Global Entrepreneurship Week brings millions of established and aspiring entrepreneurs together to learn, share information, and generate energy for entrepreneurship in every corner of the globe. Indeed, entrepreneurship under President Obama has been elevated as a critical pillar of U.S. global engagement.
This year, Embassy Ottawa partnered with the organizers of Startup Nations Summit to bring Jonathan Ortmans of the Kauffman Foundation to Ottawa, which drew in-person and online participants from around the world. Jonathan embodies the spirit of the Global Entrepreneurship Week movement and the understands the close relationship between the United States and Canada’s entrepreneurs. I thank him for coming to Ottawa and sharing his expertise in and enthusiasm for entrepreneurship.
Startups and North America’s Shining Beacon
by Jonathan Ortmans
If there has been a paradigm shift in economic policy thinking in the past five years, it has been the embedding of entrepreneurship as a key concept for economic progress. Almost every day, there are new signs that entrepreneurship is considered the cornerstone of economic and social well-being in a growing number of countries which do not fit any one development or income classification. At the same time, the understanding of entrepreneurship has deepened through solid research and data. For example, we now know that startups are integral to creating net new jobs in the United States. This paradigm shift has translated into countries rushing to implement business regulation reforms as shown in the World Bank’s 2013 Doing Business report and the launch of many powerful cross-sector initiatives such as Startup America, Startup Canada, StartUp Britain, Start-Up Chile and LIONS@FRICA.
This race to build a friendly startup ecosystem is not necessarily an adversarial one. Young entrepreneurs today do not think in terms of a rigid grid of national borders, but rather of building bridges to talent, investors and markets—wherever they see fit—aided by a plethora of informal networks forming across countries. Through those global links emerge the innovations and answers that the world’s entrepreneurs bring to so many of the challenges of the 21st century. Moreover, in light of continued global economic uncertainty, jump-starting growth will require building effective entrepreneurial systems across nations. Thus, leadership in the field of entrepreneurship is a key foreign policy objective for America.
U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson understands that entrepreneurship is a shining beacon and that we all gain when there are other bright lights on hills across the world. Fortunately, he is not alone in his efforts in this regard. During the fifth Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in November 2012, more U.S. Embassies than ever joined entrepreneurs, governments, foundations, global NGOs, corporate giants, universities and other leaders in unleashing more global entrepreneurial activity in 130 countries.
Leaders of foreign missions who understand the importance of entrepreneurship for social and economic well-being see in Global Entrepreneurship Week much more than a celebration of the creative spirit. GEW engages the entire entrepreneurial spectrum and is strengthening ecosystems everywhere. Millions of students experienced their first tastes of startup culture and soaked up advice and inspiration from serial entrepreneurs looking to give back to the next generation as well as the likes of Bono and Bill Clinton. Universities strengthened connections that help them commercialize research from their labs. New startups taking their first steps emerged from Startup Weekend events in more than 130 cities. Existing startups looking for their big break found it through competitions like Startup Open, Get in the Ring and the Creative Business Cup. Researchers and policymakers engaged in discussions around the world to examine the underlying policies necessary to promote entrepreneurial growth.
During the Week, the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw hosted a conference on “American entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in the United States” which attracted ambitious students of Warsaw universities who would like to establish their own companies in the future. In Russia, more than 100 students, young entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, diplomats and Russian government officials gathered at the residence of the U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul for an exciting event that highlighted global attitudes toward entrepreneurship and a discussion about what the future holds for aspiring entrepreneurs. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Richard E. Hoagland in turn spoke about the importance of Pakistani entrepreneurship during a conversation on “Access to Finance”. These and other GEW events organized by U.S. Embassies in many other countries, added to the State Departments initiatives to share American startup prowess such as the LIONS@FRICA partnership to promote Startups in Africa, its Global Entrepreneurship Program, and the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Initiative.
It is clear that the keys to growth of the U.S. economy are entrepreneurship and innovation. More importantly, there is broad understanding that new firms do not appear as a natural by-product of having free-market institutions but are rather the result of a startup ecosystem. I accepted the invitation to come to Ottawa from the U.S. Embassy in partnership with the newly formed Startup Canada movement modeled on the successful Startup America Partnership. I also joined the second “Startup Nations” gathering where leaders from various countries trying to enhance their startup culture gathered this week to share best practices. By sharing what we know about startups with other parts of the world, North America can renew its role as the shining city on the hill.
To find out more about Startup Canada, visit www.startupcan.ca or to learn how you can get more involved in GEW in 2013, visit www.unleashingideas.org or for Canada-specific details visit http://ca.unleashingideas.org/