I ultimately consider myself an entrepreneur – from the time David Filo and I started Yahoo! in a small campus trailer parked at Stanford, and even more so today. David and I had a dream fueled by the entrepreneurial spirit and a love for technology.
The gathering of delegates at the Summit represents an appreciation for the critical role entrepreneurs play in advancing the global community. The Summit follows the President’s commitment during his June 2009 speech in Cairo, and is an effort to join existing efforts and inspire new efforts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation, with a focus on Muslim-majority countries and Muslim communities around the world.
Many renowned experts in the U.S. and globally are speaking, and President Obama addresses the group this evening.
I spent most of my talk discussing what it takes for regions, countries and societies to create a “high growth entrepreneurship” environment – one that is ripe for technology entrepreneurs. Later today, I will share a link to view my speech.
While entrepreneurship may be an individual’s pursuit, a “high growth entrepreneurship” environment where technology entrepreneurs can thrive doesn’t happen by accident.
You need to have the right foundation to enable entrepreneurship to flourish. A foundation that includes: a commitment to research and development; investment in education (including fundamental science at the University level); access to capital funding; and a culture that encourages an entrepreneur ecosystem – from immigration and technology access to online communities and mentors who encourage our youth.
Over the years, the U.S. has addressed much of the foundational elements of high-growth entrepreneurship, and as a result, we see a steady stream of entrepreneurs, technology innovation and economic opportunities.
Let me share two powerful stats.
· According to the Kauffman Foundation, between 1980 and 2005, virtually all net new jobs created in the U.S. were created by firms that were 5 years old or less. That is about 40 million jobs.
· In 2008, research from the National Venture Capital Association showed that VC backed companies in the U.S. employed 12.1 million people generating $3 trillion in revenue. This represents the equivalent of 21% of the U.S. GDP.
But the power of the Internet, innovation and ideas, and entrepreneurship is borderless. People around the world, especially young people, are increasingly enthusiastic about chasing new opportunities and starting their own businesses.
And for any entrepreneur, whether they’re in Cairo, Egypt or Cairo, Illinois, or India or Indonesia, the challenge becomes building the bridge and foundations that will enables high-growth entrepreneurship and technology to flourish.
The Middle East shows signs of a growing number of budding entrepreneurs.
The Silatech Index: Voice of Young Arabs study conducted with Gallup in June 2009 found that the majority of Arab youth surveyed believe entrepreneurship is the key to future job creation in the region. Underscoring that fact was the fact that 26 percent of the young Arabs surveyed in the region were planning to start their own business within the next 12 months.
From my perspective, what is particularly encouraging about these results is how they highlight an emerging willingness to consider new approaches and pursue new ideas.
Let me share an example. The founders of Maktoob.com, a company Yahoo! acquired last year, pursued a new idea 10 years ago. Co-founders Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury noticed there were few online services that offered content in Arabic, their native language. In their spare time, they began to work on an email service that would support Arabic, later adding others online content services.
They were fortunate to have education, mentors (including Fadi Ghandour, a successful CEO/entrepreneur in the Middle East) and funding, which would help make this dream possible. Samih and Hussam ultimately created the world’s largest Arab online community. Today, with more than 19 million users in the Middle East region, Yahoo! Maktoob is committed to increasing Arabic content and helping youth and entrepreneurs in the region.
Just last week, Yahoo! Maktoob, in partnership with NGO Nahdet El Mahrousa, launched a social entrepreneurship campaign in Egypt called, “Social Innovation Starts with YOU!”. Individuals from across Egypt will be invited to become the next social entrepreneurs of the year by developing new ideas in the fields of education, health and the environment. Ten winners will receive monetary grants and technical and management support for three years to help bring their ideas to life.
Samih and Hussan’s journey highlights what is possible for today’s entrepreneurs. There are plenty of other examples of successful entrepreneurs in emerging markets, and opportunities for others with a desire to create future companies or ideas – in mobile technology, software, clean technologies, biotech or social networking, to name but a few.
In this “flat world”, there is a tremendous opportunity for countries around the globe to participate in high-growth entrepreneurship and further technology advancements. It is critical for everyone – public officials, private industry, NGOs, educational institutions, entrepreneurs and others – to help build a foundation to help support this.
Collectively, we can make an impact, and help ensure entrepreneurship and technology continues its remarkable progress in emerging economies and around the world … so that future generations will see their dreams come to life.