RENEW Strategies

Exporting Entrepreneurship and Innovation

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Laura Davis
| July 28, 2015


I had the honor of speaking on a panel at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Nairobi, Kenya, July 25 and 26, 2015. The energy in Nairobi was high for several reasons, including, of course, the presence of the President of the United States Barack H. Obama, “a son of Kenya” as the local newspapers like to call him. It was the first time a sitting U.S. president visited the country.

More than a thousand entrepreneurs, investors and ecosystem partners from around the world woke up before dawn on Saturday morning and traveled to the United Nations compound in Nairobi to await his arrival. During the hours of waiting inside the auditorium at the compound, I was honored to sit with Lesa Mitchell (Instigating+co.), Philip Auerswald (author of The Coming Prosperity, professor at George Mason University, and co-chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Network), and Derek White (Chief Design and Digital Officer for Barclays Accelerator). Jim Sorensen, the Utah founder of the SGII Center, and U.S. Senator Christopher Coons, a leader in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were close by. What a pleasure it was to engage intellectual thought leaders regarding topics such as the bitcoin and blockchain movements, electronic intellectual property rights, the experience economy, and most importantly, entrepreneurship, as we awaited the founder of the summit, President Obama.

In the days leading up to GES, I also participated in two wonderful events organized in part by Village Capital: “Pitch for Impact”, hosted by The Case Foundation, SGII Center and the DOEN Foundation, and “Celebrating Entrepreneurship”, hosted by the Case Foundation and Barclays. Both events provided additional opportunities to experience the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Nairobi, including iHUB and scores of entrepreneurs and other investors (be sure to check out #BarlcaysAfricaChallenge).

It was the first time I had participated in GES, and I left Nairobi reinvigorated about America’s role in the world. The President made a commitment six years ago to, in summary, export the American spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation – now this is something I can support! From my world in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and my travels around the globe, it has become clear to me that promoting entrepreneurship is key for the United States to maintain, and perhaps in some places even regain, our diplomatic relevance. During the past year, President Obama even named several U.S. Ambassadors for Entrepreneurship, including ABC’s Shark Tank favorite, Daymond John, who I had the pleasure of meeting briefly. Ambassadors for Entrepreneurship - what a great idea!

Thanks to some of our partners at USAID, I was asked to sit on an angel investing and crowdfunding panel. The panel was wonderfully moderated by Michael Ducker of J.E. Austin Associates, Inc. It also included Rich Hoops, a quintessential example of an angel investor, Hossam Allam, who leads the Cairo Angels, and Cecile Watson, who is pioneering a Caribbean crowdfunding platform called Pitch and Choose. It was a great, diverse panel that engaged audience of 80+ entrepreneurs and investors, including Suzanne Biegle of Clearly Social Angels, Dan Awendo of Investeq Capital, and Ben White of VC4Africa.

As President Obama instructed in closing the summit, “Go out and start something.” And when you do, persist and persist and persist in your vision until you change the world around you.

To find out more about RENEW or the Impact Angel Network, contact us at renew@renewstrategies.com or follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC.