June 15, the first day of the fourth annual G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit, kicked off at 9 a.m. with an optional, 3-hour site-seeing tour of Moscow, the city in which this year’s G20 Summit was held.
The Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance officially began at 3:30 p.m. with a 15-minute opening ceremony hosted by Victor Sedov, Moscow 2013 Summit Chair and President of the Center for Entrepreneurship. This was immediately followed by an official welcome from various G20 representatives.
At 4:30 p.m., Jonathan Ortmans, President of Global Entrepreneurship Week, delivered the Summit’s opening keynote address, titled “Entrepreneurs Changing the World.” In his speech, Ortmans covered two pressing issues: the policies and programs that nations are implementing to support young entrepreneurs and the need to better measure their effects.
According to Ortmans, while countries around the world are striving to welcome immigrants, the United States does not support entrepreneurship initiatives by immigrants. Chile, on the other hand, has provided $40,000 grants, free mentorship, and free office space in Santiago to American entrepreneurs who want to work in Chile for at least 6 months and set up new ventures. So, some countries are on the right track by taking steps like protecting newborn firms and offering them tax incentives in order to allow innovation to flow into different sectors. While many of these start-ups do challenge big, comfortable companies, it is possible to support newer companies in a diplomatic way that does not completely upset existing industries. Countries are also focusing on supporting the formation of new ideas in university settings. This plan has especially good potential in Moscow, given the roughly 250 academic institutions in the area in and around the city, combined with Russia’s extraordinary record of scientific innovation. The fact that even countries praised for entrepreneurial success, like the United States, have been having trouble promoting entrepreneurship in the marketplace means there’s an opportunity for governments to improve their efforts.
The biggest obstacle to helping start-ups, according to Ortmans, is that governments and entrepreneurship programs have not been collecting the type of data they really need to help start-ups. While there has been an explosion of entrepreneurship programs all over the world, the number of start-ups globally has been going down. Now that entrepreneurship programs have been established, “phase two” is for these programs, along with the nations that support them, to better measure their performance. As part of this new phase, more attention will be paid to scaling up rather than starting up. Another trend will be mapping the existing entrepreneurial ecosystems in different cities around the world in order to better understand what it really means to have an entrepreneurial environment. The goal is to perform a gap analysis for different communities and cities, gathering data on entrepreneurship, finding out what is doing well, and learning what can be improved. Fortunately, the global community of “start-up junkies” offers a lot of suggestions on how to identify these gaps. This endeavor requires both the enthusiasm and increased discipline to make sure that the focus remains on creating new firms, scaling these firms, bringing innovation to existing industries, and building entrepreneurial economies.
Before closing, Ortmans invited G20 attendees back to Moscow for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, set to place on March 16 of 2014. He closed by stressing to the audience that they should never underestimate the importance of their work. Entrepreneurs don’t just create jobs, unleash innovation, and act as positive and optimistic community leaders and role models, but also signify the potential of human endeavor for the benefit of all.
At 5:00 p.m., conference-goers enjoyed a half-hour long coffee networking break, before being welcomed by G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit Partners from around the world, including U.K.-based Maria Pinelli, Global Vice Chair for Strategic Growth Markets at Ernst & Young, a professional services provider. Pinelli discussed the steps that Ernst & Young has taken to foster innovation and entrepreneurship.
Pinelli stressed that, although Ernst & Young is a big organization with more than 167,000 employees, the company has been recognizing, advising, and guiding entrepreneurs for over 3 decades. Ernst & Young began working with Google when they had 5 employees and Facebook when they had 6. Today, the organization is still working with young companies globally, and investing over 100 million dollars every year to support entrepreneurship. Ernst & Young has grown the company’s own Entrepreneur Of The Year program over the last two years, spreading in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, with the company now planning to get more involved in South America. Pinelli then thanked Ernst & Young employees at the G20 Summit, especially the company’s Russian team. According to Pinelli, Ernst & Young began its relationship with G20 in 2011 in France, and also went on to be part of the 2012 Summit in Mexico, where the organization handled a study on funding the future of entrepreneurship and overcoming financing obstacles. Since then, the organization’s work on entrepreneurship has continued, with Ernst & Young utilizing more than 200 leading best practices in this area, and taking part in over 165 meetings around the world with different governments and entrepreneurs.
Pinelli said she was especially excited about the proactive initiative that Ernst & Young is planning to take in August, although it will get the company in a “lot of trouble”: ranking the G20 countries on how they are doing in terms of entrepreneurship. In addition, Ernst & Young’s report will shed light on youth unemployment as well as youth leadership in entrepreneurship. Pinelli thanked the G20 attendees for participating in the company’s surveys, answering phone calls, and providing case studies. For the first time, Ernst & Young can share the responses from 1,000 young entrepreneurs around the world in one report. This report is being endorsed by Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is also concerned about youth unemployment. It includes quotes from both G20 entrepreneurs and Annan. She stressed how critical this report is in a world where about 75 million youth were unemployed in 2012 and around 290 million were not employed, in education, or in training (NEET). Unemployment is expected to rise over the next 5 years, but young entrepreneurs are making a difference and improving the situation.
In closing, Pinelli said that G20 attendees have a chance to make their voices heard, and thanked the G20 team for inviting her to take part in the summit.
The next speaker participating as a G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit Partner was France-based Bruno Berthon, Managing Director of Accenture Strategy and Sustainability. Berthon pointed out that since Accenture is a global organization with 270,000 employees, the actions taken by the company affect all of the countries represented at the G20 Summit, and said that he had been consulting many entrepreneurs and thinking of how to contribute to their efforts. He then covered two main points: the digital revolution and its role in turning entrepreneurs into free agents, and Accenture’s role in the changing business environment.
Berthon emphasized that the Digital Revolution is transforming the world, with new technologies allowing for innovation and entrepreneurship to develop in emerging markets. For example, in Africa, using mobile networks is considered the only real way to grow a business. This is how African businesses collect payment, spread information, communicate with suppliers, and communicate with customers. The technology of the digital revolution is also turning entrepreneurs into free agents. A free agent has the opportunity to earn more money by moving from one position to the next as benefits them, but also takes the risks that come with not having a contract. As free agents, entrepreneurs have the ability to get away from the main constraint that Accenture and other established businesses have, which is the problem of legacy assets. Entrepreneurs don’t have legacy assets, and without this constraint, they have the power to be more innovative. Accenture’s new consultants are also displaying this kind of behavior, for example, through their use of social media. These free agents are supposedly less loyal to companies, or just have different types of relationships with them, and are already helping millions of businesses around the world.
In terms of changes in the entrepreneurial world, Berthon said that everyone in the world is co-competing, both collaborating and challenging one another. The role of Accenture in this environment is to help entrepreneurs gain the knowledge that they need. After thanking the Accenture team for their hard work, Berthon pointed out Accenture’s role in collaborating with entrepreneurs through questionnaires and focus groups around the world, and the company’s desire to add a proportionate amount of women to their team, since about 40% of entrepreneurs are female.
Berthon closed by saying that he would focus on the relationships and collaboration between start-ups and entrepreneurs on the following day of the conference, including the fact that large corporations are interested in pursuing new relationships with governments and businesses. Finally, he thanked all of the G20 attendees for participating.
At 6:50 p.m., the night wrapped up with a 10-minute preview of the next day’s attractions. This segment was moderated by Alex Gill, Canada-based founder of the Mendicant Group.
Finally, at 7:00 p.m., summit-goers enjoyed a 2-hour long networking buffet and reception at the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, followed by a delegation photoshoot and a Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit group photo.
Please check back for a summary of the second day of the Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit, and be sure to keep up with the #YEA13 hashtag on Twitter.