An Indiana delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Melbourne, Australia yielded a tech and entrepreneurship coup for the Hoosier state when Senior Vice President for Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, David Watkins, announced that the 2025 Global Entrepreneurship Congress will be hosted by the state of Indiana. 

In September, 15 members of the Indiana tech & entrepreneurship ecosystem and I had an opportunity to travel to Melbourne, Australia to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Congress hosted by the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN.) This convening of representatives from more than 200 countries highlighted organizations and individuals building local entrepreneurship ecosystems. Through a series of panels and networking events, we discussed the ways we roll up our sleeves to push entrepreneurship forward in our communities and how we can increase the impact of our work. 

One key theme that stuck out to me across all the panels was collaboration. Ecosystems thrive when stakeholders across private business, political groups, not-for-profits, academia and cultural organizations all come together to put the entrepreneur first. In his opening remarks, Jonathan Ortmans, President of GEN, shared that entrepreneurial ecosystems outside Silicon Valley often feel overshadowed and don’t have the scale to gain visibility and support. He encouraged attendees to collaborate by creating a global ecosystem where regions big and small could work together to overcome this obstacle. The theme of collaboration continued across the sessions throughout the week. 

In a session on building entrepreneurship ecosystems in small cities, Heidi Renata of Innov8hq in Aotearoa, New Zealand dove deeper on how we can change our mental model around constrained opportunity. She shared how she identified the superpowers of her own small community and harnessed them to build the ecosystem. Heidi stated, “In smaller communities, we have a DIY mentality driven by lack of outside resources. Collaboration becomes necessary as we attempt to do more with less.” She identified her work building an entrepreneurial ecosystem taught her partnerships were key to driving connectivity in her community. 

In the same panel, Stefanie Jordt, Director of Entrepreneurial Development at Flensburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany discussed the importance of university collaboration with local entrepreneurial support organizations to drive wholistic change in a community. She said collaborating with a local university can create a sense of innovation density which inspires others to begin innovating themselves. “In small communities, we need to use the power of our voice to influence others and build upon each other’s successes.” 

Mahlatse Tolamo is the Ecosystem Enabler at 22 On Sloane in South Africa. In her panel on “Voices for Next Generation Ecosystems,” she discussed how GEN’s involvement enabled her to collaborate and be inspired by ecosystem builders world-wide. “We are never done bringing new people to the table.” Stated Tolamo, “The more we can build a global network the more our local entrepreneurs can visualize success.” 

At the heart of all of this collaboration, however, it’s critical that we as ecosystem builders and supporters don’t forget the most important partner in our community: the entrepreneurs themselves. In their panels “Supporting Founders on the Front Lines” and “Building an Ecosystem for Emerging and Innovative Food Technology,” both Ole Kristian Sivertsen, President and Group CEO of Desert Control, and Anna Haldewang, Founder & CEO of Indiana-based startup InsightTRAC, mentioned the importance of mentors and supporters treating founders as human beings rather than seeing them as just their company. Anna mentioned Mitch Frazier, President & CEO of AgriNovus often calls her just to check in, and how those calls can bring her motivation even on the hardest days. Success of our local entrepreneurs is reliant on the strength of our ecosystem, and the strength of the ecosystem is built around the level of collaboration we have with the entrepreneurs themselves. 

At the end of the conference, the Indiana delegation had the honor of standing beside the Indiana Economic Development Corporation as they announced Indiana will host the 2025 Global Entrepreneurship Congress! Collaboration is natural to our community and I have no doubt we will double down by working together to host a transformational event.