Global Entrepreneurship Congress: An Evolution

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Thanks in part to Global Entrepreneurship Week, an entrepreneurial ecosystem has started to take shape around the world, connecting people across borders to unleash their ideas and transform innovation into reality—in turn growing economies and expanding human welfare. To support the burgeoning initiative, the Kauffman Foundation brought together the host organizations from nearly 60 nations to create the first ever Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2009 at its headquarters in Kansas City.

It was just the beginning.

One year later, the Congress convened in Dubai with GEW’s entrepreneurship champions from more than 90 countries, but it also had an all-star lineup of speakers including Prime Minister H.E. Nika Gilauri of Georgia and a number of accomplished entrepreneurs and CEOs. The profile of the Congress began to grow and countries began to compete over the right to host the event.

Shanghai was keen to show the world that it too was building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, and in March 2011 it hosted the third Global Entrepreneurship Congress. GEW hosts from 100 countries were joined by more than 1,000 participants from across China for the extravagant opening session of the Congress. The importance of the event was evident through the participation of a number of Chinese government officials, led by Yan Junqi, vice chairwoman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress of China, as well as Wan Gang, the country’s Minister for Science and Technology and a number of other government representatives from the federal and local levels. Perhaps a bit more surprising was the presence of a number of China’s wealthier entrepreneurs and angel investors who had been leading the way toward new economic growth.

At the end of the opening session, Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week and the chair of the GEC, announced that Liverpool was selected to be the host city for 2012—and the evolution continued.

Richard Branson, famous for his Virgin brand empire, inspired delegates from 120 countries among a crowd of thousands. Along with other British titans of industry, Branson answered questions and shared insights based on years of experience. But as bright as the star power was in Liverpool, perhaps a more important shift began to occur—the international delegates were no longer populated solely by GEW hosts. The Congress began to attract participation from diverse delegations from government ministries, university researchers, the media and others.

In a very short period of time, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress has evolved into the premier inter-disciplinary gathering of startup champions from around the world—where entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers work together to bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare.

So how has the Global Entrepreneurship Congress made an impact? It has provided policymakers and researchers with an environment to exchange ideas and approaches on strengthening economic growth through policies and initiatives favorable to entrepreneurs. It has helped entrepreneurs and business owners launch and grow firms that create jobs and generate wealth in cities and countries around the world. It has improved global collaboration and expanded awareness of national campaigns to engage their citizens in entrepreneurial activity. And, it has increased global recognition of entrepreneurs for the role they play in building economies while developing innovative solutions that improve daily life.

What will 2013 bring for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress? Join us in Rio de Janeiro and find out.

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