Nov 1 2012

Startup Communities Anywhere, Including Yemen

I got a note the other day from my friend Lesa Mitchell concerning my assertion that you can create startup communities anywhere in the world. Lesa is vice president of Innovation and Networks at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Her responsibilities include identification of programmatic and policy levers that can accelerate innovation and support networks enabling firm growth. I asked her if she could write a quick summary of the experience she had with a handful of Yemen business leaders – it follows.

Recently at the Kauffman Foundation we hosted the US Ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, and a group of ten business leaders from Yemen. At the Kauffman Foundation we host 80K visitors a year from all over the world who are either using our facilities for meetings around the topics of education, innovation or entrepreneurship or, are coming to the Foundation specifically to acquire knowledge to replicate in their own communities.

I used this opportunity to talk about Mr. Kauffman’s history as an entrepreneur and mentor which led to the creation of the Kauffman Foundation and how we are using Brad Feld’s “entrepreneurial stack” to translate those lessons to communities around the world. I heard from the entrepreneurs that they wanted to lead, wanted to help other entrepreneurs and would like their government to be supportive but not in the way. I told them that any entrepreneur in the USA would have repeated the exact same message. I heard from Mr. Fathi Hayel Saeed that he was enjoying the sense of community of the entrepreneurs on their trip and was interested in supporting other entrepreneurs when he returned home. Do they want Startup Weekends in Sana’a Yemen – yes. Do they love the idea of running competitions to allow some of their young people to get interested in entrepreneurship – yes.

The lesson; startup communities can start and flourish anywhere in the world. They all need to figure out their own “stack” based on the resources available in their community and they all agree on one thing – entrepreneurs by growing their firms, creating jobs with good wages and helping other entrepreneurs can actually improve the economy.

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