Today marks the opening day of #GEW2017 – and with it, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Since it launched in 77 countries in 2008, GEW has been the impetus behind more than 120,000 events, activities and competitions – with nearly 60 million participants – to help people unleash their ideas and take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey. It has also fostered connections among entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, researchers, policymakers and others involved in helping new firms start and scale.
The mission of the Global Entrepreneurship Network is to help build one entrepreneurial ecosystem. People are mobile, ideas fly around the world, and capital moves rapidly across borders. Entrepreneurs no longer need to be constrained by geographic boundaries: startups in Africa working on global problems will seek connections with startups in Europe and the United States. Venture capitalists have followed this pattern, expanding their global investment portfolio over the past two decades.
Yet we have lacked ways to fully capture the globalization of startups and the progress of the global entrepreneurial ecosystem. And, while we have evidence-based insights about the DNA of specific innovation hubs such as London, New York, and Silicon Valley, we have not understood what works in helping smaller ecosystems accelerate their growth and increase their performance.
By 2030, the population of Saudi Arabia is expected to reach 39.1 million, an increase of 24.1 percent from 2015. Such a high growth market offers many opportunities for its entrepreneurs. I wrote in 2010 that entrepreneurship enjoys a high-level of government support. Its investments are bearing fruit. Today’s younger Saudis are particularly entrepreneurial.
From Shanghai, the second stop on my GEW 2016 road trip, I report that entrepreneurship is on the rise in China. However, many commentators outside and even inside the country have been slow to equate China’s economic growth with entrepreneurial activity. Instead, analysts have focused on government initiatives, such as infrastructure construction, or foreign direct investment as the key drivers of China’s 20-year surge.
Each year, I travel to as many countries as possible during Global Entrepreneurship Week — speaking at events to emphasize the importance of the democratization of entrepreneurship and in building one global ecosystem. This year, I began my tour in Johannesburg, South Africa, which will host our annual Global Entrepreneurship Congress for the first time on the Africa continent in March 2017.