Global Summit Series

10 Cities, 300+ Thought Leaders, 1 Issue

"Ignite the Experienced Economy"

best exotic marigold hotel

Entrepreneuring Trumps Aging! Dame Judi Dench, Celia Imrie and GIEE's Elizabeth Isele

GIEE teamed with Participant Media (An Inconvenient Truth, Charlie Wilson’s War, Fast Food Nation, The Help, Lincoln) and Fox Searchlight Pictures to design, host, and produce a Global Summit Series on Senior & Multi-Generational Entrepreneurship in 2015. The Summits took place in Dublin, London, Washington, DC, New York City, Brussels, Phoenix, St. Louis, Sydney, Australia, Auckland, New Zealand, and Santiago, Chile. In each city, we invited 25 leaders, representing a cross sector of action-oriented experts from government, banking, microfinance, business, education, foundations, non-profits and public policy. They worked collectively to build a Blueprint for Action to catalyze research, programs, and policies to advance senior and multi-generational entrepreneurship within the workplace and new business startups.

The summits included pre-release screenings of Participant Media’s film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, sequel to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which explores the issues faced by retirees and older workers and highlights the young and young-at-heart supporting each other to create transformative social and economic change.

These summits were far from your typical thought leader convenings where experts gather around a table and congratulate one another on their brilliance. These were action-oriented, driven by out-of-the-box thinking to identify new strategies to support and empower the Experienced Economy, such as:

  • Officially recognize the 50+ demographic as The Experienced Economy, its economic contributions through its new business startups, multi-generational workforce development within corporations, including but not limited to: job creation, contributions to the tax base, boosting the GDP, and increased prosperity for people of all ages
  • Pivot corporate and government cultures, policies and legislation to embrace and leverage the valuable expertise of the Experienced Economy (50+ workers) in new business startups and multi-generational workforces, and transition from a culture of expected retirement and phasing-out to retaining and rebooting in The Experienced Economy (50+ workers)
  • Encourage employer education for Experienced Economy employee recruitment, engagement, retention, and transition pre/post retirement
  • Collect, aggregate, analyze and publish quantitative and qualitative data to measure the social and economic impact of senior and multigenerational entrepreneurship
  • Urge local and national politicians to address the benefits of The Experienced Economy, in their platforms, including in the U.S. Presidential Debates, beginning in August 2015

Brief Overview of the Summits

Our convenings were extremely well received for their innovative format and unique cross-sector approach. Attendees began to see the 50+ demographic as a cohert as an asset and embraced. Vibrant discussion highlighted the Experienced Economy’s un-recognized success and contributions to the economy through job creation, new business start-ups and their unusually high level of success, and overall increased profitability for companies with multi-generational teams.

Consistent Themes:

  1. Fear, lack of information and guidance, is the #1 factor holding 50+ year olds back from opening their own business. Many were surprised this was a leading factor above concern for Access to Capital.
  2. There are few mechanisms in place to facilitate a “matching” process – to get the younger generation to meet/know the “Experienced” generation.
  3. There is much to offer by experienced workers: knowledge, funding (potentially); advisory, large Rolodex and contacts; domain knowledge, key team roles; and board member to name just a few.
  4. The notion of “taking a job” from a younger person is from the past. We need “Experienced Economy” people to fulfill critical job functions in the workplace.
  5. People are living longer and have ideas for businesses – and once they leave their traditional jobs, people are eager to explore other opportunities to be entrepreneurial.
  6. Knowledge and education designed for the 50+ is required in order to start and scale a business.
  7. Access to capital is difficult and the process is uncertain.
  8. More financial institutions are seeing the numbers of seniors who wish to start businesses as good business; data is documenting their success rates as positive indicators that this new market opportunity exists.
  9. There will be a serious shortage of workers as the 75M baby boomers (in the US alone) leave the workforce.
  10. More corporations (Age Smart Employers) are seeing the benefits of creating programs to build and support multi-generational workforces.
  11. There is an increased understanding of the benefits and willingness to work collaboratively across sectors to advance the opportunities of multi-generational successes.
  12. Changing the negative paradigm of aging and amplifying the economic vitality of people 50+ is not just a social issue; it’s an unprecedented global economic opportunity.

Top-level Summit Findings

  • The first and Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movies resonate with people of all ages, from all sectors worldwide. The intergenerational microcosm provides a realistic example of what's possible when you unleash the potential of intergenerational entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurial activity among the over 50s has risen by more than 50% since 2008, according to the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report.
  • The highest rate of entrepreneurship worldwide - not just in America, where 34 million seniors want to start a business - has shifted to the 55–64 age group, with people over 55 almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.
  • Five years after the business startup, 70% of ventures established by senior entrepreneurs were still in operation compared to 28% of enterprises established by younger entrepreneurs. Older, more experienced, entrepreneurs have higher success rates when they start companies, because they have accumulated expertise in their fields, have deep knowledge of their customers’ needs, and have years of developing a network of supporters (often including financial backers).
  • The Experienced Economy is a unique lending group, deserving of specific consideration in lending that accounts for the maturity and seasoning of people 50+.
  • UK entrepreneurs aged 55 and over - dubbed “olderpreneurs” - are capitalizing on the government’s recent introduction of pension freedoms in April and are opting to take their tax free cash lump-sum to “create wealth” rather than “go on cruises,”according to estimates by Clifton Asset Management and
  • Providing funding to these experienced individuals, who have the energy and enthusiasm to start and run a business, is vitally important to the growth of the UK economy. Research has shown that if the employment rate of 50 to 64 year-olds matched that of the 35-49 age group, the UK economy could be boosted by £88bn.
  • According to the “One in Three” research sponsored by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, “If one in three microenterprises in the United States hired an additional employee, the US would be at full employment.”
  • ­ Senior entrepreneurs drive new digital business opportunities, as they increase demand for Technology (products, services, e-commerce) to facilitate senior business startups.
  • Under the United Nation’s standard assumption that a working life ends at 65, “retired” aging populations could cut growth rates in parts of the world by one- third and then one-half over the coming years.
  • The age at which entrepreneurs are more innovative and willing to take risks seems to be going up.
  • More financial institutions are seeing the numbers of seniors who wish to start businesses as good business; data is documenting their success rates as positive indicators that this new market opportunity exists.
  • More corporations (Age Smart Employers) are seeing the benefits of creating programs to build and support multi-generational workforces. There will be a serious shortage of workers as the 75M baby boomers leave the workforce.
  • Corporations like EY (Ernst & Young) are now recognizing that experienced workers not only have great ideas for making procedures and processes more efficient, but their innovations also produce significantly higher returns for the company than those of workers in younger age groups. Productivity is increased 20% at a minimum when a company fosters mentoring across generations in the workplace.
  • Siemens, the Munich-based technology conglomerate, has instituted a “cross-mentoring” system under which older employees show younger ones the ropes while getting an update on the latest skills from these new hires.
  • In the US, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is now building out a robust support network Senior Entrepreneurs building green businesses.
  • Lakshmi Puri, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, UN Women and the Chatham House Group asked for our recommendations on the experienced entrepreneur and employee to include in their policy priorities for the World Economic Forum in Davos and to help determine how the W20 can shape inclusive growth strategies in G20 countries, particularly through evidence-based advocacy.
  • Nearly 2 million Australians, aged 55+, unemployed but willing to work cost the Australian economy $10.8 billion a year.
  • Increase of just 7% of 55+ in the workplace would increase Australia's GDP $25 billion by 2022.
  • New Zealand baby boomers are very independent. They do not view themselves as “old.” They are not relying on the next generation to generate the income necessary to keep them in the style they desire, and they expect to pay their own way all their lives.
  • New Zealand is leading the way, along with Iceland, Israel and countries in Scandinavia, in harnessing the economic power of older workers.
  • Demographic change means that New Zealand cannot leave to market forces or to chance the need for greater participation in paid employment by older workers. An increase in the labor force participation rate of older people from 16 per cent in 2010 to over 26 per cent by 2030 could offset the projected shortfall in funding New Zealand Superannuation over this period.
  • New Zealand's older worker revenue will increase from 1Billion in 2011 to 7 Billion in 2051.
  • New Zealand's tax revenue from older workers will increase from 200 Million in 2011 to 1.2 Billion in 2051.
  • 50% of those over 45 are unemployed in Spain. The Spanish government would receive 129 euros in return for every euro they invested to mitigate the negative affects of the "retirement syndrone."
  • Worldwide, seniors with their knowledge, skills and expertise can make it easier for young entrepreneurs to start a business.
  • Philanthropy can play a greater role in this arena - not just in grants but, even more, through impactinvesting.
  • Tools are needed to help 50+ translate their experience into the skills and entrepreneurial mind-set they need to start a business.
  • Finland, which has a long history of successful intergenerational programs, has declared "experience" is one of its greatest natural assets.
  • Set regular Plus-50 and intergenerational programming such as IdeaBounceTM at business incubators and accelerators.
  • Need to mix disciplines and experience to foster intergenerational entrepreneurship mentoring.
  • Need for building and connecting communities of innovation locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Expand the definition of innovation and entrepreneurship to create a more inclusive innovation economy. We want to make sure that questions about inequality and inclusion are part of the innovation and entrepreneurship conversation –not an afterthought.
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship are not ends in themselves. They are means to improve the human condition.

A Sampling of Participants' Comments


Damien English - Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation, Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Ireland

“I’m delighted to hear that this global summit series on senior entrepreneurship launches in Dublin before continuing on to other cities around the world and I want to extend my best regards and wish you all a fruitful and enjoyable discussion. We are proud of the entrepreneurial talent that is currently flourishing in Ireland, but I firmly believe that there remains untapped potential among various cohorts, including seniors. With the median age of the population in Ireland expected to rise significantly in coming decades, older people will be a valuable resource for entrepreneurship in terms of both experience and knowledge. So it is important that we engage more seniors in both business creation themselves, but also through investing in or mentoring new and existing entrepreneurs.”

Consideration of the Experienced Economy as a unique lending group, deserving of specific consideration in lending that accounts for the maturity and seasoning of people 50+:

John Irwin - EVP of Strategy and Enablement, AIB Bank, Dublin -AIB is the largest funding source for entrepreneurs in Ireland

"I have never participated in a business conference like this before. You have changed the way I am thinking about strategy - I had not considered segmenting the opportunity the way you proposed - a funding source for entrepreneurs 50+ starting a business."


Chris Wade, Entrepreneur, Advisor to Global Venture Funds - London, England

“The landscape for Entrepreneurship in the UK is transforming as venture capital funds continue to grow. In 2015 Entrepreneurship is increasingly including all age groups, including innovation from The Experienced Economy, a new sector identified by eProvStudio & Senior Entrepreneurship Works."

Google - eProvStudio launched its first ever workshop in partnership with Google at its London Campus. Google has a keen interest in addressing the needs of the 50+ entrepreneur in its programming. The workshop drew people of all ages but especially 50+ year olds about to retire or who had been made redundant who wanted to figure out what their next opportunities might be - and the workshop became one of the top 10 Trending Voices on the campus.

Sue Lawton, Special Advisor All Party Parliamentary Group Women & Enterprise, Global Advisor WEConnect International - London, England

“The 50+ demographic, The Experienced Economy, is an overlooked demographic that can no longer be ignored in business – It is a key group generating jobs, positively impacting the bottom line, and redefining the culture for work and traditional retirement across all generations."

A contribution that ignited particular enthusiasm in London that we shared with members of Congress in Washington, DC and the EU Commissioners in Brussels, came from Yvonne Sonsino, Partner, Innovation Leader Europe, Mercer, where she sited an example of increased profitability due to intergenerational teams in the workplace: "The 50+ demographic must be recognized for their contributions to our economy - A simple example: McDonald’s reports 20 per cent higher performance in their outlets where 60+ workers are employed as part of a multi-generational workforce. Similar benefits are reported by employers from all sectors and sizes."

Washington, DC

This Summit was hosted by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and you can hear and see Senator Chris Dodd's welcome and comments in this video:

Nora Super, Director, The White House 2015 Conference on Aging, Washington, DC

Delivered welcome remarks stressing the importance of this focus on an "experienced economy" and the need to create greater opportunity through policy changes. She is hosting the White House Conference on Aging, July 2015.

Senator Susan Collins, Chair of the US Senate Special Committee on Aging, shared remarks - Washington, DC

"I was very pleased to be part of the first joint committee hearing on Senior Entrepreneurship with the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee in February 2014 and to be able to participate in this first global summit series on senior entrepreneurship. Our nation's heritage as the land of opportunity, owes much to the hard work, energy, and optimism of those who take the risk to start up businesses of their own. Through their successes they help to create a better life for themselves, and to create jobs for others. The role played by America's small businesses in creating jobs and opportunities is well-known, but the role played by America's seniors may still come as a surprise to many. Our hearing and this summit are vital to help increase public awareness of the critical and growing role senior entrepreneurs are playing in the economy. I love Elizabeth Isele's characterization of the changing demographics as being a silver lining rather than a silver tsunami, and I hope she doesn't mind if I start using it. "

Senator Claire McCaskill, Ranking Member of the US Senate Special Committee on Aging, shared - Washington, DC:

“There isn’t any age limit on entrepreneurial dreams and success. Some of the most dynamic, innovative businesses started in Missouri in the past decade have been built by seniors. And we need these older entrepreneurs to succeed if we’re going to continue making economic headway in my state and across the nation. I’d like to think that in my work-life I’ve shown the younger crowd a thing or two, and I know many of today’s senior entrepreneurs are doing the same.”

Christian Weller, PhD, Center for American Progress and Professor of Public Policy, Washington, DC

Encouraged a greater diversity of research studies to better understand why certain people are likely to become entrepreneurs after retirement. "More research, he said, "would encourage greater numbers of people to start new companies."

James Appleby, Executive Director and CEO: Gerontological Society of America, Washington, DC

Supports more cross-silo conversations to amplify the voices and solutions for an aging workforce.

New York City

Shauneequa Owusu - Director of Policy for the New York Academy of Medicine delivered welcome remarks to the audience. This organization is highly focused on creating programs and plans to make NYC a role model for successful innovation for people 50+. They are a co-creator of the Age Smart program with the Columbia University Center for Aging – this program honors companies who support a Multi-Generational workforce with emphasis on appreciating the Experienced Economy workers in the organization.

Yesi Morillo-Gual - Senior VP, Citi, and Founder, PTBL (Proud to Be Latina) - Driving force behind building diversity at Citi and confidence in minorities, while managing multi-million dollar municipal funds, said the summit has, "given me new eyes to see 50+ year-olds and a multi-generational workforce in a whole new and positive light."

Edward Rogoff, PhDBaruch College, active advocate, award-winning entrepreneurship professor, writer, and researcher for entrepreneurs 50+ commented, "there are some educational efforts for the sector but so much more needs to be created and offered to older adults to break the fear factor and deliver knowledge in order for them to become successful entrepreneurs."

Jessica Walker – Director, Partnership for the City of New York: The Partnership is a force for driving programs to enhance the economic vitality for people living in NYC. A focus on people 50+ is important to this organization.

Michael Morretti – Vice President – Head of NY Silicon Valley Bank: We discussed the mention by the AIB executive in Ireland and challenged Mike to consider banking and access to capital opportunities for people in the sector.

Stefani Zinerman – City Council Chief of Staff – Believes the discussion about 50+ in the workforce and entrepreneurial aspects are critical for job creation and wealth creation.

Ruth Finkelstein, Sc.D – Key to NYC city receiving the Age Friendly City Award from the WHO, Ruth is also the architect of the Age Smart program, Professor at Columbia University and Deputy Director of the Robert N. Butler Longevity Center at Columbia University. She spoke about the NY Age Smart program, which highlights businesses – small and larger companies - that create opportunities for 50+ year-olds in their workforce.


The Brussels' discussion was particularly lively for two reasons because attendees were seriously engaged in developing programs and plans to serve this sector for the EU Parliament.

Marko Curavic- Head of Entrepreneurship and Social Economy for the EU Commission, Brussels

Curavic said, "The real point is that we are all living longer and better and healthier lives, and the concept of retiring to a sort of eternal vacation – or the idea of being deemed to be ‘taking a job from a younger person’ – is an idea from a time gone past. More and more, seniors are seeking renewed purpose, have ideas they want to bring to life and are looking to retirement as a time of new opportunity and (he emphasized) fun!

These are some of the reasons that the European Commission has been targeting senior entrepreneurs, and senior mentors for new entrepreneurs, as important groups to help rekindle the spirit of entrepreneurship across Europe. Our Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, which was adopted about 2 years ago by our 28 Member States, specifically mentions senior entrepreneurs as one of the groups who are often overlooked."

Madonna Jarrett- Head of Global Regulatory and Public Policy Group, Deloitte. Madonna Jarrett leads global external stakeholder engagement programmes for Deloitte. She is responsible for public policy strategic planning, programme implementation and engaging with external stakeholders on capital market policy development. She leads initiatives seeking ways to create opportunity for people 50+ in the workforce.

Jon Echanove - Project Team Leader for the EU's Senior Entrepreneurship "Labs."

Jon said, "the "labs" currently being launched across the 28 EU member states, are to advance senior entrepreneurship by finding out more about what they want and need, what their questions and worries are, and how we can reach and support them effectively. We expect the "labs" will very valuable insights and experience for us all."

Natasa Nikolic- Head of Marketing and Business Development for EY Natasa is creating opportunities in EMEA focused on women; based on successful programs that EY has been conducting for Winning Women; These programs are "age agnostic" and are inclusive of people 50+ related to educational, role model and access to capital opportunities.

Natasa said, "This summit has convinced me that the 50+ entrepreneur represents a sector that needs more focus and attention."

Guido de Grefte- Managing Partner HazelHeartwood, Mechelen, Belgium.

Guido is a serial entrepreneur and Vice President of the Board of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce in Belgium and the author of a children's book on doing business. HazelHeartwood, one of his businesses, is a consulting company built upon optimizing the "experienced economy" by coupling the professional expertise of senior consultants with the extensive field experience of senior business leaders (assets) to create transformative business projects. HazelHeartwood has been nominated for the European Social Innovation Competition. It was selected out of 1.258 candidates as one of the most innovative and promising projects to generate social innovation in Europe.

Moira Allan - Co-Founder and International Coordinator, Pass it On Network: A Global Program Exchange for Positive Aging

Originally from South Africa, Moira has lived and worked in Paris for the last 35 years. Since 2006, she has followed the work of the Positive Aging movement in the U.S. and coordinated the 2Young2Retire network in Europe with its French counterpart – Le Cercle des Seniors Actifs. – the association that conceived the Pass it On Network with Jan Hively in the USA.

Moira sees the Pass It On Network as an ideal vehicle to carry the message and lessons learned about senior and intergenerational entrepreneurship and positive aging at this summit, to the far reaches of the world encompassed in their global network.

Apostulos Loakimidis - Policy Officer (Entrepreneurship 2020 Cooperatives, Mutuals, Social Enterprises, Family Businesses), Directorate General - Enterprise and Industry, European Commission.

Apostolos said, "The summit and especially the movie, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, have changed my mind. I was always one of those who thought seniors staying in the workforce were taking jobs away from young people. Now I realize the important benefits of creating a multi-generational work environment and the value of reverse mentoring."

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