#FacesofFounders Launches from the White House at SXSL

Today the Case Foundation is launching the #FacesofFounders campaign aimed at catalyzing the inclusive entrepreneurship movement. Our goal is to help change the narrative of how people talk about entrepreneurs, with the goal of leveling the playing field, so everyone has a shot at the American Dream.

America itself was once a startup, built upon the founding principle that we all are created equal. It follows that we should all have an equal opportunity—if we work hard—to succeed. The hope and promise of America is the promise that anyone—from any place, any race, any gender, any age and any sexual orientation—can bring forward the next big idea.

Yet, all too often it appears that while talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not. And that feels especially true for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. For a country where nearly all new jobs are being created by startups, maximizing opportunity for all entrepreneurs could not be a more urgent or important undertaking.

And so, this afternoon we are joined by more than 2,000 social champions for change as we launch #FacesofFounders at the White House South by South Lawn (SXSL) festival. The campaign creates a much-needed rallying cry for entrepreneurs and the allies who support them to showcase the diverse backgrounds and approaches of entrepreneurs today. Beginning today, until November 22nd, we invite all entrepreneurs—particularly women founders and entrepreneurs of color, as well as all those who support inclusive startup ecosystems—to share their photos and stories of entrepreneurship on FacesofFounders.org or on Twitter using #FacesofFounders.

Jean Case FoF site

We’ve partnered with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Google for Entrepreneurs and UBS, along with Fast Company, to showcase and cultivate the best and brightest founders who are driving innovation and job creation across America. Additional promotional support is being provided by Black Enterprise and Latina Media Ventures. Together, we aim to change the storyline around who is and can be an entrepreneur.

Our commitment is to foster an inclusive approach to entrepreneurship, one that expands support for inclusive networks and inspires entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to launch scalable companies with the potential for global change. We know we have work to do, as today only less than 10 percent of venture-backed companies have at least one woman founder and less than one percent have an African American founder. Yet data shows women-founded ventures are outperforming their male counterparts and companies with diverse leadership teams provide greater returns for investors.

As we seek to showcase the diversity of entrepreneurs across our country and level the playing field for all entrepreneurs to thrive, we are inspired by the stories of women founders and entrepreneurs of color. Andrés Moreno of Open English, the internet-based English language instruction platform reaching more than 500,000 students, to date has received more than $120 million in venture capital funding. Or Kelechi Anyadiegwu, founder of Zuvaa, who heads a social enterprise fashion brand that went from $500 in revenue to $2 million in just two years. And others like CEO Shazi Visram, founder of Happy Family, who has created a B-Corporation and healthy baby food company sold in more than 40,000 stores across the globe. And in that “any age” category, how about Mikaila Ulmer, the dynamic 11-year old CEO and founder of Me & the Bees Lemonade sold in retailers like Whole Foods. These are founders who are changing the face of entrepreneurs in America and who can lead the next billion-dollar brands.

It’s time to change the narrative of how we talk about entrepreneurs in American culture. It’s time to break down the stereotypes of who can be an entrepreneur and correct the outdated myths of what an entrepreneur can look like. It’s time to lift up all entrepreneurs in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems.

Join us in this movement! Post your photos on FacesofFounders.org or using #FacesofFounders on Twitter. Share the campaign with someone who is helping to build more inclusive ecosystems. And if you are an entrepreneur, tell us your story at FacesofFounders.org—five founders will have their story featured in a sponsored series on FastCompany.com next spring. Let’s rise together!

Public-Private strategy session with White House takes citizen participation to the next level

This morning, I have the honor of kicking off the public-private strategy session we’re hosting with the White House on driving innovation and civic dialogue through the use of prizes, challenges and open grantmaking.

I feel a great sense of excitement as we head into this dialogue that focuses largely on new, breakthrough opportunities to more fully engage citizens in our public sector efforts. Here at the Case Foundation, we began to see the potential in these types of approaches to ignite civic participation, especially when combined with new interactive technologies, when we launched the Make It Your Own Awards in 2007. Since then, we have seen that potential grow as both the philanthropic and corporate sectors have continued to experiment through programs that incent the public to participate in decision-making.

Now, we have the opportunity to take lessons we’ve learned – and those of peers – from these early innovations and apply them to a sector where they have the potential to make the most impact on the public – in the federal government. Through the early experimentation, we’ve seen that there is a clear appetite from the public to have a more active role in making decisions that affect their daily lives and their communities, and now it’s time to capitalize on that appetite by creating opportunities and moments that capture the best ideas and move them forward.

Earlier this week, I was asked “why now?” when it comes to the government’s adoption of prizes and challenges. Frankly, I don’t think it was possible until now – the merging of the movement toward improving transparency and reducing bureaucracy at the federal level, with the evolution of Web 2.0 technologies has opened the door for the creation of programs that can successfully engage the public and encourage their direct involvement in driving innovation and improving how government serves them.  At its core, this is an opportunity for government to return to the roots of democracy – a government that is for the people, and more significantly by the people.

And since this day-long session is all about reaching new audiences to identify new solutions and engaging all citizens in decision-making, we’re particularly excited about the fact that we’ll be able to bring the day to the public – no matter where they are. We encourage everyone interested in this topic to join our interactive CaseSoup Q&A sessions featuring leading innovators in this space, taking place online and live from the event. The schedule includes an exciting mix of public and private sector experts and practitioners, including Sonal Shah of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, Peter Diamandis of the X Prize Foundation, Aneesh Chopra, U.S. CTO, the team from the Pepsi Refresh Project and others. We’ll hope you’ll join us on this exciting day!

The White House embraces wisdom of the crowds. What do you think?

This post was written by Michael Smith on behalf of the Case Foundation:

On Friday, April 30 we’re teaming up with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council (where the Office of Social Innovation resides) to bring the private and public sectors together to discuss lessons and strategies from experiments in prizes, challenges and open grantmaking – big and small.

This meeting is part of our continued efforts to encourage citizen involvement in decisions that affect them, and it’s part of the Obama Administration’s Open Government Directive, which requires agencies to tap the expertise and ingenuity of the American people to bring the top talent & best ideas to bear on our nation’s most pressing problems.

As I said in my blog post launching our series on Citizen-Centered Solutions last month, we have been experimenting with programs like this since we launched our Make It Your Own Awards and America’s Giving Challenge in 2007 – and we could not be more excited about the flood of similar programs that have come since then…  everything from the American Express Members Project to this year’s Pepsi Refresh Project and now the White House telling agencies to tap into the knowledge and innovation of the people it serves! I may be a bit of a civic engagement nerd, but the possibilities of breaking down barriers and moving beyond the stale and stagnated when we commit to reaching new audiences and democratizing problem solving gives me goose bumps…  really.

The meeting on Friday will highlight leading private sector innovators like the X Prize Foundation, American Express, PepsiCo, and the Knight Foundation along with cutting edge federal government innovators from DARPA, NASA, and the Department of Education. More than 100 federal government workers who are charged with implementing these new programs will listen to panels, participate in interactive discussions and Ignite sessions (where select participants will have three minutes to present new ideas) and hear from six senior officials from across the White House.

Prizes and challenges have proven to be effective in mobilizing the masses and identifying brilliant new ideas; however, we will be asking ourselves the tough questions, like…

  • How do you ensure transparency in decision making?
  • How do you ensure quality and impact?
  • How do you determine what problems should be tackled by an in-house team, contracted out, or opened to all through a prize?
  • And, how do you wade through the bureaucracy that makes innovation and taking new paths seem almost impossible.

We don’t want to take on these questions alone. So, while the capacity of this room may be limited we want to expand this discussion to as many people as possible. That’s why we’re hosting a day long series of live, interactive CaseSoup interviews with speakers from the event giving you a chance to hear from them and ask questions via social media. That’s why all panels and keynotes will be filmed and made available to the public the week of May 3rd. And, that’s why today, we’re asking that you take a look at the agenda and comment on this blog post with any questions that you would ask or any thoughts you have on what we’re trying to accomplish. So, let your voice be heard. What do you think?