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20 of the world's hottest start-ups

CNBC Logo By Lori Ioannou of CNBC | Slide 1 of 21: new caption

Chasing the big idea

We are in the midst of an entrepreneurial revolution that is spreading to nearly every nook and cranny on the planet. Even countries plagued with political strife or in the midst of a deep recession are seeing a surge in start-up activity. The phenomenon is indicative of a premise that Endeavor's co-founder Linda Rottenberg really believes in: When economies turn down, entrepreneurs turn up.

These innovators can be found way beyond the borders of Silicon Valley in such outposts as Iran, Greece, Denmark and Pakistan. Equipped with low-cost technology and the tenacity to turn bright ideas into commercial success, they are participating in the 2014 Startup Open competition during Global Entrepreneurship Week. The competition, held in key cities worldwide, gives entrepreneurs a stage in which to pitch their ideas to potential investors, mentors and the business community. The first prizewinner will get to go to the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan, Italy, in March. Other prizes include a free stay at the GEW House in Kansas City's Startup Village and mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs through the EO network.

This year, founders (and founder teams) from 38 countries submitted more than 600 start-up ideas for consideration. Sixty-four percent are from outside the U.S. Click ahead for a look at top contenders.

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