Start-up nations

Published on The Economist, November 17, 2009.

… Encouragingly, over the past decade most OECD countries have greatly reduced impediments to entrepreneurship (by making regulations clearer and reducing the bureaucracy involved in starting a business). Britain is particularly nurturing. As for people’s interest in becoming entrepreneurs (or at least the OECD’s proxy, their enthusiasm for self-employment), America still does better than the European Union, with Belgium at the bottom of the pile.

Most countries have a positive view of entrepreneurs as job creators, though opinions differ more on whether the wealth they create is of benefit to all (the Czechs are especially sceptical). Iceland has the most positive view of entrepreneurs—but the OECD data on this is from 2007, before its economy imploded. It will be interesting to see in next year’s report how the crash has affected Icelanders’ opinions.  

Those are the hard data. But some of the most encouraging aspects of Global Entrepreneurship Week are the more qualitative assessments from countries not hitherto known for their thriving entrepreneurial scene. For instance, Ahmad Humeid, a Jordanian entrepreneur and blogger reporting on a Global Entrepreneurship Week event in Amman, notes that “there were zero boring government officials. There was no mindless ‘invest in Jordan’ talk. Just a series of great speakers.”

In the early 2000s the country’s dominant business event was the Jordan ICT Forum, he continues. Jordan also attracted the World Economic Forum. “But this new wave of entrepreneurial talk is different. It’s no longer giant corporations doing the talking (think of Intel, Cisco and Microsoft). All talk is about open source, collaboration, innovation and creating something out of nothing. Real start-up people sharing their stories. Very cool.” Indeed. (full text).

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