Global Entrepreneurship Network Assembly: Opening Remarks

Jonathan Ortmans, President of the Global Entrepreneurship Network delivered the following remarks at the GEN Global Assembly as part of Day 1 of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress on March 27, 2022.
28 Mar 2022

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Recovery from a global pandemic requires a response from the world’s most resilient citizens – our entrepreneurs. As doers, makers and risk-takers, entrepreneurs are comfortable with uncertainty, well-equipped to rapidly rethink solutions amid changing dynamics and data, and uniquely positioned to innovate the world out of the pandemic.  

At the Global Entrepreneurship Network, our mission is to make it easier for them to do so. 

Building and strengthening startup ecosystems that improve the conditions for entrepreneurship has been our raison d’etre since Day 1. When COVID-19 hit, GEN doubled down. We quickly developed emergency resource directories and moved our programming to virtual platforms. In those early weeks of 2020, nobody anticipated the breadth and depth of the disruption to our daily lives. But as many entrepreneurs began struggling with the interruption to their normal volume of business, GEN provided grants to help them survive and, eventually, start to rebuild. We spotlighted startups as prime vehicles for solving global problems, built entrepreneurship campaigns in 181 countries and hosted competitions and hackathons that attracted more than 180,000 applicants globally. 

As GEN worked with partners around the world to Reboot, Rethink and Regenerate a more resilient and inclusive post-pandemic economy driven by entrepreneurs. Under this vision, we focused on five key areas. 

Inspiring More People to be Founders 

With live gatherings a rarity in most countries, Global Entrepreneurship Week campaigns in 2020 and 2021 were unlike any other. Thankfully, host organizations got creative with their national campaigns while event partners flocked to virtual and hybrid programming to continue reaching new audiences and inspiring millions of participants to take the next step in their entrepreneurial journey.  

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group with roughly 400 companies and a long-time supporter of Global Entrepreneurship Week, shared a message of hope and encouragement for entrepreneurs at all levels on the eve of #GEW2020.  "Everyone has the potential to become an entrepreneur and to create positive change in their communities," he said. "I am proud to support the Global Entrepreneurship Network... with a mission to make it possible for anyone, anywhere to start or scale a new business."  

At the global launch of GEW 2021, GEN screened General Magic, a documentary that tells the story of one of history's most talented technology teams. From the first smartphones to social media, e-commerce, eBay and emojis, the ideas that now dominate the tech industry were born at General Magic, a 1989 Silicon Valley startup. We also announced the launch of Going Public, a groundbreaking new series, produced by GEN Chair Jeff Hoffman, where viewers are able to click-to-invest while they watch.  

Training, Mentoring and Supporting Founders at All Stages 

GEN hosted the Entrepreneurship World Cup, which provided mentorship and support for roughly 300,000 applicants over the course of two years – not to mention $2 million (USD) in cash prizes and significantly more including in-kind support and services. The quality of founders coming from all parts of the world is a testament to GEN’s focus on non-traditional ecosystems and the geographic diversity of our work. We also expanded its startup community programs, Startup Huddle and the GEN Starters Club, allowing us to support thousands of founders year-round.  

Putting Crisis Capital in the Hands of Founders 

In partnership with its partners and generous corporate foundations, GEN made $8 million (USD) in grants available to small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19 and other persistent barriers. Grammy Award winning artist, Pitbull, aka Armando Christian Perez, lent his support to the cause, helping Latino business owners get through the early days of the coronavirus. 

Thought Leadership + Making the Path to Market Easier for Founders 

As policymakers and ecosystem leaders work to remove barriers and lift up entrepreneurs everywhere, GEN provides data and analysis through multiple reports with partners like Prodem, Startup Genome, OEC and the European Union, among others. In many countries and communities, one of the biggest barriers to starting a business is the complexity of the administrative procedures to register a business and the regulatory burdens that follow. GEN worked with governments to shift services online helping founders register, deregister, respond to regulatory requirements and pay fees through a contact-free virtual platform.  

This report tells GEN’s story of the past two years while offering a preview of our upcoming work. Looking ahead, as the world adapts to living with this virus by adjusting behaviors and leveraging new technologies, GEN is focused on the equally serious work of rebooting our economies for a better, more sustainable and equitable post-pandemic world. 

Whether you are an entrepreneur, investor, policymaker, or ecosystem builder, I hope it inspires you to join us in our mission to make it possible for anyone, anywhere, to realize their potential as an entrepreneur. 

Jonathan Ortmans

Founder + President | Global Entrepreneurship Network

Jonathan Ortmans is founder and president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network, an organization that provides a platform of programs and… More