Orlando Perez is the Director of the National Entrepreneurship Program for The Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology of the Dominican Republic. He also serves as an adviser of the Entrepreneurship Commission of The National Association of Young Businessmen of the Dominican Republic and a Board Member of ENLACES Angel Investors Network.
Additionally, Perez is the Executive Director of EMPRENDE Technology Business Incubator, the official GEW host organization.
With Global Entrepreneurship Week less than a month away, Perez shared his thoughts with us on the importance of building healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems, the value of events during GEW regardless of size and what lies ahead for GEW 2014 in the Dominican Republic.
When and how did you first get involved in Global Entrepreneurship Week?
Back in 2008, I heard about a global movement that was launching called Global Entrepreneurship Week and was immediately curious to learn more about it. This turned out to be the starting point of a very exciting relationship not only GEW Global, but with a great group of individuals that promote entrepreneurship in over 150 countries.
Why is Global Entrepreneurship Week important—overall and to the Dominican Republic, specifically?
In the case of the Dominican Republic, GEW has definitely given members of the Dominican entrepreneurial ecosystem an opportunity to engage with other partners as well as grab the attention of government, industry, academic and business leaders, creating a unique chance to discuss future scenarios of collaboration.
GEW has become the catalyst of many future collaboration efforts between partners. In fact, partner relations in the ecosystem are stronger and more active as a result of their active participation in GEW planning.
How has GEW grown in the Dominican Republic?
Over the past five years, our numbers have continued to climb. Each year, we get more partners, more activities and more people engaged throughout the country. We even got Congress to declare November 12 as "National Entrepreneur Day," a date that was inspired by the GEW Global movement.
Are there challenges or barriers that you would like to overcome to increase participation in GEW?
Some of our partners worry that their events aren't big enough when compared to other events in the Dominican Republic. We have even had some partners pull out from hosting events under the belief that that won't get enough attention due to their size. We constantly remind partners that the size of their event is irrelevant because whether they are reaching 10 participants, 100 participants or 1,000, they are spreading the word about entrepreneurship.
What events are you most looking forward to for GEW 2014?
There are a number of exciting events to look out for in the Dominican Republic starting with "Feria de Emprendedores II," a two-day event that will gather over 14,000 participants. This event will take place in one of our largest malls, reaching people who might not otherwise have participated in GEW. During the panels, workshops, keynote address and other activities, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with business and industry executives as well as representatives from the government and academic sectors.
The US Embassy in the Dominican Republic will be organizing a new event, “The Ambassador’s Entrepreneurship Roundtable." The Ambassador will host a discussion of best practices for and challenges to entrepreneurship here in the Dominican Republic while offering his own personal insights based on his private sector background. This event is an opportunity to bring together key members of the business community to promote entrepreneurship as a vehicle for economic growth.
Another key event for this year’s GEW campaign is the sixth annual Business Plan Competition Awards Ceremony, organized by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology. This event celebrates the participation of over 100 students from 18 universities that competed in the event for seed capital.
GEW global is placing a focus on business angels this year with Global Business Angels Day and the Dominican Republic is on board. ENLACES Angel Investors Network of the Dominican Republic will be hosting an event called "Meet The Angels", where entrepreneurs, angel investors and members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem gather in an informal atmosphere, creating a positive environment for networking and pitching ideas.
Junior Achievement Dominicana will kick-off the week with the inauguration of the most ambitious project of entrepreneurship education in the history of the Dominican Republic. This program impacts over 20,000 students and is part of "Alerta Joven", under USAID. The Ambassador of the United States and the Director of USAID will be participating.
What are the key differences between entrepreneurship in a developed nation and entrepreneurship in a developing country?
Developing countries often face a lack of understanding with regards to the concept of creating an ecosystem with clear goals and mechanisms, as well as the limits of where government, industry and academics must reach.
What has been the most impactful public sector effort to unleash entrepreneurs?
The higher education sector in the Dominican Republic has championed entrepreneurship efforts for many years. Government officials from other areas such as Industry and Commerce have also played a key role in creating a vibrant ecosystem.
What makes your GEW campaign unique?
The entrepreneurial environment in the Dominican Republic is very vibrant, and it evolves with each passing year. As a result, we are starting to see more creative and un-conventional events that are raising the profile of the week by getting the general public interested.