“Godfather of Entrepreneurship” Dr. Zoltan Acs Makes a Point We Can’t Ignore

Published on September 6, 2019

The world’s economy has undergone a rapid shift in past decades to rely on digital technologies and platforms.

With this shift comes the need for societies around the world to adapt, regardless of their development level. To understand how and why different nations are adapting to the rise of digitization, think tanks have emerged that measure digital business and entrepreneurship. Chief among these is the Global Entrepreneurship Development Institute (GEDI), led by Dr. Zoltan Acs. 

Dr. Acs has been called the The Godfather of Entrepreneurship; he is an author, writer, scholar, teacher, social entrepreneur, and the leading advocate for the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in economic growth and social development. 

In the GEDI’s 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index rankings, all five of the Nordic countries were in the top 25: Denmark in 6th place, Iceland in 7th, Sweden in 9th, Finland at 12th, and Norway at 21st. Clearly, the Nordic Way is doing something right when it comes to the digital economy. We talked with Zoltan about the importance of digital entrepreneurship, and the need for all nations to treat digitization as the ongoing industrial revolution it is. 

Grit Daily: Briefly, tell us a bit about the GEDI.

Dr. Zoltan Acs: The GEDI is a global think founded in 2005. It is an educational institution interested in development, technology, and employment through entrepreneurship around the world.

GD: What is digital entrepreneurship, and why is it important?

ZA: Digital entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship that applies this technology to creating efficiency by either creating apps or hardware for digital platforms. If countries do not focus on developing digital entrepreneurship, they will be left behind. You can’t even buy an airplane ticket without digital skills and infrastructure.

GD: Why and how should countries focus on developing their digital economies?

ZA: Digital entrepreneurship is one of four building blocks of the global digital ecosystem. the others are digital platforms, digital citizenship and digital security. To improve their digital entrepreneurship ecosystem, countries need to focus on all four quadrants of the ecosystem. They are all important and each one needs to be in balance with the other three.

GD: What is the future of digital entrepreneurship?

ZA: In a post-modern society, our focus shifts from economics to social issues (LGBTQ and feminism). They so not need digital entrepreneurship. However, most of the world is at a different level of development and they need digital entrepreneurship.

GD: Is the current growth of the digital economy sustainable?

ZA: Yes, it is sustainable however, society can slow it down or stop it if it wants. We are in a struggle between those that want it and those that want to stop it.

Zoltan also noted that looking at the correlation between some of the GEDI’s measures and GDP per capita, adding: “We get a positive relationship for the whole index and all four of its components: users, platforms, entrepreneurship and governance. The challenge is that for a sustainable global digital ecosystem public policy needs to manage the issues of privacy, competition, efficiency and security. They is a lot of disagreement on all of these issues and most of them can’t be solved on a country by country basis.”

GD: How can countries better develop their digital entrepreneurship?

ZA: The measurement of this is important if not key.  We have a global system and we need to figure out how to manage this with the U.S. China and Europe as key players. But Europe needs to be careful so that it does not destroy what it has.

GD: What are a few differences between the digital entrepreneurship environment between the Nordics and the US?

ZA: The question is not so much what the differences are, as we know that Scandinavia can’t grow the platform companies but they can invent and sell this to large US companies.

To illustrate, Dr. Acs mentioned the example of Google Maps, which was originally invented by two Danish brothers named Lars and Jens Rasmussen

GD: Are there any other important thoughts on digital entrepreneurship and digitization that you would like to share with us?

ZA: Digitization is transforming industry after industry.  It is a general purpose technology which means it can be applied everywhere just like electricity was in the last century. So if we ignore it, we won’t be able to understand what is happening.

Avnit Singh is a Columnist at Grit Daily. Based in Copenhagen, Avnit is also the CEO of TechBBQ, the largest startup and innovation summit in Scandinavia. Avnit was born and raised in Denmark but educated around the world, and as an entrepreneur himself he is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of startup life. He is now focusing his career on increasing the profile of the Danish and Nordic startup ecosystems.

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