Washington, D.C. – The Global Entrepreneurship Network announced four finalists for the Startup Nations Award for Local Policy Leadership. The award recognizes public sector achievement at the local level in championing innovative policies or programs that advance new and young firm formation.

The award is one of three Startup Nations Awards that will be presented at the Startup Nations Summit Gala on Saturday, Nov. 19, in Cork, Ireland. The winner will be the second recipient of the award, which was first introduced last year at SNS Monterrey when Bart De Wever, mayor of Antwerp, Belgium, took home the award. Mayor De Wever will be in Ireland to present the award to the next winner of this category.

The other two Startup Nations Awards are Groundbreaking Policy Thinking – with finalists announced last week – and National Policy Leadership, which will be announced Oct. 13.

“These innovative and keen minds from all over the world are helping to shape an environment for the future of entrepreneurs in their local communities – fostering economic growth and paving a way for smart, evidence-based policymaking,” said Cristina Fernandez, director for policy and research for the Global Entrepreneurship Network. “The Selection Committee chose these finalists for their imaginative and impactful efforts at a community, city or regional level that display real promise in replicating these initiatives in other communities.”

The Selection Committee evaluated nominations based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity in the identification of the bottleneck(s) affecting the local ecosystem
  • Level of innovativeness of the specific policy lever(s) or program idea(s)
  • Level of personal commitment to shifting local government thinking on entrepreneurship
  • Extent to which the local effort helped set the example for national level action
  • Availability of metrics or evidence to show the impact of the policymaker’s efforts
  • Extent to which it is possible to replicate efforts, adapting to other policy areas or other ecosystems

This year, the four finalists for the Local Policy Leadership Award each come from a different continent, and have contributed to their community as a startup champion through a variety of initiatives ranging from endeavors to support high-growth entrepreneurship in their cities, to an innovative initiative to integrate refugees into the local entrepreneurial economy.

Below are the four finalists for the 2016 Startup Nations Award for Local Policy Leadership.


María José Vengoechea
Executive President, Barranquilla Chamber of Commerce

Mrs. 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.


Tri Rismaharini
Mayor of Surabaya

Mayor Tri Rismaharini’s, who was named second runner-up by Fortune Magazine for World’s Best Mayor in 2015, has worked to turn her city of Surabaya into a bourgeoning Indonesian metropolis known for its creative industry entrepreneurs. One of her programs, “Economic Heroes of Surabaya,” has empowered more than 5,000 women to build their own enterprises, ranging from fashion and food to handicrafts. Another of her initiatives is Start Surabaya, the first city-level tech startup incubator in Indonesia focused on creative entrepreneurs in the digital industry.


Heather Stafford
United States
Assistant Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Business Oregon

Heather Stafford is an entrepreneur inside government who has championed the Rural Entrepreneurship Development Initiative (REDI) in the state of Oregon, with impressive results. Mrs. Stafford rallied policymakers, funders, local leaders, and investors around the REDI cause. In her career, she has also supported the growth of Oregon's first rural angel investment network of more than 150 investors. In 2015, Heather helped lead a small private-sector team who pioneered Oregon's intrastate crowdfunding exemption rules that allow any Oregon resident to invest in an Oregon crowd-investment seeking company.


Petros Kokkalis
Municipal Councilor, City of Piraeus

In an economic ecosystem where the national GDP has shrunk by 28 percent in the past eight years, and where talent drain has skyrocketed, Mr. Kokkalis has been implementing unique programs in the city of Piraeus. Among the most salient are the “Blue Growth” initiative, a business idea competition and acceleration program to stimulate maritime-related innovative entrepreneurship and sustainable business practices, and the “Earth Refugee” initiative to support refugees arriving at the port of Piraeus. He is frequently active in the local and national ecosystem as a mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, as a judge for Greek and international entrepreneurship competitions, and is an impact investor.