As founder of the world’s first digital parliament in 2012 – Democratus, I think I’m well placed to talk about innovation and digitalisation. However, I had never considered the reasons behind US dominance in innovation and entrepreneurship until my last journey to the States.
I was honoured to be chosen as one of the fellows of Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI), to explore US innovation ecosystems & policies, and contribute towards co-operation across transatlantic barriers. YTILI is one of the leading fellowship programs of German Marshall Fund, which aims to strengthen the alliance between US and Europe.
The selection process was difficult and very competitive. There were thousands of applicants across Europe; and GMF chose 100 young leaders for 2017-2018 after a long process including reference letters, statement of purposes, interviews etc. YTILI Fellows were invited to attend a 21-day program in US: 3 days in Washington DC for orientation and focus on US policies; and a 2 week stay in a host city for field observations.
In Washington DC, we were hosted in a hotel at the centre of the city and our program began in the Department of State and GMF buildings. The seminars in GMF about the entrepreneurship ecosystem in DC and preparing a successful presentation were very useful. However, the sessions at the Department of State could have been improved if policies of federal government to support entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems were mentioned.
After the orientation program in DC, I travelled to my host city, Seattle, with 6 other fellows and we were guests of an incubation centre, which works with the University of Washington. Seattle is a distinctive city in terms of entrepreneurship and innovation. Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Boeing (its headquarters are in another city, now) are located in Seattle; and the city is the second biggest innovation hub in the US after San Francisco. On the other hand, Seattle is the most efficient American city in terms of funds available into the ecosystem and number of successful enterprises bushing out according to U.S. Small Business Administration.
My experiences and thoughts on American dominance in innovation and entrepreneurship in comparison to the rest of the World are as follows:
- Right of property is very strong in US. You can not only protect your scientific formulas with a patent but also you can have intellectual property rights about your way of doing business. So, most of the inventions have been created, protected and so appreciated in US easily.
- Successful entrepreneurs and business professionals are very open to help a fresher, who needs a help to develop her/his enterprise. I call this concept: ‘’open diplomacy’’. You can easily ask a businessperson to take a coffee together and chat quickly about your projects. So, this conversation may help your business. As a result, most people in the ecosystem are using some smart phone applications like Shapr, which is an app to meet inspiring businesspersons and entrepreneurs thanks to matches like a popular dating app, Tinder, did.
- Americans are responsibility oriented people, contrary to most of Europeans emphasizing their rights at the first. Government gives credit to its citizens and trusts them at the beginning instead of being suspicious of them.
- US Small Business Administration, which is an agency of federal government to support SME’s, are working very effectively. When US Government initiates a tender, it always sets some quotas for SME’s and all process are governed very transparently.
- Research universities especially are the natural centres of innovation and entrepreneurship. Because they have a total ecosystem containing investors, incubators, accelerators and motivated students and scholars. The system allows people to create value and benefit its monetary gain.