This entry is an excerpt from the OECD’s International Compendium of Entrepreneurship Policies (2020), which contains 16 case studies from 12 OECD countries. The Compendium examines the rationale for entrepreneurship policy, presents a typology of policy approaches and highlights principles for policy success. Case studies span policies for regulations and taxation, entrepreneurship education and training, advice and coaching, access to finance, internationalization, innovation, and holistic packages for ecosystem building. (OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/338f1873-en.)
The case study, summarized below, is a thorough examination of the U.S. Startup Global program, an initiative of the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA). Part of the National Export Initiative NEXT (NEI/NEXT) strategy, which was launched by the Obama Administration in 2014, the program provides an array of support in order to assist startups and young firms export their products and services internationally.
Through its local branches, Startup Global organizes free seminars across the country to help small and early-stage companies develop plans to participate fully in global markets. Startup Global works in partnership with local partners (incubators, accelerators and universities).
The internationalization seminars:
- Are organized into four to five themes
- Topics include developing an internationalization strategy, protecting intellectual property, finding customers and distributors, navigating international partnerships, understanding foreign market regulations and accessing support programs
- Cover Product Classification (Harmonized System) Codes, Tariffs and Taxes, Controls and Licenses, Guide to Exporting, E-commerce and Digital Marketing, Export Basics, Export Training, and Country Commercial Guides
- Feature ITA experts and ITA partners (global corporations, overseas organizations, incubators, federal agencies, investors, universities, chambers of commerce and successful entrepreneurs)
- Are delivered through a panel discussion or presentations followed by questions from the audience
- Provide information sharing and networking opportunities
- Identify relevant public and private sector resources
- Are open to the public and usually a half to a full day
- Contributors are often from the region where the event is held and act as advisors.
The seminars are designed to help participants exchange information and promote linkages and partnerships between early-stage companies and incubators, accelerators, private investors and the government.
They are promoted online through Export Assistance Centers across the country, accelerators, universities, local chambers of commerce, and the local stakeholders and contributors. Registration is through the Global Innovation Forum (GIF) website.
Startup Global is managed by the International Trade Administration (ITA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce in collaboration with the Global Innovation Forum, a non-governmental organization.
2015 – present
Startup Global was initiated following a May 2014 White House Business Council design workshop, which gathered around 40 public- and private-sector stakeholders, including representatives from the startup community. A Startup Global pilot event was held in April 2015.
Between April 2015 and October 2018, Startup Global organized about 10 information and networking events for participants that ranged between 40 to 100. The OECD case study researchers found no information on the impact of the program.
Challenges and responses:
1. Limited outreach: Because information about reaching global markets was provided only by participating in one of the seminars, it is not readily available to other entrepreneurs/startups. In response, Startup Global published key elements of seminars online and developed informational materials and recorded webinars.
2. Selection of resource advisors: The seminars did not always include international businesses or global partners. In response, Startup Global planned to organize international seminars. In addition, it prioritized including international participants. For example, a March 2018 seminar in Austin, Texas included representatives from Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK.
Lessons for other ecosystems:
The Startup Global program involves multiple actors and public-private partnerships to leverage expertise not held in-house. The use of local partners facilitated outreach to local entrepreneurs. However, in the absence of evaluation evidence, assessing the program’s impact and identifying specific strengths is difficult. Based on available information, lessons learned include:
- Emphasizing outreach and promotion should be at the center of program roll out.
- Maximizing coverage: Because seminars only serve those limited number of firms that participate, technology should be leveraged to extend and expand program reach. Online links to available resources and support programs should be developed.
- Entrepreneurs and SMEs should be engaged during program and seminar design. Regular monitoring of the ecosystem and business landscape, regular dialogue with business community leaders, and formal feedback and other follow up information on participants would help similar programs to tailor programming to startup needs and increase their effectiveness.
- Incorporate monitoring and evaluation in program design in order to track firms needs and satisfaction, effectiveness of outreach methods and the impact of the events.
The Startup Global website links to U.S. government resources, such as country commercial guides and an export guide.