NovaXyon Entrepreneurial #GEC2023 Day 2: Takeaways And Impressions

#GEC2023 Day 2: Takeaways And Impressions

Substantively speaking, this has been an excellent Global Entrepreneurship Congress, held in Melbourne, Australia. Want to learn about entrepreneurial efforts in space (inevitably, “astro-preneurship”) and then move to a session to hear inspiring stories about refugee entrepreneurship? It’s here, and everything in between.

From Day 2, some takeaways.

Corporate Diplomacy Matters for Entrepreneurs

What is “corporate diplomacy”? According to Puru Trivedi from the Meridian International Center, it’s “the notion that companies need to have a good understanding of the geopolitical landscape. It’s applying the skills of diplomacy in the enterprise context.” Geopolitics, seriously? What on earth does that have to do with entrepreneurs? Well, quite a lot—especially today.

As noted about Day One, and as highlighted in a new report released today by Startup Genome and the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), scaleup firms are essential for ecosystem growth and economic impact. And in most parts of the world, scaling up means going global. As Puru noted, “for any company looking to sell or operate beyond borders, it’s imperative for them to have their own foreign policy.”

The geopolitical landscape has radically changed in the last few years; “geoeconomics” is a term increasingly thrown around by academics and think tanks. The panelists discussing corporate diplomacy and entrepreneurship were very clear that, with governments everywhere becoming more economically active, exerting stronger hands in sending “demand signals” and “signposting” priorities for the private sector, there are opportunities and pitfalls for entrepreneurs.

The panelists noted that entrepreneurs tend to ignore (or try to ignore) government. In the new geoeconomic reality, that may no longer be an affordable luxury: “it’s in their interest to start the relationship early,” one said. Another pointed out that, in his experience, other countries have been more deliberate in sending ambassadors with private sector experience to postings in the United States. Why? To focus on dealmaking, investment, and market opportunities for their home-country entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are not a geoeconomic sideshow; they’re main stage.

Vibrant Startup Ecosystems Aren’t Confined to Big Cities

Two fascinating speakers discussed their approaches to cultivating entrepreneurial ecosystems in small cities: Heidi Renata, cofounder of Innov8hq in Dunedin, New Zealand, and Stefanie Jordt from the Flensburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany. (This author sheepishly admits to not having heard of either city.)

City and metropolitan size still heavily influence the lists of top-ranked startup ecosystems; entrepreneurial growth is often conflated with absolute growth of a region. Heidi and Stefanie discussed the strengths and weaknesses regarding small city ecosystems. While there can be a tendency in small cities for people “to tell you what won’t work,” said Heidi, the “cuddle huddles” in small cities can offer tremendous support and strong relationships.

Small cities will always face challenges in areas such as access to capital, said Stefanie, but entrepreneurs there can be very focused on addressing local needs. Collaboration can trump competition, too, when there is more familiarity within the ecosystem.

Digital Government Makes Life Better for Everyone

I had the good fortune to moderate a truly impressive session on Digital Government. Three government ministers spoke about their efforts to digitalize government services and the impact those efforts have had. This anodyne description, however, does no justice to what they’re up to.

Maria Luisa Hayem, Minister of Economy in El Salvador, highlighted the dramatic reduction in procedures that digitalization efforts have resulted in. On average, there has been a 60% reduction in time taken per procedure. For example, the number of days it takes to go through authorizations to start operations in the free trade zone fell from 270 to just 15. The ministry is rigorously collecting and tracking data on digitalization to measure the impact. Minister Hayem, who later won the Compass Award for Enterprise Registration + Regulation, highlighted that the prompt for large-scale digitalization was the realization that red tape and government bureaucracy were stifling growth and entrepreneurial initiative.

In Iraq, Hussein Falamarz is the Minister who oversees Riyada, the country’s new business registration system. Registering a new business used to take 35 different steps; that’s now been reduced to “a few clicks.” After not even one year of Riyada, over 180,000 businesses have registered through it. Most poignant was the minister’s context-setting for this digitalization effort. Iraq, he said, is a proud and ancient culture, the seat of early human civilization. Yet the people of Iraq have now endured decades of war. Unemployment has been stubbornly high—with a young population, that could create instability. The government sees entrepreneurship as the means for national rebirth, and digital registration as the vehicle for greater entrepreneurial entry.

The country of Bhutan is often called the “happiest country on earth,” and indeed they have an official indicator of Gross National Happiness. The Minister of Industry, Commerce, and Employment, Karma Dorji, talked about the government’s digitalization effort in service to the national objective of happiness. The government has moved pretty much everything online expressly to make things easier for people—which, of course, makes them happier. He emphasized, too, that digitalization of government is not always about making things simpler or easier. Environmental protection is a national priority in Bhutan—trees are sacred, for example. If a project or business will have significant environmental impact, processes are not so easy, and digitalization can make it easier for government to prevent environmental violations and punish transgressions.

Every GEC contains inspiring stories such as these. What was inspiring about these three countries was the way in which the ministers set their digitalization efforts in the context of a large mission. Sure, it’s hoped that digitalization eventually saves everyone money and time. But these ministers and their governments see it as a key way to support entrepreneurs and thus strong economies and, ideally, happy and productive populations.

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