Getting In the Arena: Good Ideas and Innovations Often Come From Unexpected Places

Through the first 20 years of the Case Foundation, we’ve covered a lot of ground and been to a lot of places. Along the way, we have found that innovations come from people and places that might surprise you. While news reports focus on the power of Silicon Valley or financial centers like New York and London, we have found numerous great ideas and passionate innovators in places policymakers, funders and trend watchers have often overlooked.

Three U.S. cities are great examples of the excitement and innovation that we have found:

Pittsburgh: In Pittsburgh, we found a unique combination of incubators, accelerators, universities, tech companies and investors, driving this former steel town to experience a resurgence in the form of a technology boom. While many still think of Pittsburgh as the Steel City, the engineer and technology ecosystem that has sprung up in the aftermath of the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s is one of the reasons that Ford pledged in February to invest $1 billion over five years in a Pittsburgh-based company specializing in artificial intelligence and autonomous car engineering. This community of innovators, incubators and educators is creating a wide range of interesting projects. Pittsburgh innovators we met ranged from Courtney Williamson, founder of AbiliLife, a biomedical company that engineer’s devices for Parkinson’s patients to Vaish Krishnamurthy of CleanRobotics, whose Trash bot uses artificial intelligence to sort recyclables from waste, to Matthew Stanton and Hahna Alexander, cofounders of SolePower*, a technology that uses a foot-powered energy generating insole that can be used to charge portable devices—something of particular interest to the U.S. Army. Even the accelerators in Pittsburgh like AlphaLab Gear bring a unique vision that reflects the best of the region where they are located, supporting hundreds of innovators, expanding understanding of the excellence of the companies in the area and attracting significant outside capital to the region.

Durham: On our recent visit to Durham, we found a renaissance is occurring in the city. Yes, there are tech stories to tout, but the real story is of citizens, companies, institutions and Duke University coming together to invest, expand and reclaim downtown Durham for growth while ensuring that all that defines this community as a thriving, American town includes those who have stayed and those that played a role in making Durham, well…Durham.

At American Underground hundreds of entrepreneurs—from single person startups to ventures like Fidelity Labs, Fidelity’s R&D and innovation catalyst unit—sit side-by-side, creating new companies and pursuing new business ideas in a space where they can also receive the training, accelerator classes and support from Google for Entrepreneurs that rising startups need to take their great ideas to the next level. And we saw the American Tobacco Campus, where local business leaders had transformed the abandoned corporate headquarters of the company that marketed “Lucky Strikes” into a multifaceted center that housed restaurants, businesses and cultural hubs—like the local NPR affiliate and the YMCA—that are helping fuel the dynamic ecosystem that downtown Durham has become.

Detroit: Detroit’s rebirth can only be described as epic. Left for dead by most after the 2008 economic crisis, visionaries like Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and entrepreneur Tom Kartsotis have helped not only build strong companies, but create thousands of jobs for out-of-work Detroit citizens, giving them an opportunity to prosper as part of the modern economy. Gilbert, who moved Quicken Loans and all of its employees to Detroit, has invested heavily in Detroit real estate, helped dozens of startups, and now employs an estimated 12,500 people. The portraits of those who have found jobs at the companies that have started in Detroit since the Great Recession or started businesses that are fueled by this resurgence highlight how new skills and a new way of thinking about work is being created in the shadows of the once great automobile industry. Detroit’s renaissance is also thanks to the visionary collaboration between the private sector and leading philanthropies, including our colleagues at the Kresge, Ford and Kellogg Foundations. Their work in bringing all sectors of the society to the table is a key to the broad based impact the economic and social revitalization has has had. Detroit has a long way to go, but the new ideas and optimism coming from this city sets a great model for others to follow.

While the names of the local startups and visionaries are often the first thing that one remembers from these trips, one of the great advantages these cities have is community and all the diversity of actors that brings with it. It is as if they have chosen to turn their backs on the “go it alone” mentality and see a competitive advantage in getting as many sectors of their society as engaged as possible. In Pittsburgh, the role of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, as well the role of Deloitte, Accenture and Barclays in innovation initiatives cannot be left out of a proper telling of the rebirth in Pittsburgh. While touring the American Underground facility in Durham with Doug Speight, the CODE2040 Entrepreneur in Residence and guru behind many Durham startups including Cathedral Leasing, he mentioned that women lead 29 percent of the projects housed in American Underground’s Durham sites and 28 percent are minority led. This was evident as we walked the hallways, and it makes American Underground one of the most diverse incubators in America, reflecting the fabric of the Durham experience. And the breadth of the players involved in rebuilding Detroit—from automobile companies to community organizers and political leaders, to philanthropists and entrepreneurs—highlights both the scale of the task and how they are committed to ensure as many as possible share in the benefits of rebuilding as possible.

This spirit is not limited to the United States. Great ideas and innovation, informed by the unique perspective that different lifestyles and backgrounds bring, are found worldwide.

While touring Africa, we met numerous entrepreneurs who were crafting new innovations informed directly from their personal experiences. In Nairobi, we visited a sanitation company, Sanergy. Sanergy’s vision is bold and robust: attack a massive hygiene and sanitation problem across communities by not only providing toilets to underserved areas, but by building a comprehensive entrepreneurship-driven model that creates jobs in underserved communities. Converting the waste into organic fertilizer, insect-based animal feed, and renewable energy, Sanergy’s model is emblematic of new approaches we saw throughout Africa.

In Iceland, I met Thor Sigfusson, the leader of the Iceland Ocean Cluster. This startup accelerator in Reykjavik houses 80 startups that are building businesses to use 100% of the fish—from salmon skin clothing to cosmetic products made of fish bones to nutrition and medical supplements from organs of the fish. The idea is that if more fisherman could capture value from 100 percent of the fish, they would need less fish take to make a living, leading to more sustainable fishing practices for the whole country. And given that Iceland takes 80 million cod out of their waters, their impact could be significant.

And as co-chair of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership (UPP), a public/private partnership launched after the Annapolis peace talks, I saw firsthand the progress that can be made when communities are given a chance and the tools to innovate. UPP promoted economic and educational opportunities for the Palestinian people in order to facilitate progress toward a two-state solution, wherein Israel and Palestine can live side by side, in peace, security and prosperity. Linking support of young entrepreneurs by world-class tech companies like Google and Cisco, and launching the first-ever Venture Capital fund in the West Bank, represented hope and promise for new economic activity, particularly in the impressive IT sector in the region. This, coupled with affordable loan programs for small businesses, the building of new youth centers, helping to foster tourism, and leading business delegations, contributed to increase economic activity and helped demonstrate that the West Bank is open for business and that great ideas and innovations come from all places, including the West Bank.

These are just a few of the hundreds of examples of innovators and entrepreneurs who are Getting In the Arena in communities worldwide. We have found innovation in all sectors coming from all corners of the world. As we look forward to the next 20 years of work, we believe that the next great ideas will come from these overlooked people and places and, frankly, this makes us more excited than ever to see what they create and to identify what we can do to support their efforts to get the attention, and investment, they deserve.

*Disclosure: Jean and Steve Case are investors in SolePower. 

34 Organizations Building Social Capital for Diverse Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter

Accelerator. Incubator. Ecosystem Builder. Social Capital. These words are commonly used in the startup world, but can feel like jargon to those unfamiliar with the entrepreneurship space. They describe the partners and resources that are essential in an entrepreneur’s journey—mentors, education and connections that help founders succeed. Harvard Kennedy School refers to social capital as “the collective value of all ‘social networks’ (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (‘norms of reciprocity’).” Basically, social capital ensures that you are connected to the right people who will provide you with trusted information, collaboration and partnerships. Social capital is particularly important when an entrepreneur is just starting out and needs advisors who have been there before and connections to funders who are willing to work with them to build a business.

At the Case Foundation, we believe that the next era of entrepreneurship is about leveling the playing field, expanding participation and scaling the networks of social, financial and inspiration capital that provide the foundation for successful startups and scalable business. We partner with social capital networks providing important connections, training and mentorships for entrepreneurs, as well as the investors and influencers working to change the way capital flows to diverse entrepreneurs. Incubators for those just starting out, accelerators for those looking to grow and the ecosystem builders generally paving the way for entrepreneurs to succeed.

All entrepreneurs have similar needs—mentorship, funding, role models—but not all entrepreneurs have equal access to those resources. We see disproportionate funding going to white male entrepreneurs and underrepresentation of women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color in most major incubator and accelerator programs. When only a portion of the entrepreneurship community has access to the stepping stones needed to grow their business, it’s no wonder most of the breakout companies we laud in our society are founded by white men. To combat this trend, we have committed to catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement and launched #FacesofFounders to shed more light on the diverse entrepreneurs scaling businesses and important conversations around inclusive entrepreneurship we must have to change how our culture views entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, more and more entrepreneurship programs are being set up with intentionality around creating on-ramps for women entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs of color. Whether it’s a network for women only or an existing accelerator that has benchmarks for inclusion among its cohort, entrepreneurship supporters are getting serious about providing the resources diverse founders need to be successful.

To learn more about these inclusion-focused accelerators, incubators and ecosystem builders, we’ve put together a list to get you started. These organizations are committed to the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, taking action within their organizations to support diverse entrepreneurs and leaders in the field demonstrating the value of providing underrepresented groups of entrepreneurs with access to capital, networks and support. We are proud to be working to advance inclusive entrepreneurship alongside these organizations and the many more out there committed to this work!

Follow all of the organizations below with one click—subscribe to our Twitter list!

Organization Name
Twitter Handle
Twitter Bio
500 Startups
@500Startups
500 Startups is a seed fund & a network of startup programs. Founded by PayPal & Google alums. Born in Silicon Valley, the #500STRONG family is worldwide.
American Underground
@AmerUnderground
The ‘Startup Capital of the South’ and one of ten Google for Entrepreneur Tech Hubs. We are home to more than 275 startups in downtown Durham & Raleigh.
Black Founders
@blackfounders
Dedicated to increasing the number of successful black entrepreneurs in tech.
Black Tech Week
@blacktechweek
Black Tech Week is a week long series of events in Miami, Florida celebrating innovators of color. contact@blacktechweek.com
Blackstone Launchpad
@bxlaunchpad
Blackstone LaunchPad is a campus entrepreneurship program offering coaching, ideation and venture creation support. http://t.co/eBdvnPhkvo
Blueprint + Co
@blueprintandco
The workplace that works for you.
Change Catalyst
@changecatalysts
Empowering diverse leaders to #changetheworld. #socent #BCorp #impinv #startups #techinclusion16 https://t.co/8qMdI23qfd by @mbrianaepler @waynesutton & team
Circular Board
@CircularB
A collaborative startup accelerator serving a thriving community of globally minded women entrepreneurs.
CODE2040
@CODE2040
Top black and latinx tech talent. Founders @tristanwalker + @laurawp. Follow the CODE2040 family: https://t.co/BS9giAiF33
Defy Ventures
@DefyVentures
We are an entrepreneurship, employment, and leadership training program that serves people with criminal histories.
digitalundivided
@digundiv
digitalundivided (DID) fosters economic growth through the empowerment of women of color entrepreneurs.
DivInc
@DivIncatx
We are a 12-week pre-accelerator program focused on championing diversity in the tech startup ecosystem.
Duke I&E
@EshipatDuke
Latest happenings from the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.
Google for Entrepreneurs
@GoogleForEntrep
News and updates from Google for Entrepreneurs.
Groundwork
@groundworklabs
A community that provides mentorship, peer-support, and a discovery experience for select startups and entrepreneurs
Halcyon Incubator
@HalcyonIncubate
Supports early stage social entrepreneurs through an immersive 18-month fellowship program
HBCU Innovation
@HBCUInnovation
in3
@In3DC
Inclusive Innovation Incubator (In3) – D.C’s first co-working, training, & incubator space intentional about diversity & inclusion. #FindYourIn by @luma_lab 💡
Jumpstart Inc
@jumpstartinc
We are a nationally recognized nonprofit that unlocks the full potential of diverse & ambitious entrepreneurs to economically transform entire communities.
Kauffman Foundation
@KauffmanFDN
Fostering economic independence by advancing education & entrepreneurship. RTs ≠ endorsements. House Rules https://t.co/963BVtcqVu
Kapor Center
@KaporCenter
The Kapor Center is relentlessly pursuing creative strategies to leverage tech for positive, progressive change.
Latino Startup Alliance
@Latino_Startups
To encourage the inspiration & cultivation of Latino led tech startup ventures by providing a support network of fellow innovators, mentors & investors.
Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center
@thecenter
The #startup for startups! Designed to #educate, #innovate, and connect #entrepreneurs – all free of charge. Grow your ideas. Get inspired. Tell your story!
New Profit
@newprofit
Break through with New Profit. https://t.co/mRBW5FClRb
The Pink Ceiling
@thepinkceiling
Propelling Breakthroughs for Women | Strategy + Investing | Mentorship Through the #Pinkubator | All Woman Team | Founder Cindy Whitehead @cindypinkceo
PowerMoves
@PowerMovesUSA
PowerMoves is about creating power through opportunity – the opportunity of high growth minority Traditional & Tech Entrepreneurship.
Project Entrepreneur
@pjtentrepreneur
Project Entrepreneur ignites bold ideas by providing women access to the tools, training and networks needed to build scalable, economically impactful companies
SEED SPOT
@seedspot
#SocEnt incubator w/ locations in Washington, D.C. & Phoenix, AZ. Educating, accelerating & investing in entrepreneurs creating solutions to social problems.
Sephora Accelerate
@SephoraStands
Through Sephora Stands, we will use our strengths to promote even greater good by supporting female entrepreneurs in beauty, our communities, and our people.
Social Innovation Lab
@SIL_Baltimore
Social Innovation Lab at @JohnsHopkins – Accelerating ventures that create change and opportunity in Baltimore and beyond. Director: @DariusG
Tory Birch Foundation
@ToryBurchFdn
The official Tory Burch Foundation tweets.
Unshackled Ventures
@UnshackledUS
An early stage venture fund for immigrant founders to create economic value in the U.S.
Village Capital
@villagecapital
We democratize entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs themselves build and invest in world-changing companies. A new type of VC.
Women’s Startup Lab
@wslab
Leading Women’s Startup Accelerator in Silicon Valley. Be Exceptional. Be Extraordinary. Be the Impact.

For more data on accelerators and the entrepreneurs they serve, check out the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative led by the Aspen Institute and Emory University at https://www.galidata.org/.

Have other tips for choosing an entrepreneurship program? A program or ecosystem builder you’ve seen that’s committed to inclusive entrepreneurship? We know there are many more out there! Share them with us at FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter with hashtag #FacesofFounders.

A Message From SXSW: The Undiscovered Next Big Thing

For many years, SXSW has been the place to go to see the new thing, the new product, the new trend. Market leading products like Twitter took off when they launched at the annual Austin conference and hit shows like Game of Thrones and stars like Jay Z have flocked to Austin to join in the fun and be associated with the newest trends.

Each year as I head to SXSW, I can’t help but wonder what the “next big thing” might be that will have the conference abuzz. This year, it wasn’t a product and it wasn’t a personality. Instead, it was a powerful idea: double down on the secret sauce that has made America great by expanding the pool of entrepreneurs who are building great companies and bringing new innovations. And while the idea itself may seem simple, the potential for transformative impact is extraordinary. And for any investor, this idea represents a potential new source of innovation, talent and access to untapped markets.

This was my message and the message of the Case Foundation as we went to SXSW, but we didn’t expect to find similar sentiments echoing from the SXSW stage throughout the conference, in hallway conversations and at cocktail parties. And it was the central message in my fireside chat with Reena Ninan of CBS News. Like any “hot” issue, there is usually some arresting set of facts that serves to ignite passions. In this case, the data is so stark that it provides a great entrée for the topic more broadly. Consider this data on the state of venture capital investing in the United States:

At the same time, women owned firms are growing 5 times faster than the national average. And a growing body of data reports that both women-run firms and firms with diverse teams, outperform their counterparts. First Round Capital, for instance, reported when it separated out performance in its portfolio of companies, it found that female-led firms outperformed their counterparts by 60%. Traditional investing is starting to realize that perhaps diversifying leadership is a business imperative to boost performance, with the point driven home most clearly from State Street Global Advisors, with trillions of dollars of assets under management, State Street placed a bronze statue of a young girl staring down Wall Street’s bull, and matched it with a message that they will use their proxy power if needed to ensure those firms in their portfolio diversify leadership. Sure, investing in more women and people of color is a social justice issue, but it is also a powerful economic opportunity for investors and for our nation.

This was the topic of a Ted Talk I gave a few months ago and it was great to see the SXSW attendees engage so eagerly on this subject—from world-class investors looking for paths to these untapped segments, to reporters hearing from more diverse voices and perspectives on the panels they led, to entrepreneurs from these segments asking how they can find the funders who get this and are willing to listen to good ideas, no matter the gender, color of skin or geography.

And I was not alone at SXSW in talking about these issues.

  • Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of GE, spoke eloquently about the efforts GE was taking to look for great ideas in more diverse places and how they were building more flexible workplace rules so all could succeed at GE.
  • Aspect Ventures founding partner Theresia Gouw, BBG Ventures President and managing partner Susan Lyne, and Joyus founder/CEO and angel investor Sukhinder Singh Cassidy joined Fortune senior editor Kristen Bellstrom on a panel on Monday to talk about the lack of diversity in VC funding for women and share suggestions about steps to take to change the status quo.
  • Dan Lyons, a tech journalist, former Silicon Valley screenwriter and author of the New York Times best-seller, “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble” spoke in his SXSW panel about how “bro culture” and bias were holding back the industry and how we had to change the way they thought about hiring and promoting to ensure our most actively funded companies did not become too insular.
  • And Case Foundation chairman (and my husband), Steve Case, talked about the “Rise of the Rest” initiative that he runs separately from the Foundation, spotlighting and funding entrepreneurs across America, from places between the coasts that investors often ignore, but where the vast majority of our Fortune 500 companies in America were started.

And the programing and general conversation around SXSW supported this yearning for more leadership and support for a wider community of innovators. At the National Geographic venue on 6th street, National Geographic Explorers who came from non-traditional backgrounds were greeted by thousands of SXSW attendees. These included Albert Yu-Min Lin, who spoke about maintaining his passion for exploration after losing a limb, and how those in the field have the responsibility to tell the stories and make a difference. David Lang, who is designing and building underwater robots that are being used by citizens to explore oceans, rivers and lakes in ways that have never been accessible to non-academic and government officials; and Erika Bergman, who leads Google Hangouts as she pilots her submarine so all can get the chance to see the discoveries she is making thousands of feet underwater. All of these Explorers leveraged their unique backgrounds and passions to explore in ways that were outside the norm, bringing new perspectives to their work and opening doors to citizen science that had previously been closed.

Finally, this call for a wider pool of innovators was echoed by Vice President Biden as he made an impassioned plea at SXSW to support cancer research. He called on SXSW attendees to use their diverse skills and backgrounds to participate in cancer research, trials and to lend their minds and access to improve detection, prevention and treatment of cancer. In calling on more innovative thinking and engaging more diverse participants, Vice President Biden said “If we did nothing more than break down the silos preventing greater collaboration because of the way the system has been built up—not intentionally—over the last 50 years, we can extend the life of a lot of people with cancer.”

While SXSW is often known for opening our eyes to new products, this year’s SXSW was a venue where the message was clear: the next undiscovered big thing is people and the innovations that those not traditionally in the mainstream can bring to the table. Frankly, it was a breath of fresh air and we, at the Case Foundation, stand ready to keep the momentum started at SXSW going so we can see real change in the faces and ideas of the innovators who power the next generation of ideas.

Working Toward “Zero Barriers” for Entrepreneurs

“After a long Great Recession hangover, entrepreneurship is finally rebounding in the United States. Entrepreneurs are driving a resurgence of business activity in America.” – Kauffman Foundation “Zero Barriers” Report

The Kauffman Foundation recently released their “State of Entrepreneurship 2017” Report noting a resurgence of entrepreneurship in the United States after a long-term decline. The report sets out several areas of growth key to ensuring entrepreneurship continues as an economic driver for all, first of which is a focus on women and people of color. The Case Foundation’s “inclusive entrepreneurship” movement focuses directly on democratizing entrepreneurship, through collaborations and learning opportunities with ecosystems and founders committed to reducing barriers to entrepreneurship faced by diverse entrepreneurs, and scale local pilots into national programs serving women and entrepreneurs of color. As we are on the same path, we are proud to have a partner like the Kauffman Foundation alongside us in the movement for inclusive entrepreneurship. At the core of our movement building philosophy is partnerships. We look to combine our strengths with those of our partners in the field to accelerate and catalyze progress toward a common goal. In the entrepreneurship arena, the Kauffman Foundation has long been one of those partners. From our early partnership in Startup America Partnership to today’s on bringing intentionality to leveling the playing field for all entrepreneurs through their Zero Barriers initiative.

Created with Ewing Marion Kauffman’s own entrepreneurial values at their core, the Kauffman Foundation has been a champion in fostering entrepreneurial communities and expanding entrepreneurship education programs in startups across the country. At the 8th Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address in DC on February 16, Kauffman President and CEO Wendy Guillies discussed how entrepreneurship has evolved, outlining current trends, barriers and opportunities for growth. The annual address was structured around the release of a new Kauffman Foundation report, highlighting three mega trends that are redefining the future of entrepreneurship in the U.S. However, the event and the structure of this report are not merely an assessment of the entrepreneurship field right now; rather, the Kauffman Foundation used this report to launch a new focus and dedication to their entrepreneurship work. The three mega trends from the report reflect changes in demographics, geographies, and approaches in entrepreneurship that Kauffman articulates as vital to address in their work and the work of others in this space. Identifying the gaps within each mega trend, the report serves as a strategic roadmap for engagement and a call to action and paves the way for the new “Zero Barriers to Startup” Initiative—a collaborative, nationwide effort to remove traditional barriers to entry for startups and empower entrepreneurs to pursue innovative ideas.

Mega Trend 1: New Demographics of Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial ecosystem is expanding and evolving, yet opportunity and empowerment divides across key demographics—particularly women and communities of color—have prevented entrepreneurship from being truly inclusive. While more than half of the U.S. population will be from communities of color by 2050, this trend is not accurately reflected in today’s composition of entrepreneurs. Historically marginalized and underrepresented communities often face higher barriers to entry, including lack of access to and cost of capital, which have implications on business profitability and opportunities to achieve scale. The report brings valuable data to this space, indicating that the average size of mature, non-minority-owned businesses is valued at $2.3 million in annual revenue, while those of similar size and growth stage owned by minorities are only valued at $1.6 million. Additionally, the entrepreneurship diversity gap comes at significant economic costs—if minority-owned businesses grew at the same rate as those of non-minorities, the U.S. would have more than one million additional employer businesses and as much as 9.5 million new jobs. Through initiatives like “Zero Barriers” and ongoing grants to women and minority entrepreneurs, the Kauffman Foundation joins the Case Foundation and the inclusive entrepreneurship movement to level the playing field and promote innovation across demographics.

Mega Trend 2: New Map of Entrepreneurship

Beyond the traditional hubs of the Silicon Valley and Boston, emerging startup ecosystems are forming across the country, particularly in mid-size metro areas. As we have seen through the Forward Cities collaborative in Cleveland, Detroit, Durham and New Orleans, innovations in technology and innovative financing models have unlocked new sources of capital and created pathways for entrepreneurs to scale their businesses. However, the entrepreneurial landscape is still a geographic patchwork—pockets of growth are largely concentrated in urban areas, while rural communities have experienced a drop in startup activity from 20 percent in the 1980s, to 12.2 percent today. To mend the urban-rural divide and promote geographic diversity, Kauffman Foundation’s “New Map” initiatives will focus on empowering entrepreneurs at the local-level and addressing the barriers to entrepreneurial growth among rural communities. We look forward to sharing the lessons we have learned through Forward Cities and the joint lessons of Startup America Partnership to ensure that entrepreneurs from across America have the opportunity to contribute toward America’s progress.

Mega Trend 3: New Nature of Entrepreneurship

The third mega trend informing the current state of entrepreneurship is tied to the evolving nature of the industry itself, and the unique role that technology has played in redefining the field. Leveraging technology in business development has spurred entrepreneurial innovation, created new markets in traditional industries and aligned financial and social incentives in new ways. While technological advancements make entrepreneurship more widely accessible, it has also had the dual effect of slowing net job creation across sectors. Kauffman shared an interesting snapshot comparison to bring this point home:

Technological disruption and increased automation has reduced demand for human capital, which could accelerate the growth of startups and early stage companies. At the same time, technology is only as powerful as those who invest in, adapt and successfully integrate it into their business practices. Moving in lockstep with advancements in technology, Kauffman is launching new educational models for entrepreneurship and identifying new opportunities for job creation.

While often reports can raise as many questions as they do solutions, the Kauffman Foundation’s Zero Barriers response will provide valuable resources and support for entrepreneurs and ecosystem builders across the country. The mega trends that the Kauffman Foundation identifies, particularly the new demographics and new map, are ones that the Case Foundation is specifically targeting through our inclusive entrepreneurship movement. The Case Foundation is honored to have the Kauffman Foundation as a partner in the movement to create a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship.

#FacesofFounders Featured Stories—Just the Tip of the Iceberg

Today we released the fifth and final featured story from our #FacesofFounders campaign. Launched in October and culminating today with the final story, #FacesofFounders seeks out and lifts up America’s dynamic, diverse entrepreneurs who are key to driving innovation and job growth. These five entrepreneurs stood out for their groundbreaking work, inspiring journeys and ability to shatter stereotypes through their commitment to inclusive entrepreneurship.

As we celebrate these five founders, we are reminded that they are just the tip of iceberg. The #FacesofFounders campaign received nearly 750 compelling and inspiring stories of entrepreneurship occurring all over the country, led by founders from all backgrounds. And we know that this is only a small subset of startup activity happening in communities from Maine to Arizona, Washington to Mississippi. These five entrepreneurs are ambassadors of the enormous stock of talent that exists that does not receive the exposure, mentorship or capital that they deserve. This campaign is designed to lift up five entrepreneurs, but to also shine a light on all diverse entrepreneurs and debunk the myth that diverse entrepreneurs are few and far between, or too hard to find.

Those featured in Fast Company include four pairs of co-founders and one solo founder, three men and six women and come from four different states and the District of Columbia. They work in a variety of sectors that are addressing innovation and social change around the world.

Meet our #FacesofFounders winners:

  • Stephanie Lampkin is a true champion of inclusive entrepreneurship who turned a denied opportunity into disruptive innovation with her Blendoor application. We were inspired by Stephanie’s holistic approach to addressing diversity and the way she uses her tech expertise to tackle hiring bias.
    See Stephanie’s complete story here.
  • Jean Sim and Irena Todd are creating solutions in the world of affordable children’s haircare products. Both working moms and immigrants with extensive corporate-sector experience, they created Fresh Monster to provide a low-cost way to safely wash kids’ hair.
    See Jean and Irena’s complete story here.
  • Anjali Kataria and her husband Vinay Bhargava co-founded Mytonomy, a health tech company that educates and informs patients through technology, ensuring they arrive at appointments prepared and fully educated on their medical needs. Anjali background working at iconic tech companies allowed her to use her previous experience and successes to advance the healthcare industry.
    See Anjali complete story here.
  • Kristen Sonday channeled her life experience into a drive to create a business with a mission. Kristen, along with co-founder Felicity Conrad, launched Paladin to tackle a problem lawyers across the country face. Her legal pro-bono matchmaking service ensures that attorneys are matched with the right organizations in need of legal assistance.
    See Kristen and Felicity’s complete story here.
  • George Ashton and Yuri Horwitz seized upon an opportunity in the rapidly changing solar energy market to build Sol Systems, a mission-driven company working towards cleaner energy through investments. They focus on innovation in the larger energy world as well as within their own company.
    See Yuri and George’s complete story here.

We are proud to have partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, UBS and Fast Company on the campaign. Thank you to all the entrepreneurs who shared their stories and supporters of inclusive entrepreneurship who joined the movement.

The #FacesofFounders series on Fast Company is an example of the long-term commitment that the Case Foundation has to ensuring all entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need to build and scale a company. We will continue to support and celebrate entrepreneurs from all races, places and genders as we catalyze the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship. To learn more about our work to support all entrepreneurs, to continue the discussion on entrepreneurship, race, place and gender and to meet more entrepreneurs who are breaking down barriers, visit FacesofFounders.org.

Announcing the Five #FacesofFounders Featured Stories

The Case Foundation is proud to announce the results of our first-ever #FacesofFounders campaign. The effort, a centerpiece of the Foundation’s inclusive entrepreneur movement, invited entrepreneurs—particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color—to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders. Launched at the White House’s South by South Lawn festival, in partnership with Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, #FacesofFounders seeks out and lifts up America’s dynamic entrepreneurs who are key to driving innovation and job growth. The winners of the crowdsourced contest, who were reviewed by our panel of forty guest judges, were selected because they are bridging innovation and commitment to inclusiveness.  

Meet the winners!

  • Stephanie Lampkin, founder and CEO of the Blendoor application, has leveraged her tech expertise to tackle hiring bias.
  • Jean Sim and Irena Todd are working moms and immigrants who have built Fresh Monster to address a gap in affordable children’s haircare products.
  • Anjali Kataria co-founded Mytonomy, a health tech company that educates and informs patients through technology, ensuring they arrive at appointments prepared and fully educated on their medical needs.
  • George Ashton and Yuri Horwitz seized upon an opportunity in the rapidly changing solar energy market to build Sol Systems, a mission-driven company working towards cleaner energy through investments.
  • Kristen Sonday, along with co-founder Felicity Conrad, launched Paladin to create a legal pro-bono matchmaking service to ensure that attorneys are matched with the right organizations in need of legal assistance.

Each of the winners will be featured this week on FastCompany.com. Today, the story of how Jean Sim and Irena Todd built Fresh Monster was released, but check back each day to read the next story of barrier-breaking innovators from around the country.

We celebrate the five winners in their own right, but also for the light they shine on the tremendous talent and excitement that the #FacesofFounders campaign surfaced. Nearly 4,000 people uploaded a photo and selected a filter showing what entrepreneurship means to them. Nearly 750 founders took the time to thoughtfully and passionately tell us the story of their entrepreneurship journey—with entries from 42 states, 63 percent of whom were women entrepreneurs and 63 percent of whom were entrepreneurs of color. And these stories came from entrepreneurs building businesses across a multitude of sectors—from retail, technology, arts, health and finance industries, among others.

Thank you to everyone who has joined the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship! Founders like Kristen, Felicity, George, Yuri, Anjali, Jean, Irena and Stephanie are proof points that innovative, successful businesses are built across the nation, by entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Together, we are changing the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

Behind the Scenes with the Judges of #FacesofFounders

As part of the Case Foundation’s work in catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement, we launched the #FacesofFounders campaign last fall to change the narrative of who is and can be an entrepreneur. In October and November, over 3,000 people created a custom photo with a caption of what entrepreneurship means to them and nearly 750 founders submitted their entrepreneurship story. From our launch at the White House’s South By South Lawn festival, to Jean Case’s talk about unlocking the American Dream for all at TEDxMidAtlantic, #FacesofFounders has inspired and energized us all to join the movement for inclusive entrepreneurship. After some challenging choices and deep analysis by our guest judges, we’re excited to announce that the five winning stories will be featured on Fast Company starting February 27th!

In preparation for this reveal, we asked a few of our guest judges to share some behind the scenes insights and words of wisdom about the opportunities and challenges of being an entrepreneur. Thank you to all of our judges—we could not get to this point alone! We were joined by forty guest judges who are experts in entrepreneurship ecosystem building, investors or entrepreneurs themselves. Here is what they have to share with us as we all find new ways to #GetInTheArena and fight for meaningful inclusion in entrepreneurship.

What is a piece of advice you wish you had known when starting out in the entrepreneurship field?

Take action when you’re 80% ready. There are lots of people with great ideas, but the real traction is gained by those who take continuous action on those ideas.
– Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

Surround yourself with a community of supporters. Ideas are born out of dreams for something new, different, and impactful. It takes a lot of time, nourishment, and most importantly a community of supporters to enable an idea to truly flourish into a venture. Every entrepreneurial success has taken hundreds of small and big connections to bring it to life.
– 
C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT

Entrepreneurs are explorers. Your adventure will have extreme highs and lows, but the journey will be worth the destination.
– 
Elizabeth Gore, Dell

As an intrapreneur, I wish I knew that you don’t have to be perfect to launch a new project or endeavor. It’s so easy to get caught up in making something absolutely excellent, but the important lesson is don’t wait to launch. When we interviewed Eric Reiss of the Lean StartUp, I started to realize the importance of letting go of being a perfectionist and launching. Some of my favorite accomplishments have come from a Lean StartUp approach.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

I wish I had known that making an impact or doing meaningful work is not enough to build a sustainable, impactful venture. For social entrepreneurs, we must do the work that changes lives but we also have to constantly build and cultivate relationships with supporters and stakeholders as well as be compelling advocates for our cause. Making a measurable impact on someone’s life is the hardest and most meaningful part of social entrepreneurship, but it takes even more than that (like fundraising skills, management know-how, etc.) to be a successful social entrepreneur.
– 
Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Plenty of smart, dedicated, and passionate entrepreneurs with promising viable business ideas have lost out on opportunities or money due to horrible pitches. Here’s how not to be one of them—don’t try to tell your life story. These are the pitch perfect things to you want to convey: how the product, service, or technology you are offering solves a problem or pain that you are familiar with; how much of your own time and money are you willing to risk; who is your competitor because every business has one; how are you going to acquire new customers and keep any existing customers happy; and what is your business model and how it will make you money.
– 
Carolyn Brown, Black Enterprise

In every meeting, focus on the value you are providing—not the value of your company, but the value to the other person! If you’re fundraising, you should understand the problem the investor is trying to solve, and focus your conversation on how you help them solve the problem (not why you’re great!). If you’re talking to a customer, understand what their pain point is and focus on how you help them solve it (not why you’re great!). When talking about value, it’s better to be specific and wrong than vague and right, so try and be as specific as possible: not just “better” but “3x faster”; not just “cheaper” but “half the price”.
– Ross Baird, Village Capital

Hire slow and fire fast. When you’re starting up you might have a tendency to try to hire people quickly because it feels like momentum. The problem with that is that you may be compromising culture fit and you’re signing up for more as you’ve added payroll which means you now have to do more to sustain the team.  Additionally, in a startup every moment matters so if you find yourself with a hire that is not working out, make a change as soon as possible. Most likely the hire in question knows that they’re not the right fit – so it shouldn’t be a surprise.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

Remember, everything you see is just a thought manifested. Your job is hustle, manifest and hustle some more! – Talib Graves-MannsBlack Wall Street Homecoming

What do you think distinguishes a promising entrepreneur?

I always keep an eye out for founders who are personally committed to their mission, and who have engaged others in making it come to life. When it becomes more than a solo mission, entrepreneurs hit a point where failure is no longer an option, and that’s where the real magic happens.
– 
Carolyn Rodz, Circular Board

I look for evidence that the applicant has a deep, intimate understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served. This can be shown in different ways such as through work experience, academic study, or – most often – life experience. In my years of work supporting social entrepreneurs, one of the key things that sets apart the highly-impactful entrepreneurs from the less-impactful ones is an extensive understanding of the issue being addressed and the population being served.
– Darius Graham, Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins University

Relationships matter, which means people matter. Successful entrepreneurs understand this and have fostered important relationships to propel themselves to success. As much as it might sometimes seem, nothing is an overnight instance success.
– 
Frank Gruber, Tech.co

What surprised you about the #FacesofFounders applications?

What surprised me the most about #FaceofFounders applicants was how diverse the businesses were. Innovation is alive and thriving! It’s exciting to learn about businesses that are disrupting, creating new ways, new products and many of them are making a difference in the world and their local communities.
– Gabrielle McGee, Tory Burch Foundation

The sheer size of the positive energy around problem solving for experiences each founder had all over the country! My hope is #FacesofFounders has helped diverse entrepreneurs feel a community around them and that it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, where you grew up, or your political beliefs, but that ANYONE can start a venture with enough passion, true grit, and belief in creating a better future.
– C’pher Gresham, SEED SPOT

Thanks again to all of our guest judges and partners Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS who made this campaign possible. Because of these partners and the thousands that have committed to join the movement for a more inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, we are opening doors to innovators everywhere to start and scale their businesses. Come back on Monday to read the featured stories of fearless, problem solving founders on Fast Company!

Biggest Trend in Social Good? Women in the Driver’s Seat!

I was recently asked to open up a dinner conversation with a room full of social innovators—a mix of foundations, entrepreneurs, impact investors and companies—by laying out what I saw as the top three trends in social good. These trends are important in that they inform our arenas for action and the clarion call we, at the Case Foundation, are making to all citizens to “Get in the Arena.” That night, I picked three distinct trends because I felt it opened up more conversation. In hindsight, I wish I’d gone with my original three: women, women and women. 

Trend 1: Women as Investors

You may recall an earlier blog I wrote about Trailblazing Women in Impact Investing where I talked about women emerging as a driving force behind the growth of the Impact Investing industry. From founding firms focused on impact investors, to creating tools and products to catalyze capital, to leading nonprofits and foundations focused on educating and activating a host of actors, women are spearheading and populating this sector more so than any other financial services sector.

A recent Calvert Investments report asserts that women, along with younger investors, will indeed drive the growth of the broader responsible investment industry. In a study of affluent women, 95 percent ranked “helping others” and 90 percent ranked “environmental responsibility” as important. And beyond driving the growth of Impact Investing, woman may be our greatest hope to unlocking the kinds of game-changing innovations required to solve the most persistent problems. Turns out that women wealth holders exhibit more risk tolerance toward new and innovative solutions, once they have met the financial security needs of themselves and their families. As Sallie Krawcheck wrote in her thought-provoking piece, women investors exhibit a slightly different values-based perspective. More women want their investments to not just generate excellent returns, but also have a positive impact on the world they live in. And they’re willing to make some big bets to deliver on that perspective.

This data reinforces the importance of ensuring that women continue to be aware of the momentum in the Impact Investing space. Remember, their purchasing power and, therefore, their potential social impact power is enormous—women control 39 percent of investible assets in the U.S. today. That number will continue to rise; women currently control 51 percent, or $14 trillion, of personal wealth in the U.S. and are expected to control $22 trillion by 2020.

Trend 2: Women as Consumers

Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world. Globally, they control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. In the next five years, it is expected that this number will rise to nearly $30 trillion. For context, that is more than the two largest growth markets typically identified—China and India—combined! In the U.S., women control somewhere between $5-15 trillion, with estimates that they will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next 10 years.

Women handle the bulk of purchasing decisions for everyday items like groceries and clothing and are also heading up and/or highly influential in large ticket purchases like cars, homes and appliances. Here’s another kicker—they even purchase 50 percent of the products marketed to men!

Why is this a trend worth watching in social good? Because women often make purchasing decisions based on their personal and social values. The HBR piece on the “Female Economy” is a must-read on the role women will play as consumers, members of the workforce, productivity drivers and caregivers. On the women as consumers front, my favorite quote:

“Once companies wake up to the potential of the female economy, they will find a whole new range of commercial opportunities in women’s social concerns. Women seek to buy products and services from companies that do good for the world, especially for other women. Brands that—directly or indirectly—promote physical and emotional well-being, protect and preserve the environment, provide education and care for the needy, and encourage love and connection will benefit. And women are the customer. There’s no reason they should settle for products that ignore or fail to fully meet their needs, or that do so cynically or superficially. Women will increasingly resist being stereotyped, segmented only by age or income, lumped together into an “all women” characterization, or, worse, undifferentiated from men.”

Given the forthcoming wealth transfer predicted, many of these upwardly mobile consumers and asset owners are Millennial women. Millennial customers, employees and importantly—entrepreneurs—lead their lives and make choices with a more holistic worldview. They contribute to and support the things they believe in and they use their dollars to exercise those views and beliefs.

Trend 3: Women as Entrepreneurs

And perhaps the greatest trend of all to watch in terms of opportunity to drive social good is the rise of women in entrepreneurship.

American Express OPEN’s 2016 State of Women-Owned Business report is a must-read. The number of women owned firms and their economic contributions continue to rise at rates higher than the national average. As of 2016, this data shows 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., employing nearly 9 million people and generating over $1.6 trillion in revenues.

The report show that between 2007 and 2016:

  • The number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses. That’s five times faster than the national average.
  • Their employment growth increased by 18 percent, compared to a 1 percent decline among all businesses.
  • Their business revenues increased by 35 percent, compared to 27 percent among all U.S. firms. That’s 30 percent higher than the national average.

And check out the growth of firms owned by women of color! Their numbers have more than doubled since 2007, increasing by 126 percent.

Now, let’s turn our attention to venture-backed companies in particular, given their potential for high growth. Less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have female founders, despite the evidence that gender-diverse companies drive greater market returns and innovation; that VC portfolios show women-founded companies outperform those founded by men; and that funds declaring gender diversity an “investing factor” give higher returns with women at the leadership level.

I think we are going to see these dreadful statistics change over the next couple of years. Increased attention being paid to these numbers, including by our own #FacesofFounders campaign and others (UBS, Blackstone Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs, Kapor Center, 500 Startups, JumpStart, to name just a few) will help. Why is this a social trend worth accelerating? To put this into perspective, according the Economist, if women entrepreneurs in the U.S. started with the same capital as men, they would add 6 million jobs to the economy in five years—2 million of those in the first year alone.

As we ring in 2017, with all of its uncertainties, I for one commit to getting in the arena of investing in women with intention. For one thing appears pretty certain—our economy, as well as our social fabric, depends on them.

Jean Case at TEDxMidAtlantic: Unlocking the American Dream

Case Foundation CEO Jean Case took the stage at TEDxMidAtlantic: New Rules—a gathering of 45 prestigious leaders who came together to discuss and think about what kind of society and future we want to build, and how we get there. Jean’s talk noted the importance innovators have played in the history of the United States, examined the state of entrepreneurship today and promoted a series of changes we could make to open the doors of entrepreneurship to everyone.

Jean shared the true but often surprising statistics that show that women and entrepreneurs of color are too-often being left on the sidelines, but contrasted them with her vision of a world where all innovators and change makers were on a level playing field. While she recognized that there are still many challenges facing women and entrepreneurs of color involving unconscious bias, she called on investors to take a hard look at their portfolios and the opportunities they were missing by not tapping into the rich talent of diverse entrepreneurs. Standing on the iconic red TED carpet, Jean set forward a clarion call for all to join in on building an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem that would give everyone an equal chance at unlocking the American Dream.

Watch Jean’s TEDx talk below to learn more about the realities for women and entrepreneurs of color today, and how we can help change the face of who is and can be an entrepreneur.

 

The Myth of the Coasts

The ‘Myth of the Coasts’ is a guest blog post from Cathy Belk, President of JumpStart, Inc., and is the seventh blog post in the Case Foundation’s Myth of the Entrepreneur series. This series is intended to intentionally examine, and change, the stories our culture tells about entrepreneurship. For more information on the Case Foundation’s approach to the Myth series and Inclusive Entrepreneurship, please check out our introductory piece. We encourage you to join the conversation using #Ent4All on Twitter.

If I say the word “startup,” you probably think Silicon Valley, or maybe Boston or New York City. And that would be understandable, considering that, according to NVCA and MoneyTree PriceWaterhouseCooper Annual 2015 Report, roughly 77 percent of all venture capital investment last year went to either California, New York or New England.

But what these statistics don’t show, is that right now is also a great time to be a startup entrepreneur in the Midwest.

Here are just a few of the common myths about Midwestern entrepreneurship that are being debunked more and more every day. 

Myth One: The Midwest Doesn’t Have Great Talent

One of the founders of modern venture capitalism, the late David Morgenthaler, was fond of comparing entrepreneurship to a horse race consisting of the jockey (team), the horse (product) and the track (market). One myth I hear often is that the Midwest just doesn’t have the jockeys—entrepreneurs with a track record of success and failure, along with all the connections (investors, customers, board members, etc.) and experience that come with both.

But the fact is, we have plenty of great talent. In Cleveland we have successful entrepreneurs like Mark Woodka, Laura Bennett, Steven Lindseth and Charu Ramanathan as well as entrepreneur/investors like Doug Weintraub and Charles Stack, not to mention recent exits from companies like OrthoHelix, TOA Technologies and Explorys, whose cofounder and CEO Stephen McHale is also an active angel investor and entrepreneurial mentor in the community. And that’s just a few examples from one city.

Meanwhile, Midwestern universities are actively working to develop the kind of talent startups need, challenging their students to think more entrepreneurially and encouraging them to start their own businesses. In Northeast Ohio alone, all of the region’s 22 colleges and universities have collegiate entrepreneurship programs, many of which also include experiential learning components, such as Cleveland State University’s Startup Vikes program.

And let’s not forget the rise of Midwestern coding bootcamps such as The Software Guild, TechElevator and WeCanCodeIt; or the many talented young people—from entrepreneurs and web developers to the greatest basketball player in the world—who are boomeranging back to the Midwest and bringing their talents back with them. 

Myth Two: There’s No Capital For Entrepreneurs

Did you know that, according to the 2016 NVCA Yearbook, more than $2.2 billion in venture capital was invested in the Midwest in 2015, the highest amount since 2001? Capital is always a concern for entrepreneurs, but there is money available, and more and more investors are starting to see the potential of tapping into the region’s grossly underserved market.

In the meantime, local investors are stepping up to provide much of the early financial (and intellectual) capital to help local startups grow. In Ohio, 75 percent of the capital prior to Series B rounds comes from local (statewide) sources, and these investors are continuing to ramp up their activity.

Right now my organization, JumpStart, is in the process of investing $40 million dollars into Ohio entrepreneurs over the next three years through three separate venture capital funds. Ohio also has five organized angel groups, including two of the nation’s largest, North Coast Angel Fund and Ohio TechAngel Funds.

Myth Three: There’s No Diversity

Silicon Valley is a diverse place, and accounted for nearly 50 percent of U.S. venture dollars invested in 2015. And yet, less than ten percent of U.S. startups backed by venture capital are led by women, and only one percent are headed by African-Americans. In addition, nearly 90 percent of all venture capital professionals are still Caucasian men and only 7 percent of the partners in the top venture firms are women.

Meanwhile, some in the Midwest—a region often stereotyped as being homogenous—are seizing a valuable opportunity to be diverse and inclusive, building both fully inclusive organizations such as TechTown, as well as targeted programs such as PowerMoves, driving a more diverse pipeline of entrepreneurs and creating a major competitive advantage. At JumpStart, more than 30 percent of the companies we advise or invest in are owned or led by women or people of color, and we recently took this commitment even further by creating the Focus Fund—a $10 million venture capital fund supported by the Case Foundation that focuses exclusively on female founders and entrepreneurs of color.

Myth Four: The Lower Cost Of Living Isn’t That Important

Most people already know that the general costs to start or run a tech business in the Midwest are lower than they are on the coasts. This is especially true for real estate—both commercial and residential—where Silicon Valley prices aren’t just high, they are the highest in the entire nation (New York City is right behind). Consequently, average salaries are also much higher.

But to grasp the true entrepreneurial advantages that come along with lower cost of living, you have to think less about dollars and more about time—specifically, how much time you have to make your startup successful before your venture runs out of runway. An entry level programmer salary for a company with fewer than 25 associates in the software industry in the Valley is ~$71K, while in the Midwest the average is ~$58K. That differential (almost 25 percent) is almost three months of time.

As you can see, it’s a very good time to be an entrepreneur in the Midwest. But no matter where you call home, don’t let these kinds of myths keep you from chasing your goals. Focus on whatever key competitive advantages your location offers, and remember that success is mostly determined by hard work and strong business fundamentals—not geography.