Global Entrepreneurship Week On the Horizon

Jonathan Ortmans

Tomorrow, roughly 100 million Americans will cast their vote for one of two men who have stressed the importance of entrepreneurs and of course, small business to the country—and claimed to be the best candidate to empower them. Meanwhile, one week from today, policymakers, researchers and millions of nascent entrepreneurs in 130 countries will be taking matters into their own hands through a collection of 40,000 events, activities and competitions during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

This is the fifth year for the global initiative and in years past, I have had the fortune of travelling to a number of countries to witness some of these activities first-hand. Last year, I joined Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck at a ceremony to recognize budding young student entrepreneurs—and discuss the commercialization efforts of the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. Other stops included the launches of GEW in Abu Dhabi and Germany, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Malaysia and Oman. Previous years, I have focused more on activities and efforts in Africa, Oceania and South America.

This year, I will do the same—and concentrate primarily on Europe following a quick trip to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where I will speak at an event titled Made in Saudi Arabia: Challenges and Opportunities and also meet the brand new GEW/Saudi Arabia Board.

One of the biggest highlights of Global Entrepreneurship Week will be in London as I join former U.S. President Bill Clinton for Entrepreneurs 2012. The multi-day conference also features a screening of The Startup Kids, a documentary about young web entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe—including interviews with the founders of Dropbox, Vimeo, Soundcloud and more.

I will also be speaking at a couple of separate events at The Hague in the Netherlands. First is Growing SMEs where I will join Princess Maxima with more than 400 entrepreneurs and experts from emerging markets and the host country to accelerate investment in potential high-growth enterprises. Later that night, the U.S. Embassy is hosting Partnering for Impact, an event to introduce Dutch entrepreneurs to programs like the Global Entrepreneurship Program as well as tools like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the Enterprise Development Network (EDN) and E-Mentors Corps.

Other stops I am making during Global Entrepreneurship Week are focused on the next generation of creative innovators. A panel of angel investors are going toe-to-toe with startups from 17 countries with up to €1 million in early-stage funding on the line in Rotterdam, Netherlands for Get in the Ring. In Bucharest, Romania, and Brussels, Belgium, national competitions will see high school and university students combine into founder teams to potentially launch their own new business and develop solutions to real business problems. Meanwhile, startups from the creative industries—such as design, architecture, music, film, gastronomy— in 15 countries faceoff at the Creative Business Cup in Copenhagen, Denmark.

And while I will be blogging throughout my trip at each stop, these are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Startups are in the spotlight for a number of featured competitions. More than 1,200 new startups worldwide are projected to come to life during Global Entrepreneurship Week through Startup Weekend bootcamps and its ensuing Global Startup Battle. Meanwhile, promising young firms from 17 countries have already been named as the Startup Open’s ‘GEW 50’ with the grand prize winner to be announced next week. That winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Rio de Janeiro in March 2013 for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress. Egypt is anticipating 100 new companies through the Cairo StartUp Cup, a competition backed by USAID, the U.S. State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program and Egypt’s Competitiveness Project.

Before you get the wrong idea, the week isn’t just for nascent entrepreneurs.

Silicon Valley veterans are crisscrossing the globe to share their insights and experiences through the ‘Silicon Valley Comes to’ series. Events during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012 include Lisbon, Oxford, the Baltics and the UK.

Policymakers might take special interest in the GEW Policy Report that is to be released that week. High-growth entrepreneurs from roughly 30 countries were surveyed on their national entrepreneurship policy environment and whether it enables or inhibits success. While the data from that report will be of interest to a broad spectrum of researchers and policymakers, those working specifically on transitional and developing economies may be interested in exploring some of the best practices under review at the European Training Foundation’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Skills in Brussels. The purpose of the conference is to engage practitioners and policymakers working on entrepreneurship and enterprise skills into a critical review of a methodology and tools to improve confidence and exchange between training providers from 31 partner countries.

Other featured global activities include: the Cleantech Open Global Ideas Competition, focusing on new and exciting startups in the cleantech space; Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, recognizing the most promising student-led companies; the World Series of Innovation, a classroom activity to get young students thinking creatively; the Nordic Startup Awards; and Meet the Lions, a pitch competition focused on pioneering entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., with Election Day on our doorstep, cities in all parts of the country are finalizing their plans for next week. While Portland, Oregon, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, are demonstrating that high-growth firms emerge from more than just the typical hotspots, Kansas City currently lays claim to the U.S. capital of Global Entrepreneurship Week. More than 40 activities are planned with a number hosted by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation—like Startup @ Kauffman Demo Day, Google for Entrepreneurs, Ice House Entrepreneurship Facilitator Training and, of course, Startup Weekend Kansas City.

Other featured activities and events in the U.S. include: the Collegiate Inventors Competition; DECA’s Idea Challenge; Women 2.0 Pitch NYC; Tulsa Community College StartUp Cup; CoFoundersLab; and the Maryland Entrepreneurial Expo.

Again, that is just the beginning. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 partners are planning upwards of 4,000 activities in all 50 states. To get a closer look at Global Entrepreneurship Week / USA and search for activities in communities near you, visit gewusa.org. If you happen to be in another part of the world during the week, check unleashingideas.org. And if you want to follow my travels, I will be blogging on the GEW website throughout the week at unleashingideas.org/blog/tags/Ortmans.

I have said it before and will continue to say it now. Above all, what excites me about Global Entrepreneurship Week is how one sees “one world” when you look at it through the lens of startups and entrepreneurs. They are open, committed, global and confident at a time when so many of us are cautious, anxious and yes, at times, protective of our home turf. A single idea has grown to be celebrated by millions each year, backed by an expansive and informal network of startup champions and leaders. That is why I celebrate GEW each November. How will you celebrate it?

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