Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Thomas Nides
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources 
As Prepared for Delivery
Washington, DC
November 15, 2012

Thank you, Karen, for that introduction, and for your partnership with the State Department. And thank you to Secretary Albright for her exceptional leadership, both in government and now with Partners for a New Beginning, which is a really important effort. And to Ben Rhodes, whose leadership on all things related to entrepreneurship has made today happen. And of course, thanks to all of you who are here today. As someone whose career has included both business and government, let me say: it’s great to see my old and new lives collide in the same room.

We all understand that diplomacy keeps America safe and strong – and if you didn’t before hearing from Madeleine Albright, you do now. And we all recognize that entrepreneurs keep America vital and resilient. It’s part of our national story – an immigrant might start a small business; his daughter might transform the Internet.

But why are we – diplomats and entrepreneurs – here together today? I thought I’d use my brief remarks to explore why we belong together.

Let me start with why President Obama, Secretary Clinton and I all care about entrepreneurship. The short answer is that entrepreneurship is at the heart of what we call Economic Statecraft, the idea that economic tools can advance our foreign policy, and that our foreign policy can accelerate economic renewal. Let me explain.

First, we can’t have stable societies without economic opportunity, and nothing creates opportunity like entrepreneurship. Consider this: just to maintain current rates of unemployment, which are already too high, the Middle East needs to create 50 to 100 million jobs by 2020. We can’t get there without unleashing entrepreneurship. Focusing young people on what they can build together – peacefully—is in everyone’s interest.

Second, promoting entrepreneurship plays to America’s strengths. Our entrepreneurship is admired around the world, even by people who dislike our politics. In my travels, I get asked all the time: how do we create the next Silicon Valley in our country? Bringing innovative people together helps us bridge divides and build richer, stronger ties across borders.

Third, many of our biggest global problems can only be solved through massive, distributed innovation - think climate change, hunger and public health.

Finally, our focus reflects shared values. Entrepreneurship thrives where what you know matters more than who you know. Entrepreneurs are natural champions of these ideals; they crave space for creativity and possibility. These aren’t just economic ideals. They are political ideals too. Not just American ideals, but universal ones, and entrepreneurs are among their strongest advocates.

So our foreign policy is focusing on entrepreneurs—through Secretary Clinton’s Economic Statecraft, President Obama’s Global Engagement agenda and many other efforts. But why should entrepreneurs care what diplomats have to say? What’s in it for them?

A few thoughts. First, entrepreneurs can’t always go it alone. Whether they know it or not, they need open, free, and fair regulatory systems and policy environments that favor risk-taking. They need a business climate that makes it easy to start a business and get financing; where legal certainty increases investor confidence; and where failure is just part of the experience, not the end of a career.

We promote these conditions around the world every day in our work with foreign governments. We support entrepreneurship when we fight to prevent favoritism for state-owned companies, when we prevent piracy of intellectual property, and when we fight corruption. Hundreds of economic officers stationed at American Embassies and consulates around the world wake up every day asking themselves how they can help people like you.

Second, believe it or not, we are innovating in how we do diplomacy, using new tools to promote entrepreneurship around the world. We’ve sponsored countless delegations of entrepreneurs, technologists, and venture capitalists to connect investors with projects, launch business competitions that will spark creativity, and shine a light on people who are making a difference. This is not traditional diplomacy—and I think that’s a good thing.

Finally, we are bringing entrepreneurs together at conferences like this one to exchange ideas, make contacts, and send a simple message: entrepreneurship is important and we are here to help.

This week is a chance to call attention to what you’ve been doing and to get people excited about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit next month in Dubai. Over one thousand entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, academics, NGOs, foundations, corporations and, yes, diplomats - will gather to accelerate our work together. I want to thank the government of the UAE for their leadership on this event.

As Secretary Clinton has said, “Talent is universal; but unfortunately, opportunity is not.” Entrepreneurship is one of our best tools to create opportunity for everyone. 

And on that point, I’d like to introduce UAE Minister Gergawi, who has been a prime mover in fostering entrepreneurship in Dubai, supervising the launch of many innovative projects including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Knowledge Village and the Dubai Press Club. It is a great honor and pleasure to welcome you to Washington, Mohammed.