Thanks in part to Global Entrepreneurship Week, an entrepreneurial ecosystem has started to take shape around the world, connecting people across borders to unleash their ideas and transform innovation into reality—in turn growing economies and expanding human welfare. To support the burgeoning initiative, the Kauffman Foundation brought together the host organizations from nearly 60 nations to create the first ever Global Entrepreneurship Congress in March 2009 at its headquarters in Kansas City.
It was just the beginning. One year later, the Congress convened in Dubai with GEW’s entrepreneurship champions from more than 90 countries, but it also had an all-star lineup of speakers including then Prime Minister H. E. Nika Gilauri of Georgia and a number of accomplished entrepreneurs and CEOs. The profile of the Congress began to grow and countries began to compete over the right to host the event.
Shanghai was keen to show the world that it too was building a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, and in March 2011 it hosted the third Global Entrepreneurship Congress. GEW hosts from 100 countries were joined by more than 1,000 participants from across China for the extravagant opening session of the Congress. The importance of the event was evident through the participation of a number of Chinese government officials, led by Yan Junqi, vice chairwoman of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress of China, as well as Wan Gang, the country’s Minister for Science and Technology and a number of other government representatives from the federal and local levels. Perhaps a bit more surprising was the presence of a number of China’s wealthier entrepreneurs and angel investors who had been leading the way toward new economic growth. At the end of the opening session, Jonathan Ortmans, chair of the GEC, announced that Liverpool was selected to be the host city for 2012—and the evolution continued.
Richard Branson, famous for his Virgin brand empire, inspired delegates from 120 countries among a crowd of thousands. Along with other British titans of industry, Branson answered questions and shared insights based on years of experience. But as bright as the star power was in Liverpool, perhaps a more important shift began to occur—the international delegates were no longer populated solely by GEW hosts. The Congress began to attract diverse delegations from government ministries, university researchers, the media and more.
Rio de Janeiro played host to the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Congress. 115+ countries gathered to discuss high-impact entrepreneurship and innovation. Over the conference’s four days, Delegates had the opportunity to hear from global policy and entrepreneurship experts. During the week there were over 70 events spread throughout Rio bringing together thought leaders in entrepreneurship including Brad Feld, co-founder of TechStars, Linda Rottenberg of Endeavor, and Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline.com. New programs were introduced, including World StartUp Cup, The Ice House, Idea Challenge, and World Startup Report.
Moscow hosted the 2014 GEC with over 150 countries represented. The event was awarded Best Business Event of 2014 from the Moscow Times.
Fashion capital of Italy, Milan hosted the 2015 GEC. This year's event also saw the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Congress took place in the City of Eternal Spring -- Medellín, Colombia -- where the weather is warm and spring-like year round, and the city's entrepreneurial spirit is alive and flourishing. More than 160 countries participated in the Congress, and nearly 6,800 people registered for the event. Government leaaders from around the world gathered for the second GEC Ministerial as well, to share best practices and learn from other entrepreneurial ecosystems.