Global Entrepreneurship Week Movement Blasts Off in 123 Countries

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Today is another historic day for startups and our economies. It is the opening day of the fourth Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest celebration of the innovators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth, and expand human welfare. In three short years, Global Entrepreneurship Week has expanded to more than 120 countries and this week organizers are expecting nearly 11 million people to show up at over 40,000 planned events and activities.

New firm formation remains a creative and messy process that fits well with such a grassroots movement. But unlike political movements, nascent entrepreneurs are not railing at institutions or waiting for resources or direction. They are waking up, thinking, creating, solving, collaborating, mentoring and making it happen. This week is about such people who see a glass as half full and a less predictable world as an opportunity. GEW is now mapping the entrepreneurial ecosystems that will support those individuals, building the networks that will mentor them and finding the partners and even financial backers that will propel them. A global movement allows their great ideas to be floated across the world for resources that will catalyze their growth.

Last week I walked our readers through the wide array of competitions and events happening across Washington DC for Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW). For a full picture, do keep checking back with the website at unleashingideas.org which offers reports from across the globe and links to all the national web sites. Or, you can book yourself a spot at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March when all the delegations driving startups in 123 countries converge on Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

In the meantime, below is a tiny snapshot of how GEW is rolling out across borders: Startup Open: Startups launched between GEW 2010 & GEW 2011 competed for a slot in the ‘GEW 50’— those with the greatest chance of growing into game-changing firms that will move markets and create jobs. With entries from 60 countries, two final winners emerged, receiving a trip to Liverpool for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress & a one-year mentorship from Redbox co-founder Michael DeLazzer. Check back with PDE for the winners this week.

  • Startup Weekend: Twenty U.S. cities—and more than 40 others around the world—are hosting events that move entrepreneurs from idea to launch in 54 hours. Winners from each ‘weekend’ event are facing off later this month in the Global Startup Battle.
  • Global Student Entrepreneur Awards: Coordinated by the Entrepreneurs Organization, current students with businesses from across the globe are convening at the New York Stock Exchange to compete for $150,000 in cash & services.
  • Meet the Dragons: Entrepreneurs from eight countries throughout Europe travel to the Netherlands to pitch their startup to a jury of ‘Dragons’—influential entrepreneurs and investors—for a chance to secure an investment up to €1,000,000.
  • Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition: The best clean technology ideas from around the world were pitched to investors and entrepreneurs with a chance at winning $100,000 in support and services to help turn their ideas into businesses. Finalists meet in San Francisco to pick a Global Winner.
  • Istanbul Innovators Exchange: Top global investors from 10 countries with up to $1 billion to invest get a close look at the hottest tech companies in Turkey while exploring investment opportunities at a two-day event in Istanbul.
  • Your Big Year: More than 60,000 people from 212 countries will compete through a series of tasks and quizzes for one of 12 slots to fly to Liverpool next March to compete during the Global Entrepreneurship Congress for the final prize—a one-year trip around the world to network & unleash their ideas.

Although a grassroots movement, GEW has also enjoyed plenty of top-down encouragement from the pulpit. With so many new jobs in entrepreneurial economies coming from firms less than five years old, it is not surprising that leaders around the world are looking to take advantage of this global stage for encouraging entrepreneurship.

GEW enjoys the participation and support of presidents and prime ministers on every continent including, to mention a few: President Barack Obama (US); Prime Minister David Cameron (UK); President Anibal Cavaco Silva (Portugal); Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Canada); President John Atta Mills (Ghana); Prime Minister John Key (New Zealand); and numerous ministers and local authorities focused on advancing economic growth.

Last week, Girma Wolde-Giorgis, President of Ethiopia, said about his country’s first-ever involvement in GEW:

“I would like to express my profound pleasure that Ethiopia is participating for the first time in the Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrations… It is particularly important that developing countries like Ethiopia educate their youth in the benefits of entrepreneurship, encourage the development of an entrepreneurial mindset so that young people will think about being innovative and generate viable business ideas.”

Beyond legitimizing entrepreneurs and giving more attention to the role they play in building their economies, governments and other major institutions will be busy in their role as conveners. This will allow them to build partnerships and strengthen their local and national entrepreneurial ecosystems by identifying afterwards areas of overlap and gaps to be filled.

I hope everyone has an opportunity to participate in some way in an entrepreneurship event this week. I myself will be checking up on progress developing entrepreneurial ecosystems in Germany, the UAE, Malaysia, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Japan and Canada. I will report back on my findings. I hope you will too.

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