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The United Nations of Entrepreneurship moves to Moscow

Written by Marc Ortmans Wednesday, 29 January 2014.

In March, 3,000 delegates from over 140 countries will descend on Moscow for the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, the annual gathering of startup champions, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers.

The City of Moscow will play host and has hard acts to follow. Previously the GEC roadshow has been hosted in Shanghai, Liverpool, Dubai, Kansas City, and most recently Rio. From an awards party on Sugar Loaf Mountain to dancing in Liverpool cathedral to a dinner in the desert, the hosts have made incredible efforts to showcase their cities to the world. Led by Moscow's minister, Alexei Komissarov, his team has big plans for GEC2014. The congress will meet at the famous Moscow Manege off Red Square, originally a military training school building capable of holding an entire infantry regiment, which has seen performances from Berlioz to Kruschchev.

The GEC started as a workshop in Kansas City, hosted by the Kauffman Foundation for the national hosts of the first Global Entrepreneurship Week that had taken place in November 2008. Based upon the UK's Enterprise Week, GEW was the brainchild of the Kauffman Foundation and UK government department, BERR – forerunner of BIS. Subsequently, GEW and the GEC have been instrumental at integrating previously siloed initiatives and activities of government, education and business on an international scale. Global Entrepreneurship Week last November held 25,000 events for 10 million participants in 140 countries. Not bad for a 6 year old start-up that claims Prime Ministers, Presidents and world business leaders among its evangelists.

In 2012, Richard Branson was one of the keynotes at the GEC in Liverpool. He arrived from Euston together with several hundred coffee fuelled delegates into Lime Street on Virgin's Entrepreneur Express. Branson was joined at the Liverpool Arena and Convention Centre by a host of rock stars from the worlds of business and entrepreneurship including Lord Heseltine, Sir Terry Leahy and Martha Lane Fox from the UK together with a supporting chorus of inspirational voices from around the globe. Liverpool's strategy was to use the opportunity to invest in its future.

This summer, Liverpool will launch the International Festival of Business which will take place for 61 days in June and July 2014. Supported by Mayor Joe Anderson and Prime Minister Cameron, the IFB aims to attract 250,000 visitors to an urban festival of commerce that has ambitions to bring £100 million worth of investment to the UK economy.

Like Liverpool, the City of Moscow is involving the whole city. Venues just announced include the Skolkovo Startup Academy, Flacon Design Factory, Technopolis Moscow and Digital October. Themes range from mentoring to virtual idea enrichment, all with a red thread – enabling and empowering entrepreneurs.

Among the keynote speakers headlining in Moscow will be Angry Birds' Peter Vesterbacka, and Vivek Wadhwa from Singularity. They will be joined by more than fifty speakers from around the world. Some of those already announced include Sergey Borisov founder of Apps4All, Bernard Moon Co-Founder SparkLabs Ventures, Oliver Gajda Executive Director European Crowdfunding Network, Lawrence Wright Director of Skolkovo Startup Academy, and Doug Richards Founder of School for Startups.

The Congress will focus on awareness, experiential education, startup cities, financing growth, smart top-down government policies and strategies for scaling up. The World Bank, the Kauffman Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Endeavor Insight will also be launching the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network heralded by President Barack Obama several weeks ago.

In March 2013, over 100 nations gathered in Rio for what I like to think of as the United Nations of Entrepreneurship. While some have highly developed ecosystems, many are just beginning their journey. Visionaries like Babson's Dan Isenberg, TechStars' Brad Feld, and Dave McClure from 500 Startups provided insights into how startup cultures can succeed. The GEC in Rio and other cities have effectively created an accelerator program for policy makers and those on the ground to develop programs that combine top down and bottom up thinking.

Rio also saw new nations such as Iran, Finland, Myanmar, Senegal and Vietnam join, welcomed by signing ceremonies and applause from the global family. While there I witnessed a rare and extraordinary spirit of cooperation. Even those from politically adversarial countries were quietly finding ways to work together.

The GEC grew out of a closed work sleeves meeting in Kansas City. Now it is the world's big tent talk shop for a 21st century global religion called Entrepreneurship. It has attracted a broad church from government to geeks, collaborating at an unprecedented scale. These new entrepreneurial harmonies are certainly in sync and set to convert this crowdsourced wisdom into successful startups and economic growth around the world.

See you in Moscow.

GEC2014 takes place March 17th to 20th. If you want to register, or find more info, go to

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About the Author

Marc Ortmans

Creative, strategist, entrepreneur.

Marc has worked as a designer, Creative Director, Film Director, Managing Director, Marketing Director, Project Director, strategist and entrepreneur. He started at the BBC in London designing titles for programmes including Top of the Pops, Crackerjack and Wogan before moving to Channel Four. While there, he headed the design department, creating seasonal campaigns and BAFTA nominated titles for Film on Four.

Later, Marc formed creative agency Ortmans Young International with BBC designer Haydon Young. Projects ranged from the launch commercial for First Direct to creating and managing the onscreen brand for UEFA Champions League. Broadcast clients included BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, and Sky in the UK, and many others across Europe and North America, winning awards from BAFTA, BDA, D&AD, EBU Connect, Paris Cité, PROMAX, RTS, and The New York Festivals.

More recently, Marc ran the Button Group (£8.5m turnover), restructuring operations and setting new creative benchmarks through its offices in London, Cannes and LA. Since then he has operated as a brand communications specialist for clients in television, news, tech, sport and social enterprise, working with a diverse range of brands from CNN International to Babelgum, and the World Gold Council to the Homeless World Cup.

He is one of the founding team for Global Entrepreneurship Week, now active in 140 countries. Marc is currently founder and CEO of IdeaspaceGlobal, an online aspiration-to-enterprise knowledge hub and workspace he is creating for young entrepreneurs to connect, learn and launch their enterprises. IdeaspaceGlobal is being developed as a year round extension of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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