Global Leaders Presented with Startup Nations Awards for Advancing Entrepreneurship Policies

Policymakers and experts from Argentina, Thailand, Colombia and the United States recognized for their contributions to entrepreneurs

Written By Mark Marich, Global Entrepreneurship Network

The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) honored four individuals at the Startup Nations Summit for their leadership in implementing innovative public policies and programs to help entrepreneurs start and scale new businesses in their countries and around the world.

The winners were: Dr. Hugo Kantis of Argentina for the Statup Nations Award for Groundbreaking Policy Thinking; María José Vengoechea of Colombia for the Startup Nations Award for Local Policy Leadership; Pichet Durongkaverojof Thailand for the Startup Nations Award for National Policy Leadership; and Maria Contreras-Sweet of the United States for the Startup Nations Award for Global Policy Leadership.

“As governments become more sophisticated in engaging with startup communities, the work being done by these leaders serve as examples on how to build and strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems everywhere,” said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

Groundbreaking Policy Thinking Award

Dr. Hugo Kantis
Director, Entrepreneurship Development Program (PRODEM)

Dr. Kantis was recognized for devoting his career to narrowing the knowledge and talent gaps to foster high-impact entrepreneurship ecosystems in the Latin American region. Specifically, he has led a multi-pronged effort to shift the policy mindset of a whole continent from a focus on microenterprises towards the more ambitious aim of promoting dynamic entrepreneurship from a systemic perspective. His achievements elevated the concept of evidence-based policymaking, as well as encouraged regular regional knowledge exchange to more effectively support entrepreneurs.

Local Policy Leadership Award


Photo Credit: Hernando Trinidad ‏@Nando_Trinidad

María José Vengoechea
Executive President, Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce

Vengoechea saw an opportunity for developing organic high-growth entrepreneurship in her city, Barranquilla. Under
her leadership, the Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce became the main ally of the city’s efforts for entrepreneurs, developing new metrics. To broker an ecosystem-wide process, the Chamber worked on closing existing gaps within the entrepreneurial pipeline in the city, such as attracting acceleration talent, expanding financing sources and matching support entities with relevant startups. It is expected that by the end of 2016, the region will have at least 200 new startups with high growth potential.

National Policy Leadership Award

Pichet Durongkaveroj
Minister of Science and Technology, Government of Thailand


Photo Credit: Gerard O’Donovan ‏@gerard_odonovan

Dr. Pichet is spearheading the Startup Thailand national program with a vision towards enhancing the nation’s capabilities to develop, promote and sustain startup businesses as new engines of growth. The program encompasses several policy dimensions from raising entrepreneurial awareness, transforming universities across the country into entrepreneurial universities, developing support schemes for startups, and enacting new regulations to strengthen startup ecosystem. The program’s initial implementation phase spans October 2015 to September 2017. However, Dr. Pichet’s policy contributions date back a few decades in various capacities of policy formulation, development, and management in the areas of education, ICT and innovation.


Global Policy Leadership Award


Photo Credit: Maria Contreras-Sweet @MCS4Biz

Maria Contreras-Sweet
United States
Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration

Contreras-Sweet launched an annual Ministerial as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Congress to gather ministers responsible for startup policies for a high-level discussion on how best to support entrepreneurs. The Ministerial has been held in Milan, Italy (2015), Medellin, Colombia (2016) and will next be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in March 2017. As the head of the SBA, Contreras-Sweet oversees the world’s largest seed fund and the largest middle market fund of funds, as well as a $120 billion loan portfolio. The agency also directs the world’s largest business counseling network and one-quarter of U.S. federal procurement activity to small businesses.

The awards were presented at the Startup Nations Summit in Cork, Ireland, which gathered policymakers, advisors and startup community leaders from more than 70 countries to exploring innovative regulatory changes and policy ideas to help enable high impact entrepreneurship and stimulate entrepreneurial growth around the world.

The Summit serves as the official conclusion of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a week-long celebration of entrepreneurship with more than 35,000 events and roughly 10 million participants in 165 countries.

*Credit to Mark Marich of Global Entrepreneurship Network: Adaption from website*