President Obama to host Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2016 at Stanford University

John Hennessy and Rick Stengel

Stanford President John Hennessy meets with Rick Stengel, U.S. State Department undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, at Monday’s announcement that the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be held at Stanford June 22-24. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Stanford University will be a partner and will serve as the venue for the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit with over 1,000 global delegates and hosted by President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department and the White House announced today.

“President Obama has decided to hold the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the heart of American entrepreneurship: Silicon Valley,” said Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Rick Stengel, who appeared with Stanford President John L. Hennessy at an announcement ceremony on campus.  “Today I had the pleasure of joining President Hennessy to announce that the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted by President Obama, will take place on the Stanford campus. As one of the world’s great innovation laboratories, Stanford is an ideal partner to showcase the world’s leading entrepreneurs.”

The summit will be held from June 22-24 in various locations on the Stanford campus. Each of the world’s six regions will be represented by 100 entrepreneurs and will be joined by 100 more from the U.S. The State Department announced that it already has received some 4,500 applications from more than 150 countries.

“We are honored that President Obama has chosen to convene the summit at a university  where we share his dedication to finding solutions to global challenges,” Hennessy said. “We are proud that Stanford will be a partner and serve as the venue for this important global event. Stanford plays a role in the supportive ecosystem that encourages and inspires innovation and creative problem solving. We look forward to welcoming the summit entrepreneurs to what will be a transformative experience.”

Beginning with the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in 2009, President Obama has made the promotion of entrepreneurship a goal of U.S. foreign policy. Last summer, more than 600 entrepreneurs from 120 countries attended the GES in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The idea of entrepreneurship is one of most potent aspects of brand USA around the world. But it’s also much more than that: it is a tool for development, for empowering marginalized groups and for combating violent extremism. It’s vital to creating the conditions for global growth and prosperity, particularly in regions where chaos and war have shattered dreams,” said Stengel.

The Kenya 2015 summit “was one of the best and most inspiring events I’ve participated in during my time in government,” Stengel said. “From the Nigerian educator who has started a peace curriculum that combines Islamic studies with modern science to the Canadian grad students who are devising an algorithm that brings two sides closer in a negotiation, the summit brought together an amazing collection of creative, courageous people, all of whom are working to make the world a better place.”

Stengel spoke at a campus event Monday, “Empowering the World:  Entrepreneurship and the Future of Foreign Policy,” together with Professor Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).

Stengel talked about this year’s GES, which will create new opportunities for investment, partnership, and collaboration; enable American entrepreneurs and investors to connect with international counterparts to form lasting relationships; and highlight entrepreneurship as a means to address some of the most intractable global challenges.

Discussions will focus on “ideas that benefit society, not just trying to become the next Silicon Valley billionaire,” Stengel said. It is an opportunity for “synergy” across different borders and countries and industries, he added.

Innovation and creativity are the qualities of the American brand that resonate around the world today. That and critical thinking are examples of the type of U.S. “soft power” that the State Department can help promote, Stengel said. “We try to make sure there is a level playing field” for entrepreneurs in regard to laws and commerce in the international arena.

The June summit, which will be held in and around the Knight Management Center and the Gunn-SIEPR Building over the course of three days, will put innovative global entrepreneurs together with each other and with entrepreneurs from throughout the Silicon Valley and the United States in numerous workshops and hands-on sessions. McFaul of FSI; Jesper Sorensen, faculty director of the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED); and the Office of Public Affairs are involved in early planning for the event, which is expected to involve a number of Stanford faculty members and students.

“The summit represents what I think of as perhaps the most important power of public diplomacy in the 21st century: the power to convene,” Stengel said. “We look forward to welcoming all the amazing entrepreneurs out there for a gathering that will advance our shared goals of stability, development and peace.”