I’m in India this weekend with fellow TechCrunch/BusinessWeek writer Sarah Lacy. After we’re done with the elephant rides in Jaipur, we’re going to be meeting local tech startups. Then we head back to New Delhi to meet more aspiring entrepreneurs. Sarah is writing a book on how startup culture has gone global and I’m researching how R&D has globalized. It never ceases to amaze me how you can find brilliant entrepreneurs everywhere—whether in the middle of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan or Santiago Chile (where local entrepreneurs showed me life-sized holographic images projected through some hardware connected to their laptops, and software which can help monitor the operational efficiencies of department stores in California). The promise of these early ventures is always amazing and their enthusiasm infectious. Which brings me to Global Entrepreneurship Week. And Snoop Dogg.
You are probably asking yourself, what the heck does the controversial and highly successful rapper have to do with entrepreneurship? Snoop has graciously agreed to serve on a Nov. 16 mentoring panel that features high-powered entrepreneurs handing out sage advice on how they launched and grew their businesses and brands. No doubt, Snoop has built one of the most durable brands in the notoriously volatile world of hip-hop. In fact, I’d wager that Snoop could give some solid lessons to some of the top decision makers and brand masters on a global basis. The panel is but one of a huge slate of events arranged by the Kauffman Foundation (full disclosure — they have underwritten some of my research) for Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Those events span the globe, running in 85 countries and hundreds of venues all with a singular goal—to spur innovative thinkers to do innovative things. The emphasis of many of the events, not surprisingly, is technology. The events are designed to teach, inspire, and foster collaboration among entrepreneurs (many of whom may not even know they are entrepreneurs yet). Aside from getting some sage advice from the original Snoop, the week is also chock full of opportunities for entrepreneurs of every type. Got a great idea to join the clean tech revolution? During Global Entrepreneurship Week in San Francisco, the Clean Tech Open Ideas Competition finals will be held. In this competition, thousands of people submitted early-stage clean technology ideas and it helps turn them into successful companies. Ideas can cover anything that fosters a healthy natural environment, from big-think solar breakthroughs to power-management software for buildings or hotels. Just like the TechCrunch50, this bakeoff will let people with big ideas present in front of a high-powered panel of experts and vie for startup-funding and other assistance.
While a lot of the events are in the U.S., the spread beyond our shores is notable and accelerating. Take “Speednetwork the Globe”. This is a series of networking events where entrepreneurs of all backgrounds can meet with potential collaborators, mentors and investors in five-minute increments. More than 500 speednetworking events in 31 countries happened in 2008, connecting approximately 25,000 people. Likely even more will be scheduled this year and this is a model for how to get geeks and suits—the two key components of a tech startup—together and brainstorming.
A quick look through the list showed me that pretty much anywhere I go I can find some event worth hitting. On November 18 in Chile (which I wrote about previously as being a rising comer in the tech world) the government-backed Foro Innovacion (Innovation Forum) will hold an all day business plan ideathon competition, focused on technology industries. In Tokyo, on November 14 the Honda Foundation is sponsoring a seminar addressing the needs and challenges of social entrepreneurs in Asia.
That last event I put in for a reason. Entrepreneurship, I strongly believe, is not just about making money. In much of the world, entrepreneurship is about giving people control over their own fate, lifting them out of poverty, and improving the world. Even here, in the U.S., entrepreneurship is an incredible social resource. All meaningful job growth over the past few decades has come from start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses that are small in size but powerful in impact. The latest economic crisis and wave after wave of resulting layoffs has clearly illustrated there is no safety in working for a big company, or having the right kind of degree, or even being a productive employee.
This is the core of entrepreneurship, the ability to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, no matter the circumstances, and create a business and a way to support yourself, your family and your community. Most of you reading this either are entrepreneurs or have entrepreneurial aspirations. I’m saying, that’s great. You are what has made this country an amazing place, and these types of motivations are what has lifted tens of millions of people out of poverty around the world. So pay attention to Global Entrepreneurship week, mark it on your calendar, and attend an event if you can. Next time around, organize an event in your area. And never forget why you are doing what you do.
Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.