Startup America Starts Up—-Thoughts from the White House Kickoff
Yesterday the Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation helped to launch a new initiative called the Startup America Partnership. The idea emanated from the White House early in 2010 and has been germinating since that time. As many Xconomy readers are aware, the Kauffman Foundation has seeded programs to support entrepreneurs, entrepreneur education, and research of entrepreneurship for a number of years. The idea of supporting the re-start of our entrepreneurial economy was appealing to my Kauffman colleagues for one simple reason: with all the noise surrounding our economic woes, the voices of the entrepreneur heroes among us don’t seem like they are being heard on Main Street or Wall Street. We hoped that an initiative supported by the White House and separately by the private sector would allow the voices of entrepreneurs across the country to be heard—and that individuals around the nation would realize the importance of new firms to economic recovery and growth.
Yesterday was amazing for a couple of reasons. The majority of the 150 or so people in the executive office building auditorium—entrepreneurs, investors, and others—were not new to me because we work with many of them every day as they toil in support of entrepreneurs in their region or fields. But, I met at least one new friend, Marc Eckos, a designer who built a billion-dollar business and who is now supporting entrepreneurs like himself through an incubation effort for designers called Artists & Instigators—how cool is that?
I am sorry, I don’t have the big scoop I promised Bob. But instead I will share a big “aha” moment. As I listened yesterday to the remarks of my boss, Carl Schramm, and Steve Case, I heard something I didn’t expect because it wasn’t planned. I am guessing neither one of them read the remarks we prepared for them (big surprise for you PR people who try to get your entrepreneur-bosses to stay on message—not). Instead, I bet they were more influenced by the stories of the individuals around them—both young and old(er)—many of whom who didn’t go to Ivy League schools and were not your classic business school type-entrepreneurs.
Steve Case spoke about the history of our country and the great Americans who came before us who were indeed entrepreneurs in the truest sense. Carl spoke about the great democratization of entrepreneurship in our country. Our foundation’s founder, Ewing Kauffman, never went to college, but he created many jobs and great wealth for many people through establishing and growing a pharmaceutical company and later a Foundation. We were reminded yesterday that entrepreneurship is truly color blind and status blind, and comes in the form of designers and IT guys like Brad Feld and the brilliant women supported through Astia—all of whom were with us at the White House yesterday.
So there we were sitting in the executive offices of the White House, where we were reminded of both the history of our country through the lens of the entrepreneur, and the democratizing effect of entrepreneurship in today’s society. Not really what I expected to hear, but in fact it was more than I could have hoped. We will all continue to debate whether entrepreneurs need funding more than good advisors, etc, but ultimately the important point of this initiative is that entrepreneurs are being heard. With the help of entrepreneurial efforts like Xconomy and other publications, readers who can become mentors, entrepreneur teachers, or, EVEN BETTER, customers, we can recover and grow our economy once again.
So, what are you go to do to help Startup America?