How do you reduce poverty? Create jobs? Develop innovative new products and industries? One of the most important ways is to support entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses. If you think that small companies and startups can change the world, you’re not alone.
In September, the United Nations adopted a set of “Sustainable Development Goals,” priorities for the next 15 years. It’s sort of a global “to do list.” High on that list was Goal number eight – a commitment to develop policies that promote economic growth and full employment, including those policies that support entrepreneurs and the growth of small and medium-size businesses.
“Now we have to do it,” said Elizabeth Gore, former Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) for the United Nations Foundation and now EIR for Dell. “We have to get countries to focus on the policy recommendations and start implementing them.”
Getting that goal adopted took enormous effort. Michael Dell, The United Nation Foundations’ Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship and founder and CEO of Dell, Inc, helped create a global movement – #EntrepreneursUNite – to get Goal Eight adopted.
“We had over 1.2 billion actions around that movement,” said Gore. That demonstrated world-wide support for government policies that help sustain small and medium business.
I had a chance to see this commitment first hand last June, when I was asked to moderate a panel of global entrepreneurs on the 70th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. In addition to Michael Dell, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined us, addressing a core group of start-up entrepreneurs, urging them to mobilize their fellow entrepreneurs to help support new business formation globally.
According to Dell, the world needs 600 million new jobs by 2025 to handle the growing working age population. Those jobs, he points out, aren’t likely to come from big corporations like Dell, but instead from entrepreneurs and small businesses.
As an example of the kinds of government policies that can help support entrepreneurs and build new businesses, Gore points to crowdfunding, which was adopted in the 2013 Title 2 JOBS Act. “That’s a $16 billion new source of capital in the next two years,” said Gore. She further explains that new policies like these can open up greater opportunities for those who may not have traditionally had the same access to capital or markets. “Sixty-five percent of crowdfunding is going to women. That’s a game changer.”
“Nothing will build a country out of poverty more quickly than jobs,” said Gore. “And entrepreneurs create 70-90% of jobs worldwide. In turn, that supports building a health infrastructure, leads to better governance, and focuses on what people need to succeed.”
Gore points out that entrepreneurs are not merely creating jobs, but are changing how problems are being addressed and solved.
“In the developing world, entrepreneurs are the ones who are monetizing social solutions,” Gore explained, “instead of the traditional model of addressing social problems by non-profits bringing in ideas from different countries. Entrepreneurs see a problem, figure out a local solution, and find a way to make money from that as well – whether it’s waste removal, health care, education. Entrepreneurs are going to be the ones who help us achieve all the other 17 UN goals.”
Gore is particularly dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs.
“Whether in Silicon Valley or Nigeria, women put 90% of their income back in to their community. Men put only 35-40% back in,” she said. “The day women open their business they start to think about their triple bottom line (people, planet, profits).”
“What I’m concerned about is the issues women face when opening their business,” said Gore. “How they get access to capital. It’s very different in different countries, whether it’s banking, loans, venture capital, micro-finance. In some countries women are not even allowed to have bank accounts without their husband or father’s permission.”
What can entrepreneurs do now to drive support for global and US policies that will help them launch and grow?
“The number one thing is to start talking about what they need – get on social media, use the hashtag #EntrepreneursUN,” Gore urged. “If you have a suggestion for a new way to tax, or what you need for your talent pipeline. It’s a platform to have entrepreneurs tell us their policy needs.”
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on October 9, 2015