Entrepreneurship is the future of the global economy. Accelerating entrepreneurship at home and abroad will make the world more interconnected and provide economic opportunity to developing countries, said the keynote speaker at the two-day Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration conference, April 18.
Banquet keynoter Shelly Porges ’74, MPS ’77, senior adviser at the Global Entrepreneurship Program of the U.S. Department of State, emphasized the importance of a global outreach for entrepreneurship.
Young people want to control their own economic futures, as is reflected in the entrepreneurial spirit worldwide, said Porges.
At the Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP), where Porges worked with former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Porges launched GEP 2.0, increasing the number of countries where the program is implemented to almost 150 from just a handful, “making the Global Entrepreneurship Program truly global.”
The global challenge ahead is unemployment. Most of the world, including the United States, must accelerate job creation. This means entrepreneurship.
“According to the World Economic Forum, the Middle East, North Africa region needs to create 75 million jobs by 2020 – a jump of more than 40 percent of what they did in 2011 – just to keep unemployment close to current levels, which, with an unemployment rate of over 30 percent in many of these countries, is unacceptable to begin with,” said Porges.
Porges said students, simply by living in a developed nation, have much opportunity. They can reach their full entrepreneurial potential like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates have, whereas such opportunity is not available in developing nations. She quoted Clinton saying, “‘Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.’”
Implementing such programs as GEP and Global Entrepreneurial Week and startup weekends can provide opportunities to many talented individuals in developing nations, Porges said. GEP’s focus, she said, is to spur economic and entrepreneurial activity by identifying promising entrepreneurs, training them, and connecting and sustaining them through mentorship and incubation. It then helps in finding funding for promising enterprises, expanding market access, encouraging best practices and celebrating the success of those who have taken risks with the creation of entrepreneurial cultures. The goal is for entrepreneurs worldwide to have the opportunity to control their own futures.
By promoting entrepreneurship globally, Porges said, the United States advances its own interests as well as other countries’ interests by fostering stable and peaceful relationships, creating markets for U.S. goods and adding business opportunities for U.S. companies.
Porges noted, for example, a startup weekend in Alexandria, Egypt. Startup weekend, which operates in more than 50 countries, is a 54-hour boot camp that enables aspiring startup entrepreneurs. Participants can engage as founders or work on someone else’s founding team. The startup weekend in Alexandria received 2,100 applications, of which 800 participants, including 200 women, were chosen. The winner was a women-led team of six people. Porges said that this shows the desire of developing countries to engage in entrepreneurial activity.
Entrepreneurship will revolutionize global economies with new jobs created by exciting new companies, she said. Porges emphasized the potential in using the United States’ entrepreneurial spirit to advance new entrepreneurs globally.
The Entrepreneurship@Cornell Celebration attracted about 500 alumni, students, faculty and staff April 18-19.
Julian Montijo ’15 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.