Global goal: a half-billion startups

July 28, 2011

The passion and commitment of nearly 200 international leaders and the collective success of a three-year-old initiative might be one of the best examples of globalization in recent times.

Two weeks ago, I represented Canada at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Shanghai. The GEC is an annual gathering of 105 Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) host countries – a powerful collective of organizations championing entrepreneurship around the world.

The GEW movement – co-founded by the U.S.-based Kauffman Foundation and the British-based Enterprise UK – reached 7.25 million people in 2010, with world leaders, iconic entrepreneurs, and media all taking notice.

This year’s discussion went far beyond the cultural shifts in our own countries and on to something more globally profound: the possibility of a human endeavour for the benefit of all.

As the CEO of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), organizer of Global Entrepreneurship Week Canada, I have the privilege of getting up close and personal with the next generation of transformative Canadian talent that comes through CYBF’s doors armed with brilliant business ideas and desperate for start-up support.

The GEW 2010 campaign shifted from spreading the word of the benefits of a more entrepreneurial culture to the measurable outcomes and impact of start-ups. There were discussions about setting a global goal of stimulating a half-billion young people to consider entrepreneurship, some impactful stuff.

The fact the GEC was held in Shanghai was a fitting display of new enterprise as a critical global movement, and the key to prosperity and job creation. It was astounding to hear the keynote address delivered by Ms. Li Yandong – a senior member of the Communist Party of China Central Committee – focus on the importance of entrepreneurship education in universities and the need to support new start-up enterprises.

She even cited a target of having 2,000 incubators linked to universities in China.

In Canada, despite all the work that has been done, we cannot rest on our laurels. The federal government’s recent declaration of 2011 as the Year of the Entrepreneur was a giant leap forward in acknowledging the importance of the small-business sector. Incubators such as the Ryerson Digital Media Zone in Toronto and the University of Waterloo’s VeloCity are hotbeds of innovation paving the way for other universities and colleges to follow suit.

Universities are now offering degrees in entrepreneurship. Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship (ACE) has a presence in nearly every university and college in the country. There is a tremendous benefit to catalyzing an ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Canada in a unified cause.

Any nation would benefit from a more entrepreneurial culture, and they all stand to gain from a more entrepreneurial world. But in order to do that, we have to work collectively to create a culture in which failure is a rite of passage, and we must allow entrepreneurs to learn quickly, pick up and start again. It’s the only way that Canada will be able to embrace wealth creation as a forum that benefits all.

Vivian Prokop is the CEO of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, an organization dedicated to youth entrepreneurship, which provides character-based financing and business mentors to launch and sustain successful companies.