The Art of the Possible

Talent is universal. Access to capital is concentrated.

We are lucky to be surrounded by some of the best and the brightest in the Valley. We also acknowledge that good ideas can come from anywhere and there’s a rising tide of entrepreneurs around the world getting attention.

When the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) kicked off in spring 2010, Uber hadn’t launched yet. Neither had Instagram. Airbnb wouldn’t raise its first venture capital round of $7 million for another six months.

Just consider what’s happened in the intervening years. That is the power of entrepreneurship. The power to fuel economic and social progress.

500 Startups has invested in over 600 companies outside the US, representing more than 60 countries

This administration put an acute focus on entrepreneurship as a lever for growth. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State under Barack Obama, the emphasis shifted “from aid to trade” and investment. The administration, and corporations are rallying to invest more in entrepreneurship, globally.

Facilitated Serendipity

Next month, Silicon Valley is welcoming the 7th annual GES to Stanford University. Technology transcends borders. It has enabled this generation of innovators find their voices... and find their way to the home of startups.

Among those sharing advice with visiting founders will be Airbnb’s Brian Chesky, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, and Instagram’s Marne Levine.

I have visited 56 countries and had the privilege to live and work in 10 of these. Many of them emerging markets that face chronic challenges from poverty to population growth and mobility. During my travels, I have also encountered some incredible entrepreneurs. They have one thing in common: persistence, tenacity, intense courage and curiosity, a disrespect for the status quo, and a burning desire to solve a problem.

Waiting for POTUS at GES 2015 at the United Nations in Nairobi, July 2015

I was also in Nairobi for GES in July 2015 — part of the delegation that accompanied POTUS on that historic visit to Kenya. What an incredible experience. I was wowed by the participants; particularly by the myriad young entrepreneurs committed to inventing something that improves the lives of the people in their home countries. (More from Nairobi here).

Brian Chesky (PAGE Ambassador) in Nairobi with Airbnb hosts at GES 2015

Here’s what struck me: when government and business leaders collaborate to champion innovation, great things happen. Truly — anything is possible.

Collaboration and partnership is the ‘secret sauce’ for innovation to thrive.

When women and men are encouraged to put their talents to work on big issues around healthcare, education, access to finance, agriculture and energy innovation — we are all much better off. Wealth brings freedom.

Inspiration from Akon at GES 2015

While wealth is not distributed equally on this planet, the good news is that the ability to create something meaningful and impactful really is democratic.

The Road to GES

It’s hard not to get excited when you take a closer look at the 625 companies coming to Stanford for GES in June.

Representing 172 countries, 50% are male founders and 50% female. On the topic of jobs and wealth creation — they employ on average 28 people (the median is six) and 41% are bootstrapped. They are bootstrapping all the way to Stanford University to meet all of us at the end of June.

Of the visiting 625, we see that 25% have some seed (or angel) funding and 12% already have their Series A round. As leaders and investors at GES, our job is to grow these numbers and send them home with a renewed sense of possibility. With great power, comes great responsibility (so says Spiderman).

Our job is to make it real. As the organizing and host committee, we posed ourselves some tangible challenges. How do we do more? What if we think big? What else can we achieve together? What legacy can we leave?

With partners like Stripe, Angellist, Endeavor, 500 Startups, Blackbox.vc, Google and Microsoft, the sky is the limit. We are excited to unveil our big ideas in a few weeks, and show support for these entrepreneurs.

Money matters. But so does mentoring. So we are bringing 50 successful investors and founders to GES as mentors to meet the 625 founders and help them with their pitches. Everyone at GES will have an opportunity to contribute and change lives. We are all part of one tribe, after all.

POTUS in Nairobi for GES July 2015