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11 takeouts from Global Entrepreneurship Congress 2014

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress is an inter-disciplinary gathering of international start-up champions. Held in Moscow from the 17th-20th March, this year’s event saw entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policy makers collaborate in order to generate ideas that will drive economic growth and accelerate the progression of an already thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Over the past five years, the Congress has contributed to the expansion of a global entrepreneurial landscape, enabling experts and entrepreneurs to network across borders and various industries, unleash their ideas and transform innovation into reality.

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The Global Entrepreneurship Congress was the brainchild of Jonathan Ortmans. Over 153 countries gathered in Moscow to explore new ideas, remove roadblocks and solve global issues around entrepreneurship.

1. Research and Policy

One of the highlights of the conference was the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network (GERN). The GERN marks a significant move towards forming a more disciplined approach towards helping entrepreneurs.

There are many organisations doing great things and many initiatives have worked. By sharing these ideas, the timeline of getting things right and being able to implement them in similar markets decreases.

2. Tax and Incentives

Tax and Governmental institutions are making strides in assisting entrepreneurs through legislation and tax laws, which is particularly evident in Malaysia and Italy. A strong increase in incentives for young entrepreneurs is also coming through. Italy has recently added a “Start-up Visa”, allowing entrepreneurs to crowd-source funding and to pay employees through equity and stock options that one doesn’t get taxed on.

3. Mentorship

A strong message was delivered around a need for entrepreneurs to receive as much mentorship as they do funding, if not more so. We know that entrepreneurs often feel alone on their journey. This does not need to be the case – it is invaluable to find a mentor who can guide you and add value to your business. This person needs to be someone you respect and has been in your shoes before. In saying that, it is also your time to be an active participant, by being a mentor to people who have started the journey of entrepreneurship.

4. Community

Entrepreneurial ecosystems don’t just happen. They are built by communities, and are enabled by governments who see the bigger picture. It is important to create an eco-system that is supportive, collaborative and engaging. Go to events, meet new people, expand your network, make exchanges and add value where you can. The whole ecosystem is made of small interactions daily, weekly and monthly.

5. Inspiration

As life consists of peaks and valleys, it is difficult to be inspired 24/7. However, at congresses like the GEC you cannot help but be inspired and in awe of the current landscape — this keeps you motivated, it keeps you engaged and encouraged. There is so much to learn, so many things to be a part of and inspiration is all around you. As @SpeakerJeff poignantly said “we live in the democracy of information.” so use Slideshare and the likes of Coursa to keep yourself informed and motivated.

6. Customer Base

Understanding your customer is critical – retain rather than continuously reacquire. The approach of “build it and they will come” is outdated and research is available as explained by Bob Dorf. Test your market, do research, create surveys go wider than your pool of friends and family. Perfection is not paramount to success, you can continue to develop, test the fundamentals and get the basics right.

7. Fail Fast, Fail Forwards

Start-ups should focus on creating repeatable, scalable and profitable business. It can take as little as 8 weeks to transform an idea to a business. The Global Entrepreneurship Congress highlighted that it is key to test your idea, share your idea and learn that failure is experience, clearly shown by the Angry Birds team, which created 52 ideas before the success of Angry Birds.

8. Investing

Investing is growing around the globe and the attendance of investors is on the increase as are events and congresses similar to the GEC. You get different types of investors from angels to VC’s, co-investment and loans. It is imperative that if you require investment, that you know what you are looking for, the amount you require, the equity you are willing to give up, and be sure to have your business plan ready.

9. Statistics and Data

Keep a record of facts and figures, from market penetration, to timings and deadlines. Stay on top of finances and be diligent in mapping your productivity to keep records for the future. Insights are often from hindsight. Data is the future.

10. Your Team

There is a strong trend to fit co-founders and employees based on culture, attitude, values and personality over skill. Skill you can learn if there is an aptitude and an attitude to do so. Hire people you trust and complement your value set. We know that sweat equity is often seen in these scenarios. Be sure to have contracts or at least MOU’s in place.

11. Moving Forward

We continue to see trends and an increase in the entrepreneurial space with accelerators, incubator clusters popping up and a strong sense of communication to think globally while acting locally. Stay inspired, learn from other start-ups’ failures, always find the opportunities and be a problem solver. Failure does not equal giving up. Learn your market, listen to your customer and above all else, lead with passion.

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