The Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) will bring an expected 5,000 Australian and international delegates to Melbourne from the 1st to the 4th of May 2023. The GEC represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build capacity and capability in Australia's entrepreneur ecosystem.
Since returning from the GEC in Riyadh at the end of March, I have been having between 20 to 40 conversations a week developing and testing the approach to the GEC for next May. In the interest of "building in public", I share with you the strategy and welcome your input and involvement in co-creating an amazing opportunity.
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) is an annual congress delivered in a different country each year attracting 2,500 to 5,000 delegates. Delivered by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) since 2009, the GEC brings together a network of 180 countries with a focus on supporting One Global Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.
The Congress builds capacity and capability in the host country's ecosystem, mobilises national entrepreneur support, attracts global investment, and brings leaders together to address global challenges through entrepreneurial action. The emphasis of the GEC is on addressing the underlying systemic factors that enable entrepreneur success.
The structure of a GEC
The Congress structure brings delegates together as a collective, encourages exploration and discovery, and provides opportunities for focused outcomes. Day one includes the opening ceremonies, headliners, keynotes, and ministerial sessions. Days two and three are the main content sessions, with four to six content streams including additional keynotes, panels, and workshops. Day four includes workshops to embed the lessons for each country delegation and final headliners to consolidate the themes.
Running parallel to the program are pitch events, VIP investor sessions, policy forums, and local ecosystem tours. Evenings are filled with structured dinners, serendipitous networking events, award ceremonies, and events that spill across the host city.
While the schedule is full, the streams are structured to suit individual interests. In my previous experiences with GECs, I felt the event was created just for me as I found leaders with shared similar passions for global impact. And yet when I speak to other attendees from diverse perspectives and interests, they share similar experiences of finding their like-minded tribes in their specific industry, technology, or area of impact.
Who the GEC is for
The audience for the GEC is anyone participating in or supporting the entrepreneur ecosystem. These include entrepreneurs, university leaders and researchers, government policymakers, ecosystem builders and leaders, industry representatives including peak bodies and associations, corporations, international delegates, investors, program providers, incubator managers, and service providers.
Each individual comes with expected outcomes both personally and on behalf of the institutions they represent. Opportunities include making connections and expanding networks, securing investment, building personal capability, and finding others to solve local and global challenges. The program is designed to address each of these outcomes for the diverse delegate segment.
My own experience with the GEC is that I receive value well in excess of what I invest in both time and funds to attend. Each GEC I have attended has resulted in global collaborative projects, connections to global influencing organisations, the advancement of both my profession and opportunities for impact. Other delegates share similar stories of receiving investment, gaining customers, establishing collaborative partnerships, and developing new programs and policies as a result of their GEC experience.
Reflections on Riyadh GEC 22
In March 2022, we took a delegation of 14 Australians to the 2022 GEC in Riadh, Saudi Arabia. This was my second GEC following the 2019 Bahrain GEC and my first time leading a national delegation. We took away valuable insights from a deep dive into another ecosystem and strong relationships from an unforgettable shared experience.
The Riyadh entrepreneur ecosystem has grown rapidly over the past five years, driven by the Kingdom's 2030 Vision. The GEC highlighted the strength of each aspect of the Riyadh ecosystem, including diversification of sectors to address climate impacts, impact opportunities and gender equality, and strengths in investment, incubation, and talent attraction and development. Over US$13.8 billion in investment was secured over the GEC to promote entrepreneurial activity in Riyadh.
We were very fortunate to have support from the team on the ground with the Australia Saudi Business Council. The engagement with dedicated cross-country chambers and associations helps to arrange meetings with key people and navigate the local ecosystem. I was also fortunate to attend excursions after the official 4-day session where the real value is in the serendipitous conversations in transit between locations and around dinner tables.
One thing common to most entrepreneur ecosystem events is a culture of giving back and practical action. The GEC takes this to the next level with delegates from 180 countries and representation from global organisations including the OECD, the UN, the Kauffman Foundation, and executives from multinational corporations and investment firms. With several thousand leaders looking to help each other make a difference, the opportunities are limited only by the scope of your vision and ability to share your ask.
In leading the delegation, I was encouraged by the bond that developed among the Australian contingent. Our cohort represented diverse interests, including food and agriculture, web3, investment, aerospace, female entrepreneurship, rural and regional entrepreneurship, incubation, universities, defence, and talent development. We returned as a leadership team that has since expanded the impact to those in our communities.
A principle-led approach to GEC 23 Melbourne
We hit the ground running when we returned to engage the Australian entrepreneur community in the development of GEC 2023 in Melbourne next May. A principle-led approach frames how we will make decisions, develop the program, and structure the engagement. The four principles below guide our approach and will be validated, refined, and amended as we work with the Australian and global community to co-create the GEC 23 program.
Principle 1. Scope for Melbourne, Australia, and the world
The GEC will celebrate and highlight the strengths of Melbourne and Victoria as the host city and state. The Congress will also represent the diversity on offer across all of Australia's states and territories. The program will also address challenges and identify opportunities that are applicable and relevant to the world.
To showcase the national perspective, we are developing excursions to other states and territories in the weeks before and after the GEC in Melbourne. These excursions will provide a form of 'innovation tourism', allowing delegates to immerse themselves in Australia's landscapes and local innovation ecosystems.
Principle 2. Focus on the change we want to see
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress is more than a conference or festival to showcase information and ideas. The Congress is participative, where leaders come to contribute and advance causes that can only be addressed by working together. We are crafting visions and goals for each stream by industry sector, technology, ecosystem function, and area of impact to identify the change we want to see.
What is the vision for the space industry in Australia and around the world? What needs to happen to transform how we support food and agriculture? What is on the horizon for creative industries? How do we best integrate and work with web3 or quantum technologies? What needs to happen for robust and sustainable risk capital or incubation functions in the ecosystem? What is happening globally to support female, youth, indigenous, and regional entrepreneurs who are often on the periphery of ecosystem services?
These are just some of the questions guiding the development of the program as we work with leaders to provide a clear understanding of the change we want to see in each area.
Principle 3. Build sustainable infrastructure beyond the GEC
The Australian entrepreneur ecosystem has matured over the past decade. There is increasing specialisation by sector and technology. We have increased diversity and experience in ecosystem functions of policy, investment, and incubation. The distribution of ecosystem services has expanded across states, regions, and diverse community groups. We are now focused on developing greater sustainability in these areas as well as connecting all the aspects of the ecosystem together.
This includes connecting ecosystems by geographies through sharing challenges and opportunities across national, state, and regional boundaries. There are opportunities for greater connection across functions of the ecosystem, such as university research into commercial outcomes, spin out opportunities from corporate development, and practical government policy to enable and support the growth of risk capital investments. And we can also have greater integration across areas of impact and communities, ensuring alignment of sustainable development goals and access for all communities to entrepreneurial opportunities.
We need to achieve this in a way that goes beyond on-off programs, establishing ecosystem infrastructure to ensure connection and collaboration remain embedded into how we do things.
Principle 4. Create value with every interaction
While the actual event is in May 2023, we consider the GEC as starting now with every interaction and conversation. The process of developing the program, selecting speakers, engaging partners, building relationships, and gathering delegations is all part of the change process. The GEC in May 2023 will not be the start of the conversation but a continuation of momentum built over the next 12 months.
Developing the GEC 23 program
The GEC program is being developed with leaders across the Australian ecosystem around four domains of industry, technology, function, and impact. Each domain has a series of focus areas that are indicative and will develop further into themes for the GEC:
- Industry sectors (Education and schools, Food and Agriculture, Health and life sciences, Creative industries, Mining, resources, and energy, FinTech and financial services, Space and Defence, Sports);
- Technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Augmented and Virtual Reality, Web3 / Blockchain, Advanced manufacturing, Quantum technologies);
- Functions (Corporate / Industry, Ecosystem building, Government / Policy, Incubation / Acceleration, Investment / Risk capital, University / Research, Measurement and evaluation); and
- Areas of impact (Female entrepreneurship, Indigenous entrepreneurship, Regional innovation ecosystem development, Youth entrepreneurship, Climate impact, Social enterprise, Sustainable development goals).
We are holding a series of virtual meetings with leaders in each of these areas through 2022 to co-create the GEC content. The first series of meetings will be in July and August, followed by subsequent meetings every two to three months to the end of the year.
- Workshop One will develop the initial vision for the stream, identify stakeholders and existing projects and programs, and who else needs to be involved.
- Workshop Two will refine the vision, align with other streams and existing programs, and inform the development of broad themes for the GEC.
- Workshop Three will further inform the GEC program content and embed the content into existing visions, missions, and policies related to the Australian entrepreneur ecosystem.
If you are interested in being involved in the process, please complete the GEC expression of interest form.
We are involving the Global Entrepreneurship Network's 180 member countries in the development of GEC 23 in Melbourne. Our priority for the next month is to refine the themes with the Australian ecosystem. As these themes emerge, we will engage with the wider global audience in July and August.
Our aim is to:
- Invite the global audience to contribute to the program;
- Support the development of global delegations;
- Connect global delegates with Australian contacts in local focus areas for each sector, technology, ecosystem function, and area of impact; and
- Develop practical projects between each country to showcase the strength of the Network at the GEC in May 2023.
We are also developing the content and focus areas to build on GEC 2022 in Riyadh and provide input for future hosts of subsequent GECs. Global challenges related to areas such as climate, equality, technology, and entrepreneur support are both uniquely experienced and globally shared by each nation. Our goal is to support the continued conversation as we contribute to One Global Entrepreneur Ecosystem.
If you are outside of Australia and want to be involved, please complete the Expression of Interest form on the GEN Australia website.
Activity leading up to GEC 23
The Global Entrepreneurship Network has a range of programs that we will leverage to prepare for the GEC next May. These programs will test ideas, generate support, develop partnerships, and engage local and global delegates.
Entrepreneurship World Cup
The Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWC) is a global pitch event with a global prize pool of US$1 million in addition to investment opportunities, visibility, network, access to markets, and more than US$10 million in in-kind services for the top EWC100. The program is open to startups established in the past seven years and for entrants over the age of 18. Early applications close 10 July and the final deadline is 15 August.
National finals in Australia will be held in Australia and the top 10 entrants from around the world will pitch in Riyadh in November 2022. Entries can be in one of three categories: Idea Stage (Building a team and initial product/prototype), Early Stage (Building a product, establishing product-market fit and early revenue), and Growth Stage (Scaling customer acquisition and revenue).
We will be using the EWC to see how many entrants come from each stream across industries, technologies, and areas of impact. The event is also a great opportunity for anyone participating in any of the incubators, accelerators, or other entrepreneur programs in Australia. You can register now on the official site as well as read the FAQs and Rules of Entry.
We will share a separate post with more information.
Global Entrepreneurship Week
Global Entrepreneurship Week occurs from 14 to 20 November 2022. For Australia, the GEW will align with the themes that will have emerged from the GEC program development process.
Our aim for GEW is to act as a mini-GEC distributed across the nation. The exact dates for the week impact differently for each host country and across Australia. For example, Northern Territory will be coming off the back of a very full October Business month and heading into wet season, Western Australia will be gearing up for West Tech Fest in December, and schools will be heading into end-of-grade and term activities. We will work with each situation to ensure we best represent Australia's activity to the world and support entrepreneur activities across the nation.
Policy Hack (proposed)
We are considering a policy hack between February to April 2023. This is to align the GEC themes with state and federal policy and confirm a national position across state and federal governments before the main event in May. We are reviewing and mapping innovation and entrepreneur policy at state and federal levels to provide a shared understanding for leaders around the world of what has been done in the past and to help make informed decisions moving forward.
The GEC is coming to Australia at a critical stage of global impacts and national ecosystem maturity. There is no doubt that the event will be a success, bringing 5,000 global delegates together to share ideas about developing entrepreneur ecosystems. Your involvement in the next 12 months is essential to ensure we collectively leverage the Congress for impact and to advance how Australia and the world support innovation and entrepreneurship for everyone.
If you want to get involved, please complete the Expression of Interest form on the GEN Australia website.