Three years ago, we launched an effort to bring entrepreneurs back into the national spotlight as critical drivers of the American economy. When we launched the Startup America Partnership at the White House in January 2011, the goal was to bring entrepreneurs to the forefront of the conversation about revitalizing the American economy. Study after study shows that fast-growing, young companies are responsible for nearly all of the new jobs in our country. However, even before the financial crisis hit, the number of new companies getting started was on a decline, and the momentum for young companies was headed in the wrong direction. It was clear we needed a way to unleash the next wave of American innovation – and so the Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation came together with incredible partners in the public, private and non-profit community to embark on an effort to help young, high-growth companies flourish and build a brighter future.
Since that time, we’ve made significant progress. The efforts of the Startup America Partnership mobilized hundreds of volunteer leaders who promoted startup communities in places like Des Moines, Missoula, Phoenix, and Atlanta. From mega events like Startup Week in Denver with more than 6,000 participants; to Startup Job Fairs in Arizona helping promising new enterprises find the talent they need; to annual bus tours activating and inspiring the entire state of Maryland, and even the opening of major new entrepreneurship buildings in Nashville, Dallas, and DC, the Startup America Partnership has stood shoulder to shoulder with some of America’s most promising entrepreneurs to provide support and a network for sustained success.
We’ve also made important strides in the policy arena – beginning with the creation of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), which helped lead to the creation of the broader Startup America initiative, and through the work of President Obama’s Jobs Council, important issues that affect the ability of young companies to access capital and talent received a hearing at the highest levels of government. Because of these efforts, Congress passed and the President signed the Jumpstarting Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a seminal piece of legislation that overturned eighty years of antiquated regulations governing how businesses can raise money and for the first time, legalizing equity crowdfunding.
The benefits of these efforts are starting to be felt – IPOs are up, more people are involved in startups than ever before, more regions are seeing significant momentum in their entrepreneurial ecosystems and policymakers – regardless of their partisan affiliations – agree on the critical role that entrepreneurship plays in fostering growth, stemming inequality and generating jobs. Recent data published by the National Venture Capital Association revealed another hopeful trend: the amount of venture capital flowing to startups in 2013 increased by 7 percent, but some regions saw an explosion of growth including my hometown of Washington D.C. – up 104 percent, Texas – up 38 percent, New York – up 35 percent, and the Southeastern U.S. – up 63 percent. The effect is clear: while Silicon Valley remains the dominant center of high-tech, venture backed startups, more and more capital is flowing to the rest of the country that has historically been starved of needed investment.
As we celebrate the progress of the last few years, we remain acutely aware that more work is needed to enliven America’s entrepreneurial economy. That’s why we chose last year to combine the efforts of the Startup America Partnership with Startup Weekend to create UP Global, bringing together two great organizations working to enhance entrepreneurial ecosystems around the globe. In addition, we have more work to do to ensure the competitiveness of the US entrepreneurial economy – including passing immigration reform that will enable us to win the global battle for talent, and ensuring the successful implementation of crowdfunding, which will provide unprecedented access to new capital for young companies no matter where they are located.
We live in a golden age for entrepreneurship. Access to information, networks and investment are rising and technology is leveling the playing field, making it easier for young companies to start and scale from wherever their founder calls home. It would be easy to dial back our efforts and claim victory, but the work is not done and the need to support entrepreneurs – the heroes of our economy – has not waned.