U.S. President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that Silicon Valley will be the next host for the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The annual conference, which first took place in Washington, D.C., has since convened innovators and leaders across sectors in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Morocco, and most recently, Kenya. This summer, Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to join 1,000 attendees in “the birthplace of modern innovation.”
"The White House is excited to bring Global Entrepreneurship Summit to Silicon Valley to showcase the best of America's diverse entrepreneurial spirit and expose the U.S. to incredible entrepreneurs from all corners of the world,” Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council, told Devex in an email ahead of the public announcement.
An event last month organized by the White House, U.S. Agency for International Development, and the State Department in San Francisco may have been a hint at this announcement. The event, titled “Taking Action on Investment in Africa,” was framed as a follow up to this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit. It brought together venture capitalists like Christine Tsai of 500 Startups and social entrepreneurs like Xavier Helgesen of Off Grid Electric. And it built momentum for the idea of bringing GES 2016 to Silicon Valley.
“You are impact ambassadors,” Sarah Heck, who represented the White House at the event, said to an audience of Silicon Valley stakeholders from Google, The African Diaspora Network, Khosla Impact, and elsewhere whom she thanked for “helping us drive our policies forward.”
It is a common adage that while innovation is universal, opportunity is not. In his video announcing GES 2016, which was timed to coincide with Global Entrepreneurship Week, Obama explained how the summit offers unique opportunities for entrepreneurs — particularly those from marginalized communities — to connect with one another, hear feedback on their ideas, and build networks to turn vision into reality.
The tech sector needs to step up to tackle some of the shared global challenges, Ann Mei Chang, director of USAID’s Global Development Lab, told Devex in a recent interview that discussed some of the motivations for increasing USAID partnerships with the tech sector.
“It's not only about the technologies here, but I think it's at least as much about the approach and the speed at which things happen and the energy that people have towards really solving tough problems,” Chang said of Silicon Valley. “And that's the kind of ethos that we want to bring to international development.”
Silicon Valley is no stranger to convenings of entrepreneurs, from a range of mentorship programs bringing tech leaders together with developing country entrepreneurs, to the growth of incubators and accelerators to the annual SOCAP conference. This week, for example, entrepreneurs have to pick and choose between the Lean Startup Conference in San Francisco and the Social Innovation Summit in Redwood City.
But what sets the Global Entrepreneurship Summit apart is its potential to bridge the divide between the East Coast and West Coast global development communities. The event will likely do its best to involve the influential diaspora community, harness the capital and “can do” spirit of Silicon Valley, and unite government and tech to support new ventures that offer promising solutions to global challenges.
Catherine Cheney covers the West Coast global development community for Devex. Since graduating from Yale University, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in political science, Catherine has worked as a reporter and editor for a range of publications including World Politics Review, POLITICO, and NationSwell, a media company and membership network she helped to build. She is also an ambassador for the Solutions Journalism Network and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute.
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