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Washington DC's Huge Celebration of Startups for Global Entrepreneurship Week

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Regardless of whether American policymakers can ever fix domestic policy to boost entrepreneurship—as in making a Startup Visa happen or removing other barriers that slow the birth of new high growth firms—the nation’s capital will be alive with startup fever next week (November 14 – 18) as Global Entrepreneurship Week takes center stage around the world.

Rock star entrepreneurs usually have little interest in spending valuable time on Capitol Hill. In fact, policymakers typically end up going to Silicon Valley, the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City or MIT to learn about entrepreneurs. Next week however, an array of activities—from the State Department to Capitol Hill, in the think tanks and associations, in high schools and universities—will bring some of the top thinkers, and doers, to town.

Almost every college and university in the area is participating—an important statement given this is where so many innovations and entrepreneurial ventures are born. For example, to kick off DC’s week on Monday (November 14) DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray will join Kauffman Foundation president and CEO Carl Schramm at a 300 person Georgetown University event with Georgetown’s Entrepreneurs in Residence and other entrepreneurial minds. And on Wednesday, the University of Maryland Entrepreneurship Connector will facilitate a major networking and collaboration effort gathering not just entrepreneurial students, but alumni, faculty, and business partners.

Much of the focus at think tanks and other non-governmental organizations will be on the global dimensions of advancing entrepreneurship. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on November 15th will look into the explosion of government and multinational investment in building startup ecosystems overseas and assess the merits and effectiveness of many of them. Later that same day, the State Department will host an event focused on Tunisia. Over at the Meridian Center, you will find a discussion on the morning of November 14th around the topic of streamlining innovation and accelerating entrepreneurship abroad.

There will also be industry-specific events. For example, the “Head in the Cloud: A New Playground for Entrepreneurs” panel of international entrepreneurs will address how advances in technology and telecommunications are changing entrepreneurship around the globe, particularly the development of mobile applications in developing countries as profit-driven, high-growth business ventures. Panelists include Mohsen Khalil, director of the Global Information and Communication Technologies Department at The World Bank/IFC; Joel Selanikio, CEO and co-founder of; Pete Erickson, founder of Innovation at Disruptathon; and more. A Security Panel Discussion on Thursday will in turn focus on the burgeoning innovation around security and how startups are working with the US government and their contractors.

Potential entrepreneurs in the area should take advantage the many workshops, such as the “Five Things to Think About When Starting a Business,” “Finance 101 for Startups,” and “Pitch an Investor: Core Capital and Amplifier Ventures,” where selected entrepreneurs will be allowed to pitch an investor from the Washington metropolitan area. Local nascent entrepreneurs should also consider participating in one of the competitions, like in DC Startup Weekend—a 54-hour event where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch companies. The winning company of DC Startup Weekend goes on to compete in the Global Startup Battle!

The U.S. Government will also celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Senior Administration officials will join Carl Schramm on opening day Monday to kick off Global Entrepreneurship Week in 123 countries at the Inter-American Development Bank. The State Department is leading an all-day event there for the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), launched recently by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The event—to be broadcast on Univision and streamed live online—is expected to attract numerous thought leaders in development, including Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Cesar Conde, president of Univision Networks and others. A Kauffman-led discussion entitled Collaborative Advantage: How Diaspora Entrepreneurs Are Creating Connections for Shared Prosperity will review how—with growth in the past twenty years coming overwhelmingly from previously poor places—diaspora entrepreneurs can constitute America's collaborative advantage as citizens everywhere seek pathways to connect with twenty-first century opportunity.

On the domestic front, recognizing the importance of student innovation, the United States Department of Commerce will host on Nov. 15th the award ceremony of the 2011 Collegiate Inventors Competition, one of the nation’s foremost programs to recognize and reward the discoveries and research of college and university students for projects leading to patentable inventions.

At the White House on Thursday, Empact100, which recognizes the top 100 entrepreneurs ages 30 or younger, will join the call to revitalize our economy by getting more people to start a business of their own. Government representatives will also participate in the Future of Entrepreneurship Education Summit taking place at the US Chamber of Commerce on Friday. This will be an important gathering of leaders from different sectors of the entrepreneurship ecosystem (government, foundations, education, corporations, media, entrepreneur support organizations, and entrepreneurs).

Also on the policy front, the event “Now Is The Time: Celebrating Champions For Entrepreneurs” will gather 70+ leading entrepreneurs on Capitol Hill on Thursday to bring the message of the importance of entrepreneurship to law makers, share their experiences and participate in a press conference with House and Senate members discussing legislative proposals designed to address the issues impacting entrepreneurs. Brink Lindsey from the Kauffman Foundation will join Senator Mary Landrieu and Representatives West, Richmond and Pompeo—just to mention a few—in a discussion of the Startup Act.

Of course, Global Entrepreneurship Week is first a grassroots movement inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs and fueling the informal networks around the world that are helping them. But it is also about every nation’s young people setting an example for their respective decision makers. It is about a connected, open, optimistic, committed, real-time and global generation showing that they are taking on their countries toughest challenges using the marketplace and all policymakers need to do is make their path easier.

GEW/USA is no different. Let’s hope next week moves the ball a few more yards forward in an effort to wake up Washington from its inertia in making it easier for a new generation of creative entrepreneurs to fix our economy and expand our human welfare.

If you are interested in attending any of these events, or the many others in America, visit or if you are overseas check out to see some of the nearly 40,000 other events planned for next week across 123 countries.

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