Aneesh Chopra, Obama’s Chief Techie, on Building a Startup-Friendly Region and Why Now is the Best Time to be an Innovator in America

5/9/11Follow @curtwoodward

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“has looked back in its file cabinets and has identified dozens if not hundreds of datasets that … track all kinds of immunization data, health performance indicators, quality data—you name it. And we are liberating that information.”

As a result, Chopra says, “An entrepreneur now is well-positioned to launch the businesses that will help the healthcare system deliver on these efficiencies, as expected. So that’s an example where the policy agenda and these macro trends are coming together. And in the words of John Doerr, not me—the Kleiner Perkins partner—he believes that there will be several billion-dollar companies born tackling this opportunity.”

Chopra says he’s got a similar spiel for the energy and education systems—insisting that the feds and entrepreneurs can work together to tackle big problems, and that this is the best time to do so.

At a recent Treasury Department summit on the state of small-business financing, Chopra heard complaints about the regional nature of early stage investing—while some entrepreneurs said capital wasn’t a problem, startups from other parts of the country complained that there wasn’t enough investment money circulating in their area. (This, of course, is a phenomenon we hear about all the time in the Seattle area.)

On the White House blog, Chopra wrote that this checkerboard effect makes it “important to identify and bridge these market gaps and encourage investors seeking long-term, ‘hidden value’ investment opportunities that exist in all parts of the country.”

That’s an interesting idea for the executive branch to tackle. And it could be risky. On one hand, entrepreneurs in places like Seattle would probably welcome a stronger cross-pollination of investment dollars from other areas. But I’d guess that the region’s existing early stage investors might not love the idea of the feds encouraging out-of-towners to parachute in and start driving up startup valuations.

That made me think of things like tax incentives and regulatory changes that could encourage more investment dollars to flow into different parts of the country. But Chopra says a big focus of Startup America is promoting a much less interventionist role for the feds, and instead pushing the idea that government and business should work together to improve infrastructure for startups. That should increase the chances that new companies will make it past key hurdles and become more attractive to investors, he says.

In this scenario, Chopra says, the administration’s role is focused on supplying R&D money and acting as a convener, bringing business leaders together to encourage more infrastructure for new companies. One major example is the recent announcement that the Blackstone Group, a private-equity … Next Page »

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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