Closing GEW in Belgium
Jonathan Ortmans @jortmans
Nov 18, 2012
I am closing my Global Entrepreneurship Week tour in the home to several major European universities—Belgium. I was honored to deliver a talk for students at JADE’s Junior Enterprise Challenge 2012 Closing Ceremony in Louvain-la-Neuve.
As I told the students who participated in this competition, an important challenge is to break away from the typical path of graduates—service businesses or public affairs. Until recently, the majority of Belgians still respond in surveys that becoming an entrepreneur had not even crossed their minds as an option. However, the crowd of students at the Closing Ceremony and better participation throughout GEW in competitions (e.g. Startup Weekend Liege) and events (e.g. TEDxBrussels) signal that we might get different results in the future. This year, GEW/Belgium won the support of Kris Peeters, the current Minister-President of Flanders, the northern region of Belgium.
For now, it is no secret that Belgium does not have a thriving entrepreneurship scene. I learned of some activity, but there is still a heavy top-down culture here and plenty of division, tribal attitudes and multi-layered government. Policymakers are looking for best practices and we intend to respond in a positive way with a new and stronger bottom-up GEW/Belgium for 2013.
With the future holding more and more uncertainty for European economies, Belgium would be wise to lead in prompting more attention to the economic importance of new firm formation among EU bureaucrats. Belgians did join others working on this at the European Training Foundation’s Excellence in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Skills on November 15 & 16 in Brussels. This conference engaged practitioners and policymakers from 31 countries in a critical review of methods and tools for entrepreneurship and enterprise skills. Stay tuned for the set of recommendations that emerged for more systematic identification, quality assurance and dissemination of good practices.
Belgium has great minds, great universities, and enough people clearly pushing for cultural acceptance of entrepreneurship as a career path. In the meantime, I charge students to build on the Week’s momentum and enlarge bottom-up support for entrepreneurs.
Stay tuned for plenty more next week as we take a broader look at what happened around the world.