The Evolution of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Canada
Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurship. First celebrated in 2007 by 18 countries, the initiative has grown to include 165 countries and over 15,000 partner organizations and this year, over 10 million people around the world will come together to celebrate.
Futurpreneur Canada (formerly the Canadian Youth Business Foundation) is proud to be the official Canadian Host of GEW for the eighth year in a row, and in celebration, we have pulled together some highlights from the GEW Canada archives.
Canada’s first GEW celebration was held in 2009. That first year, 166 partners officially signed on to celebrate GEW Canada by hosting events in their communities with many more joining the campaign as supporters. As the official host of GEW, Futurpreneur Canada presented several high profile initiatives and events including an entrepreneur showcase with HRH the Prince of Wales and a national Mentoring Challenge. With all the efforts Futurpreneur Canada put into their first year as host, they were thrilled to win the Country of the Year award at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress for this inaugural campaign.
In 2010, Futurpreneur Canada officially launched GEW with a Day on the Hill in Ottawa featuring a roundtable, press conference and a meet-and-greet. Hundreds of partners came on board to host GEW events and thanks to a partnership with Enactus Canada(formerly ACE), GEW was celebrated at over 200 universities.
The same year, Futurpreneur Canada ran two online campaigns in celebration of GEW, The Great Canadian Mentoring Challenge, a forum for mentors to share tips and advice to young entrepreneurs and Show Us Your Inner Entrepreneur, a campaign that encouraged Canadians to share their stories of entrepreneurship through videos, postcards and photos.
2010 also marked the year that Futurpreneur Canada hosted the inaugural G20 Young Entrepreneur’s Alliance Summit in Toronto which brought together more than 200 young entrepreneurs and leaders from around the world to have discussions on how to advance youth entrepreneurship.
2011 was a special year because Futurpreneur Canada worked with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the federal government to proclaim 2011 the official Year of the Entrepreneur. This designation meant that a spotlight was aimed at entrepreneurship throughout the year and elevated the local GEW events and celebrations. In this same year there was the launch of the first official GEW city campaign with Ottawa’s entrepreneurship community coming together to host events and competitions in celebration of GEW.
The 2011 campaign was centered on Futurpreneur Canada’s new flagship digital initiative: YOU Innovate Canada, a national tournament that challenged Canadians to create value from an everyday household object – the coffee cup. The goal was to demonstrate that while a great business ideas can come from looking at an ordinary thing in an extraordinary way, a great business comes from creating value from that idea. The grand prize was a trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Liverpool, UK for the winning team.
In 2012, GEW was officially launched at Startup Weekend events across the country with thousands of participants tweeting launch messages. Futurpreneur Canada also signed on in partnership with Startup Canada to launch the Canadian Mentorship Challenge, a nationwide challenge that encouraged groups across the country to organize mentorship events in their communities in an effort to collectively mentor more than 10,000 enterprising Canadians during GEW.
This year also saw the launch of an important post-secondary campaign: Dawson College eWeek. This campaign includes a jam-packed schedule of events and activities open to students and the community. The University of New Brunswick and Trent University also demonstrated leadership by hosting a GEW event series for their students.
Following the success of YOU Innovate Canada in 2011, the contest was re-launched in 2012 with over 100 teams creating innovative new businesses using egg cartons. The winning team joined Futurpreneur Canada at an awards gala recognizing young entrepreneurs and at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2013, Canada built on the momentum of previous years with hundreds of partners coming together to host in-person and online initiatives which were complimented by an overarching theme of “entrepreneurial storytelling” and Futurpreneur Canada’s national campaign called Hello, My Name Is. The goal of this campaign was to showcase the many faces of entrepreneurship and Canadians were invited to join an online meet-up to hear stories from established entrepreneurs and to share their own.
A second national campaign, The Canadian Mentorship Challenge was once again hosted by Futurpreneur Canada and Startup Canada during GEW and included nearly 100 events.
In addition to these national campaigns, hundreds of partners and supporters from coast to coast came together to host events in their communities and to join the celebration on social media. Durham Region launched an important region-wide GEW campaign and event series called Do It in Durham which continues to run today.
In 2014, Futurpreneur Canada challenged Canadian cities to battle for the title of Canada’s Most Entrepreneurial City by competing to see who could host the most GEW events. Having held the top spot for the last two years, Ottawa was the challenger to beat. After a close race between several cities, Vancouver took home the title by hosting a record breaking 85 events during GEW and an additional 29 events in the surrounding weeks. A national record was broken this year as well with partners across Canada hosting 536 events in celebration of GEW!
For the first time in Canada, Futurpreneur Canada hosted Get in the Ring, a featured event of GEW. This exciting competition is part pitch competition and part boxing match with founders facing off in a boxing ring to determine who would represent North America at the international finals in the Netherlands. Five Canadian start-ups participated in the regional finals hosted by the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. The North American champion was Spot on Sciences from Texas and we are proud to share that the runner-up prize went to Asif Khan, founder of Maieutic Enterprises from Waterloo, ON.
In 2015, GEW reached the 160 country mark – the largest celebration yet! To support the Canadian celebrations, Futurpreneur Canada developed a new marquee initiative, the GEW Canada: On the Road contest. We asked Canadians to tell us why they felt they should be selected as a GEW Ambassador, tasked with a mission to show the world what entrepreneurship looks like in Canada. A panel of judges selected three young entrepreneurs to travel around the country and report live on social media as they attended GEW events, met with entrepreneurs and mentors and joined elected officials to raise the GEW Canada flag.
The GEW Canada City Battle once again challenged communities to come together to demonstrate their leadership by celebrating GEW. As part of the Do it in Durhaminitiative, Whitby was highlighted for hosting the most entrepreneurial events per capita with 28 events and Ottawa who hosted the most events overall with over 83 events. Shortly behind was Sherbrooke who hosted 27 events.
Government support for GEW was especially strong in 2015 with a record number of support statements and activities. In addition to the municipal level support for flag raisings, seven provinces issued statements in support of GEW, consisting of press releases and minister’s statements in the legislature. And at the federal level, the newly elected Prime Minister and Minister of Small Business and Tourism released official statements in support of GEW 2015.
We invite you to join Futurpreneur Canada, as the Canadian host for the eighth consecutive year, and our incredible partners as we celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week.