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Many Sign Up For Global Entrepreneurship Week '08

Elizabeth Kelleher
USINFO Staff Writer

Dozens of Countries Sign Up for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008

"There is a culture of failure that is unique to the United States," said Jonathan Ortmans, of The Public Forum Institute, referring to the role failure plays in business activity. "You can fail, and it is seen as a badge of honor."

Economic leaders in other countries recognize that entrepreneurs are a sustaining force for U.S. economic growth. But they do not always understand that the enabling environment that fosters U.S. entrepreneurs as they start businesses includes more than bankruptcy laws to protect a person's assets if his or her business fails. The environment also includes an attitude that sees failure as a necessary part of the education of a successful leader.

According to Ortmans, president of the nonpartisan institute, those who run venture funds in the United States, which loan money to startup businesses in return for a share of future profits, would not support someone who had not been through a failure.

Ideas about entrepreneurship, such as the importance of failure, will be discussed worldwide during Global Entrepreneurship Week, scheduled for November 17–23, 2008.

During a U.S. pilot entrepreneurship week in February 2007, Stanford University in California designated a theme for each day of the week. One day was dubbed Failure Day. "That is where all the lessons were learned," Ortmans said. "Pitfalls were identified, but they show where resilience is best tested."

U.S.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, with which Ortmans' institute partners on entrepreneurship projects, and the business-led, government-backed Make Your Mark campaign in the United Kingdom will host the 2008 global event.

At a recent announcement of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Kauffman's Carl Schramm and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown reported that 37 countries thus far have agreed to participate, among them Australia, Brazil, China, France, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Uganda.

Participating nations will focus on activities that encourage young people to consider becoming entrepreneurs. Organizers contend that if you ask young people worldwide whether they are interested in business, 75 percent will say "no."

But students will answer affirmatively to such questions as: "Do you have an idea for a business? Would you like to have fun developing it? Would you like the business to bring value to you?"

In 2007, in addition to the U.S. pilot entrepreneurship week, there were projects in the United Kingdom and China.

In the United Kingdom, one activity involved young people being given 10 British pounds and being encouraged to "Make Your Mark With a Tenner." Ninety percent of the participants invested the money in a manner that made them more money than the original 10 pounds. Many turned it into 100 British pounds in just one week.

Activities in China focused on science-based innovation and were centered at universities. Many of the students' projects dealt with making money while solving environmental problems.

One event that was popular in the U.S. pilot involved giving teams the same three, household items and requiring them to find unique uses for them. Organizers report that 300 teams put their ideas -- "hilarious and creative" -- on the Internet.

Because Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008 will involve young people from so many countries, there is powerful potential for work to be done across cultures. Organizers promise many online audio and video connections to link participants. There will be some competitions in which teams must form from among young people in several different countries.

U.S. sponsor Kauffman Foundation is a leader in entrepreneurship-related research. Past research by the foundation has shown that during the last decade, one-fourth of successful high-tech companies in the United States were founded by immigrants. Earlier in November, the foundation released a survey that found 40 percent of Americans ages 8-21 hope to start their own business.


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