This week, thousands of entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers, and supporters from all over the world will gather in Istanbul for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC), put on by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) and local partners. What began in Kansas City in 2009 with support from the Kauffman Foundationhas, over 10 years, turned into the leading global event on entrepreneurship. Over the next few days, innumerable connections will be established between far-flung parts of the world, ideas will be exchanged, and, for at least a brief moment, the world will be united in support of entrepreneurship.
That sounds a bit cheesy, of course, but this year’s GEC theme of “Building One Global Ecosystem” is more than just feel-good rhetoric. This is the fifth Congress I’ve had the honor of attending, and it truly is a time when a common culture and understanding is established between thousands of different people. For entrepreneurs, we know from our research at Startup Genome that the Global Connectedness arising from such an event is a key determinant of success. And, we know that for a host city like Istanbul, these global events can be catalytic for the ecosystem.
Yesterday, GEC-related activities kicked off with a day-long Ministerial session on entrepreneurship and policymaking. With dozens of high-level government representatives from around the world, discussion turned on how the public sector can best support entrepreneurs–and where government should let the private sector lead. This type of session always has the tendency to turn into a monotonous talkfest, but with the able guidance of GEN president Jonathan Ortmans and the Ministerial steering committee, the discussion was candid and open among the policymakers.
Some of these ministers, deputy ministers, directors, and secretaries have been attending GEN-related policy sessions for several years (including the Startup Nations Summit). They have applied what they’ve learned from global colleagues in their home countries, and then come back every year to tell their counterparts about what worked, or didn’t, in their policymaking. This kind of frank policy exchange between government officials is rare, especially in a large setting. But, because all in the room are committed to helping entrepreneurs, it works.
For countries such as the United States or other developed economies, a Ministerial meeting on entrepreneurship might seem anachronistic to some. Public policy is seen as something to be avoided or only dealt with as a last resort–I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard an American entrepreneur say policy is irrelevant to them (which is untrue, in any case). For many countries, however, public policy is front and center for entrepreneurs: it can be used to protect incumbent companies, keep out entrepreneurs, or generally make life difficult for new businesses. In a lot of places, public policy is the make-or-break issue for entrepreneurship.
Today, hundreds of GEN delegates and managing directors from around the world will gather to talk about ecosystem-building in their respective countries. This is where connections between entrepreneurship champions and supporters are forged, and entrepreneurs benefit from the lessons learned and brought back home to their ecosystems.
And, tomorrow, of course, look for the 2018 Global Startup Ecosystem Report, released together by GEN and Startup Genome. We’re delighted to play our part in Building One Global Ecosystem.