every other statement, suggesting that the elements of entrepreneurs' experience are synergistic -- improvements in any one are likely to be associated with improvements in others.
  • The coefficients for any one statement and each other statement in the same category (regulation, access to resources, entrepreneurial environment) are relatively high (between 0.32 and 0.64). In other words, improvements in any one dimension of the entrepreneurial experience tend to be associated with other improvements in the same category.

"The results of this initial survey were both informative and thought-provoking," said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week and a Kauffman Foundation senior fellow. "We hope these kinds of surveys along with other efforts underway at GEW will help drive a conversation between startup communities and government policy advisors eager to accelerate the pace of new firm formation in their countries.”

Dozens of policy-related events are planned during GEW, including:

  • Anelia Klisarova, the Bulgarian Minister of Education, leads a discussion on "A New Vision for Entrepreneurship and Education" in Sofia with support from President Rosen Plevneliev
  • India's Department of Science and Technology is conducting a policy workshop with researchers at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the University of Edinburgh on advancing innovation and enterprise creation at higher education institutions
  • The Eurasian Economic Commission's Advisory Committee on Entrepreneurship is examining regulatory reform in Astana, Kazakhstan

Complete results are available in the GEW Policy Survey report.

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