For the first time in three years, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations, lawyers and policy makers, investors and many others met in person this week Global Entrepreneur Congress. With representatives from almost 200 countries and hosts in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the GEC 2022 covered an enormous range of topics.
From space entrepreneurship (astro-entrepreneurship, someone called it) to entrepreneurship politics, angel investing to competitions, almost nothing has been left out. Here are three top-line takeaways from this year’s GEC.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere
Literally. In every country, context and situation you will find entrepreneurs and their startups and new ventures. Entrepreneurship is not limited to any particular type of country or region. This year’s GEC featured participants from countries such as Iraq, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Cameroon and Uruguay.
The representatives of these nations are not anomalies. Behind it are enormous masses of people starting businesses and organizing support activities in their respective countries. Their entrepreneurial success stories are inspiring.
Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs Tri Rismaharini, for example, spoke about her efforts to help the homeless and disabled through entrepreneurship support. Entrepreneurs are often rightly called a kind of outsider: they are underdogs, heretics, who challenge Davids and Goliaths. Minister Rismaharini is turning this around and trying to integrate social misfits through entrepreneurship.
Just as impressive as the number of countries represented at the GEC how much Every country does what it takes to support entrepreneurship, both publicly and privately. Perhaps there is a lesson for the United States here. The Startup Act has been unsuccessfully introduced into Congress a few times over the past 12 years. Many other countries, such as Brazil, have already passed their own startup acts and are on the way to implementation. There is a dizzying array of events and activities constantly taking place in every corner of the globe, many with the enthusiastic support of public leaders.
Diplomacy can take place without diplomats
At GEC, entrepreneurs representing their countries made new connections and built those connections that constitute global connectedness. Entrepreneurship event organizers shared lessons and tips. Policy makers compared their notes on what worked and what didn’t work for them when formulating company policy.
These connections are important for many reasons. They can open up new markets for a country’s entrepreneurs. They improve entrepreneurship support everywhere because of the information sharing that takes place at GEC. They can even strengthen ties between countries at the official level. The policy makers who participate in GEC carry on through the higher levels of government in their countries. The Minister Rismaharini mentioned above hosted the Startup Nations Summit when she was Mayor of Surabaya. Now she applies lessons and inspiration from this event nationally and remains involved with the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN).
Today’s entrepreneurs are also tomorrow’s leaders in successful companies, non-profit organizations, civil society organizations and governments. The more connections they forge with their peers around the world during their entrepreneurial journey, the broader their perspective will be when they sit at the top of the social and economic pyramid.
Its a lot to do
Today, few would argue that promoting entrepreneurship is unimportant. Entrepreneurship support has become mainstream in many ways. While there is no shortage of excitement and commitment of resources, gaps remain and needs continue to go unmet.
In some countries, entrepreneurs are seeing high-level pronouncements from their governments to support entrepreneurship – but still say the translation of those pronouncements into actual action is lacking. Elsewhere it is not clear what effect entrepreneurship support actually has. Donna Harris, Founder and CEO of builders and supportersput it this way: We have invested a lot in corporate sanitation and infrastructure, but in many places water does not flow through the pipes.
Starting and growing a business will never be easy. As one speaker noted, entrepreneurs always face challenges, so they always “complain” about those challenges. In many countries there is still a lot to be done to convince people that they can be entrepreneurs. Even when entrepreneurship is widely accepted, obstacles keep popping up, whether intentional or not. In a sense, the work of GEC and its participants and stakeholders will never be finished.
It was announced this week that next year’s GEC will be held in Melbourne, Australia. Hopefully by then the world is well out of the Covid-19 pandemic. The GEC 2023 will be an important opportunity to further assess not only the world’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship, but also its progress in helping entrepreneurs solve persistent problems.