Now that the U.S. presidential election is past us, the attention of hundreds of Americans has shifted from political battle to startup battle as Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) launches today in 130 countries. Unlike any political election, though, you will not hear next-day rhetoric about "fresh starts." Bottom-up startup communities and nascent entrepreneurs from across the globe are already in the driving seat and well down the road to growing their economies and making jobs. For newly elected politicians, the only issue is how much they want to make their path easier.
Through the five years of the GEW movement, we have witnessed the embedding of entrepreneurship as a key concept for economic progress around the globe. Today, the appreciation for the impact of entrepreneurship is no longer limited to the tech hubs or capital-rich areas of the world. There are new, stronger signs that entrepreneurship is considered the cornerstone of economic and social progress in an increasingly growing number of countries that do not fit any one income or development classification. For example, according to the World Bank's 2013 Doing Business report, 108 nations implemented 201 business regulation reforms in 2011/12, primarily focused on making it easier to start a new business, increasing the efficiency of tax administration and facilitating trade across international borders. Or just look at the strength of the 130 national campaigns kicking off today that can boast nearly 40,000 events this week for their aspiring entrepreneurs.
The understanding of entrepreneurship has deepened. For instance, while there always has been a consensus that job creation is vital for economic growth, poverty reduction and peace, the understanding that young, growing businesses are the strongest engines for job growth is a rather recent, data-backed concept. In the U.S., data has shown that all net new jobs in the country come from startups in their first year of existence. The emergence of this type of data created a rapid shift in economic policymaking; thought leaders could no longer confuse growing business with strictly "small" or "medium businesses." From a previous focus on size, what has become more important is whether a nation's businesses are able to grow.
As a result, unleashing business creation and business growth has become a key piece of any committed economic policy. In the past two years, we have seen the launch of many powerful initiatives as well as legislation to remove roadblocks for new firm formation in areas such as immigration and education. In fact, comprehensive entrepreneurship promotion involving cross-sector partnerships is the common characteristic of the successful Startup America, StartUp Britain, Start-Up Chile and LIONS@FRICA initiatives.
Underlying these efforts is the ideal of building stronger startup ecosystems. And this is not a utopian dream. In fact, the phenomenon of democratization and globalization of entrepreneurship is strongest at the grassroots level, as the reach and scope of activities during Global Entrepreneurship Week clearly demonstrate. Beyond the massive geographical presence of Startup Weekends in dozens of cities across every continent, and regional events like the "Meet the Lions" competition throughout Africa, there are true entrepreneur rock stars springing up in the most unexpected places. Consider that among the 17 countries represented by the Startup Open's "GEW 50" are China, Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Pakistan, Poland and Slovakia. Like many of their peers in the pioneer "startup economies" of the world, these entrepreneurs represent a new generation that does not see their dreams of "doing well" and "doing good" as mutually exclusive, but rather intertwined. They envision a market for their business ideas without sacrificing their social objectives. In fact, their willingness to try to solve the world's greatest challenges is typically the mother of their innovative ideas.
GEW will conclude in a few days, but the momentum will carry on through the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Rio de Janeiro next March when top-down government officials and institutions will join with bottom-up communities of entrepreneurs, investors, researchers and thought leaders to work collaboratively in leveraging entrepreneurship as a powerful tool to drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It is this commitment to leverage entrepreneurial minds that has allowed Global Entrepreneurship Week to become an increasingly stronger forum and springboard, not just for innovative ideas to flourish, but also for the building of startup ecosystems at the national level, and thereby a more entrepreneur-friendly global economy.
That is the beauty of this week; it represents a global community of people broadcasting to the world that the field of entrepreneurship is no longer something of narrow commercial significance. It's something of social and cultural consequence. It's something that represents the possibility of human endeavor for the benefit of all.