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Symposium 2013

Proposal - Creating global support networks for young innovators and entrepreneurs

The Challenge

Innovation as the foundation of economic dynamism and prosperity is a complex process involving contributions from various players. In particular it deals with the transformation of basic science into ...

Innovation as the foundation of economic dynamism and prosperity is a complex process involving contributions from various players. In particular it deals with the transformation of basic science into rival proposals that improve the well-being of mankind. For more than 200 years technological innovation has driven economic development. All growth is based on innovation. The process of innovation involves complementary contributions from science, from entrepreneurs, from the financial markets, from the investment community and from government.

In order to support young entrepreneurs and innovators worldwide, we need to foster a multi-tiered ecosystem in which:

Tier 1:

  • the general public is educated and inspired about technology and entrepreneurship (both theoretically and with practical, applicable 'hard skills' in programming, digital design, digital marketing etc as opposed to the emphasis on traditional 'soft skills' such as management theory etc). This needs to happen on elementary and secondary school levels, in addition to this being continued and integrated in traditional higher education models.

 

Tier 2:

  • (young) innovators are supported in the protection of their intellectual property (foster, don't exploit).
  • young innovators are connected to experts from industry and academia, crossing national and institutional boundaries, and they are supported in bringing their product to market.
  • inventions and technological advances need to receive more widespread 'mass media' exposure and need to be developed more with transparency/visibility so that it becomes harder to buy out or silence inventions that could make the world a better place - "every invention that improves the state of the world should see the light of day".

 

Tier 3:

  • mobility for young innovators is facilitated globally.

This tangibly refers to housing and transport (as well as visa policies), and in both cases the main barrier is posed by governmental regulations (taxes on flights being up to 80% of total ticket prices and shared housing, temporary or sub-letting and new models such as AirBnB being illegal in certain urban markets). This creates a capital based barrier to entry for global entrepreneurs. Governments need to embrace new economic models (as we move away from the nuclear family based society towards a sharing economy), especially shared housing, and further they should invest in the success of young entrepreneurs. Rodney Schwartz has a good proposal on governments calculating through positive externalities to the social businesses that produce them. And in some countries an 'entrepreneur visa' has been successfully introduced.

  • collaboration and exchange between generations, industries and across national boundaries is facilitated in highly curated networks that operate both regionally and globally to support their members. These are a combination of online communities and offline gatherings that foster genuine relationships and trust.

Examples of these are the Kairos Society, the Nexus Youth Summit, the Sandbox Network, the WEF Young Global Shapers, the Power of Youth (PoY), the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEC), the Thiel Foundation Under 20 Network and the Startup Leadership Program (SLP). These all operate in a similar way for different core audiences (entrepreneurs under 20 years old, 25 years old, 30 years old, only social entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and changemakers alike, young philanthropists and changemakers, etc etc.)

Governments need to publicly support and endorse these organisations. Globally, so that these networks can expand and the companies of their members can scale more easily, providing global employment through growth. Similarly with academia and the corporate world. This can bring about major systemic change due to higher mobility, access to capital, resources and information for these young leaders.

These high level networks are fed by and linked to lower level networks such as university entrepreneurship societies and national bodies for student entrepreneurs and innovation, as well as national and regional 'startup movements'. They are also linked to startup accelerators and venture incubators, by nature of their members having a high alumni ratio, a track record of previous success and/or venture capital funding, and by nature of their network membership, a higher probability for future success. Therefore such networks can help new entrepreneurs gain access, and act as a distributed vetting mechanism and acceleration vehicle.

Events such as the Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (GESS), the StartupBus and the Singularity University also deserve a mention in being highly curated networks promoting innovation and global good. These programmes are centred around the creation of a product or business in teams, and the resulting global community is quite outstanding. (And of higher quality than that of easier-access programmes due to prior curation of participants)

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And one last ecosystem requirement: we should never forget that the innovators and entrepreneurs that advance our societies are fundamentally still human beings desiring happiness. Quite often the public, fuelled by the media and populist politicians place unrealistic demands on the successful few.

There is an emergence of spirituality amongst this group as they try to find their happiness and pace in the world. Bhutan's move from GDP to Gross National Happiness is quite inspirational, and the Burning Man movement is something (although widely misunderstood) which is gaining traction within the creative and technology scenes in recent years, mainly due to the 10 founding principles that encourage being present, radical self expression, inclusion, gifting, community and the like.

One main recommendation is to support and foster instead of demand from innovators and entrepreneurs.

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Christopher Pruijsen was the youngest-ever President of the Oxford Entrepreneurs. He co-founded the FounderBus UK and StartupBus Africa programmes, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Kairos Society. He is a member of the YEC, POY, SLP, RSA and Nexus networks. Currently he is leading the growth of a London-based social enterprise (Raising IT) that helps charities innovate their websites in order to raise more online. Raising IT has over 100 clients and is growing more than 100% year-on-year. He is contactable at [Email protection active, please enable JavaScript.]

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There have been countless studies on the positive effects of youth entrepreneurship on unemployment, employability and innovation/growth (for academic referencing and more context, see Peter Vogel's GES proposal: http://www.global-economic-symposium.org/knowledgebase/innovation-dynamism-and-entrepreneurship/proposals/youth-entrepreneurship-as-a-mechanism-to-re-invent-the-labor-market-of-tomorrow).

This article is closely linked in terms of content and vision to Philippe Bourguignon's proposal on Building Peace Through Entrepreneurship (which I recommend you read): http://www.global-economic-symposium.org/knowledgebase/innovation-dynamism-and-entrepreneurship/proposals/peace-through-entrepreneurship-an-idea-to-foster-peace-through-entrepreneurship

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