What the World's Best Entrepreneurs Have in Common

I recently returned from the World Entrepreneurship Forum in Lyon, France, where I had a chance to mix and mingle with some of the best entrepreneurs on the planet. In attendance were businessmen from Britain, entrepreneurs from Africa, and experts from Asia, begging the question:

What do they have in common, if anything?

Consider the stark contrast between two of the award winners at the event:

The winner of the Entrepreneur for the World award was Liu Chuanzhi, the chairman of Lenovo. Lenovo, as you likely know, had the temerity to think a Chinese company could buy and operate IBM's venerable Thinkpad division. It did, and became a global brand in the process.

Seemingly in stark contrast was the winner of the Social Entrepreneur for the World, Ela Bhatt, the co-founder of Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) in India. SEWA has mobilized over a million poor women and empowered them through entrepreneurship. Bhatt is also one of the founders of Women's World Banking, and a founding member of The Elders, a group of world leaders initiated by Nelson Mandela.

Do these two disparate entrepreneurs have anything in common? I submit that their similarities far outweigh any seeming differences. What both Mr. Liu and Ms. Bhatt understand is that we are living in the entrepreneurial age. Indeed, their respective countries -- China and India -- have added billions of new consumers and small business people to the global marketplace in just the past generation.

They know that entrepreneurship changes lives and that entrepreneurship is changing the planet. It brought hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty and is doing the same thing in India. It fosters a middle class, promotes social stability, and creates a tax base.

Entrepreneurship is the rising global economic tide that is lifting all boats, and that is true whether you are a newly-minted Chinese millionaire, an Indian woman who is fond of quoting Gandhi, or a small business person in the U.S.

We are all in this boat together.