Last week, the Global Entrepreneurship Network and the Kauffman Foundation hosted the Startup Nations Policy Dialogue at the Embassy of Italy with a dynamic group of speakers from Singapore, Slovakia, U.S., Australia, and South Africa to provide insights on policies that can bolster entrepreneurship around the globe. More than 130 people, including government officials from embassies representing 40 countries, investors, entrepreneurs, policy experts, and industry thought leaders packed the Italian Embassy’s auditorium for an interactive discussion.
Led by Jonathan Ortmans, president of GEN, Ambassador Ashok Kumar Mirpuri from Singapore and Ambassador Peter Kmec from Slovakia discussed how government could be catalysts for growing entrepreneur communities. Both ambassadors agreed that healthy ecosystems do not succeed with a top-down approach from government, but by bottom-up leadership with support from policymakers. That hybrid model has catapulted Singapore to the 12th best startup ecosystem globally, and number one in talent, according to Startup Genome. Singapore has boasted itself as the “Smart Nation” and a leader in FinTech with an innovative approach to regulation by creating “sandboxes” for startups to thrive without being stifled before their idea gets off the ground.
The conversation shifted to the state of American entrepreneurship with Jason Wiens, Kauffman Foundation’s policy director, Linda Moore, CEO of TechNet, John Dearie, president of the Center for American Entrepreneurship, and Andrew Olmem, special assistant to President Donald Trump for financial policy. Entrepreneurship in the U.S. is finally reversing a long decline, but the effects are still being felt. Now, the task shifts to eliminating barriers that hamper entrepreneur growth. The panel explored themes such as access to capital, strengthening stakeholder engagement in communities, and growing a movement of activist entrepreneurs at the state and federal level.
The panelists determined there isn’t one specific policy that will ignite entrepreneurship growth across the U.S., but a mix of favorable policies such as eliminating student debt, common sense immigration reform that strengthens our talent pipeline, cutting regulations, creating “Opportunity Zones,” and building a new base of investors in places such as Pittsburgh, Columbus, and other emerging U.S. cities.
The final panel showed us the amazing potential in markets across Africa, and fast growing countries such as Australia. Sameeksha Desai, director of knowledge creation and research at the Kauffman Foundation, Bongi Kunene from the World Bank, and Anthony Murfett of the Australian government, dove into the power of data, and utilizing it to foster policies to achieve growth.
Australia has created more initiatives to boost smart cities, adopt emerging technologies such as blockchain, and to attract talent, the government is unveiling a new temporary visa for foreign entrepreneurs to establish a startup without the burden of raising a minimum of $200,000 in capital. Kunene honed in on countries such as South Africa activating a base of committed stakeholders to grow cities such as Johannesburg.
So what does success look like for nations’ entrepreneurship policies? While many countries look to the U.S. for models of success, they are developing hybrid approaches to growing entrepreneurship because of the more limited resources than the U.S. They are enacting favorable policies for attracting talent, streamlining regulation to give startups the opportunity to test their technologies, more government capital into initiatives when there is a lack of investors, and building ecosystems around specific sectors, such as smart cities in Bratislava, Slovakia. Greater collaboration between countries on entrepreneurship policy can lead to a strong global economy.