The Global Entrepreneurship Network announced the seven finalists for the Startup Nations Award for National Policy Leadership. The award recognizes individuals who champion broad and large-scale efforts that have a positive impact on a national ecosystem and work to advance new and young firm formation – either in their country or abroad.

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 Dr. Choi Yanghee, minister of science, ICT and future planning from South Korea, received the award.

The other two Startup Nations Awards are Groundbreaking Policy Thinking and Local Policy Leadership. Finalists for both awards have been previously announced.

“These innovative startup champions have dedicated their public sector careers to developing and implementing strategies to remove national roadblocks to entrepreneurship by pulling policy levers,” said Cristina Fernandez, director for policy and research for the Global Entrepreneurship Network. “The Selection Committee chose these finalists for their high-impact, innovative efforts on a national level that encourage entrepreneurs to start and scale, and display promise – or in some cases are already proven – to be replicable initiatives for other nations.”

The Selection Committee evaluated nominations based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity in the identification of the bottleneck(s) affecting the national ecosystem
  • Level of innovativeness of the specific policy lever(s) or program idea(s)
  • Level of personal commitment to shifting national government thinking on entrepreneurship policy
  • 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 national ecosystems

This year, the seven finalists for the National Policy Leadership Award each come from four different continents, and have contributed to their community as a startup champion through a variety of initiatives ranging from startup visa programs to help bring new entrepreneurs into traditional industries, to creating financial vehicles and tax incentives to help startups emerge and grow.

Below are the seven finalists for the 2016 Startup Nations Award for National Policy Leadership.


Dr. Harald Mahrer
State Secretary for Science, Research and Economy, Government of Austria

Since taking office in September 2014, State Secretary Mahrer has focused his efforts toward turning Austria into an innovation hubspot via a decisive, comprehensive policy approach. The 40 policy instruments Dr. Mahrer and his team have designed are tackling clearly-identified barriers to entrepreneurship with solutions that are based on other countries’ experiences. Dr. Mahrer’s impressive commitment to enabling an entrepreneurial economy are captured in his decisive action: Austria’s new package of reforms and programs went from articulation to implementation in just two years. The full implementation of the Austrian “start-up nation strategy” has the potential to create 100,000 new jobs by 2020.


João Pedro Vasconcelos
Secretary of State of Industry, Government of Portugal

Mr. Vasconcelos has worked to elevate entrepreneurship on national economic and social policy agendas. Upon taking public office, Vasconcelos acted swiftly to present a Startup Portugal program to tackle barriers to entrepreneurship. A unique component of the Startup Portugal program is its attention to potential entrepreneurs without social connections, that can help them raise funds for their startups. By strengthening the links among universities, youth centers, business incubators and private corporations, he created a package of resources that include grants, housing and incubation. The program includes 20 different public policy measures, with attention on expanding alternative financing sources via tax incentives, network creations, and angel co-investment funds.


Adan Mohamed
Cabinet Secretary for Ministry of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Government of Kenya

Mr. Mohamed has devoted his public sector career to ease doing business in Kenya, illustrating how seemingly simple regulatory changes can unleash a more entrepreneurial economy. His high-impact reforms to reduce the obstacles and time required to start and run a business can be replicated across many countries. The scale of the challenge Mr. Mohammed faced is evident in the World Bank’s Doing Business indicators where Kenya ranked 128 (out of 189 economies) in 2015, rising 21 positions in the 2016 global rank. The greater ease of doing business demanded tasking efforts to coordinate reforms across various ministries and government agencies. As a result, different government services are now available via a single online platform.


Bagrat Yengibaryan
Director, Enterprise Incubator Foundation

Dr. Yengibaryan has assisted the government of Armenia with ICT policy articulation and implementation, which resulted in the establishment of ICT centers to run acceleration programs and teach IT skills. These Centers are located across the country, thus decentralizing the concentration of IT resources countrywide to allow for regional development. At the same time, he promoted expanded financial vehicles through grants and Armenia’s first venture fund, as well as by advocating targeted tax incentives for IT startups, which are now being implemented via a 2015-ratified law. Dr. Yengibaryan’s contributions to policy and private sector instruments that address the entire ICT business cycle catapulted Armenia’s startup movement, and create many high-value startups with international exposure.


Pichet Durongkaveroj
Minister of Science and Technology, Government of Thailand

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.


Ileana A. Rogel
El Salvador
Executive Director, National Commission for Micro and Small Enterprises (CONAMYPE) at the Ministry of Economy, Government of El Salvador

Mrs. Rogel is a leader working to unleash the largely untapped startup potential in El Salvador from a perspective of local ecosystem activation and gender. As executive director of the CONAMYPE, Mrs. Rogel is the mastermind behind the development and approval of national entrepreneurship policies in El Salvador. Mrs. Rogel is the author of a law for the promotion, protection and development of SMEs, which sets a framework for broad-based action in favor of entrepreneurs – such as enabling the inclusion of SMEs in government procurement and establishing the Salvadorian entrepreneurship brand "El Salvador Emprende.” Mrs. Cruz is also recognized as the leader of initiatives to attract a greater number of women entrepreneurs via strategic programs.


Nguyen Quan
Former Minister of Science and Technology, Government of Vietnam

As Minister of Science and Technology during the August 2011 to April 2016 period, Dr. Quan became the first cabinet-level policymaker in Vietnam to focus on the entrepreneurship ecosystem, with a vision of elevating the number of innovative enterprises. Via the Law on Science and Technology of 2013, and several successfully approved decrees, he is credited for enabling 3,000 scientific and technological enterprises among a total 500,000 operating enterprises in Vietnam in December 2015 – an unprecedented ratio. Dr. Quan’s team at the Ministry organized and supported hundreds of events to promote innovative startups. Beyond individual events that build cultural capital and provide entrepreneurs connections, these initiatives were part of broader programs to help transfer patents and university research results to enterprises.