A New Path forward for UP Global

At the Case Foundation and Revolution, we have long been supporters of the idea that unleashing the power of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial approaches is crucial to drive innovation, accelerate economic growth, create jobs and solve big, intractable problems. That’s why we’ve invested directly in entrepreneurs, supported programs like the US-Palestinian Partnership (and as a result the creation of a venture capital fund in the West Bank) and created initiatives like the Startup America Partnership and Rise of the Rest. And it’s why I’ve served, and continue to serve, in leadership roles for efforts like the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and as a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

In May of 2013, we supported the creation of a new organizationUP Global, which represented the combined power of the rapidly growing Startup Weekend and the Startup America Partnership, which we co-created alongside the Kauffman Foundation. I’ve been proud to serve as chair of UP Global as the organization seeks to leverage grassroots communities to create and nurture entrepreneurial ecosystems in the U.S. and around the world. Since that time, the UP Global organization has continued to expand – nearly doubling the presence of Startup Weekend, which in 2014 held 905 events in 501 cities (in 135 countries), and introducing new programming like Startup Week, bringing together 18,000 attendees in places like Columbus, Phoenix, Manila and Stockholm. You can learn more about the organization’s growth in its most recent impact report, available here.

Today, UP Global has taken an important next step in the future of the organization by becoming a part of Techstars, an organization that has played a key role in identifying high-potential entrepreneurs and bringing the power of the ecosystem to help them grow. The merger will combine two powerful entrepreneurial networks with closely aligned missions. It is our hope that the efforts of UP Global will continue to gain momentum, further extending its global footprint and reaching more people in more places.

The Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest and Startup Week programs will remain under the Techstars umbrella, and while much of the groundwork and principles established by the Startup America Partnership efforts will continue within a number of Techstars programs, the brand will not. At the Case Foundation, we continue to see an opportunity for an effort focused specifically on the role of entrepreneurship to drive American innovation, and as a result we have retained the Startup America Partnership brand. We have begun to explore opportunities for future Startup America programming, and will have more to share in the coming months.

In the meantime, please join us in congratulating the UP Global and Techstars team as they forge a new path ahead for entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world.

Startup Diplomacy: Announcing the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

Not too long ago America was a startup. It was just an idea, forged by visionaries who later became heroes. Through fits and starts they wrote a business plan – the Constitution – hired a CEO – George Washington – elected a board of directors – Congress – and set out to build better lives in a new land. In the process, they were able to change the course of history.

Fast forward to the present: America is now the leader of the free world. It didn’t happen by accident; it happened because we built a stable democracy, and because we built the largest and most resilient economy. We did this by encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs. America’s innovators led the world, first in the agricultural revolution, then in the industrial revolution, and more recently in the digital revolution.

It hasn’t always been easy. The cycles of innovation and entrepreneurism over our 250-year history led to the rise and sometimes the fall of different sectors of our economy, and regions of our country. But the fact remains: entrepreneurs are the bedrock of America’s economic success. Helping them succeed is essential to helping our economy grow, and creating opportunities for future generations. Indeed, our best hope for a bright future is doing everything we can to ensure we remain the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial nation.

That’s why I joined with the President in 2011 to launch the Startup America Partnership (now UP Global) – a groundbreaking effort that supported the growth of entrepreneurial communities in regions across the United States. It’s why I joined the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and before that the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It’s why I advocated on behalf of the Jumpstarting Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act two years ago, and also why I am doing my part to encourage bipartisan support for immigration reform. And it’s why I am proud to now join the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE) – a first-of-its-kind collaboration between American entrepreneurs, the White House, and multiple government agencies including the State Department, the Commerce Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The goal of PAGE is simple: to help inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, both at home and abroad. Of course, we always want to – and should – put our own country first, and be sure we are doubling down on entrepreneurs here in America so we can grow our economy, create jobs and remain competitive. But we need to recognize that it’s in our own self-interest, as well as humanity’s interest, to do what we can to help other countries strengthen their economies and civil societies.

The ethos that pervades America’s vast startup ecosystem – namely, a culture of risk-taking and the willingness to fail in pursuit of a big idea – is one we should actively export abroad. It offers the best hope for opportunity and social mobility, giving people something to strive for and providing the foundation upon which stable economies and political systems are built. We’ve learned firsthand the important role entrepreneurs have played in creating opportunity (“the American dream”) in America, and now it’s time for us to take that message to the world.

Frankly, after advocating stridently for policies to advance America’s own entrepreneurial economy, I was initially reluctant to jump on the global bandwagon. But I saw firsthand the impact an entrepreneurial approach can have when the Case Foundation helped form a venture capital firm in the West Bank. While the challenges in the region remain significant, the startups now emerging in the West Bank are beginning to light a spark of hope. And we’re even seeing some startups employ both Israelis and Palestinians, who are able to work side by side (often, sadly, via remote technologies, given the difficulties of moving back and forth across the border), and this too creates that sense of hope and possibility – especially for a younger generation that is desperately seeking a positive and constructive path to a better future.

More recently, I’ve watched the global expansion of Startup Weekend, a network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs on a mission to inspire, educate, and empower individuals, teams and communities. The success, growth and promise of Startup Weekend led us to merge the Startup America Partnership with it to create a new umbrella organization, UP Global, which I now proudly chair. Startup Weekend will host over 1,000 events this year – more than 70% of them outside the U.S. And today, in conjunction with the launch of PAGE, we are proud to announce a new UP Global initiative – Entrepreneurs Across Borders – an ambitious program made possible by the support of the Case Foundation and Google for Entrepreneurs that will pair 100 highly successful entrepreneurs with one of 600 cities across the world where UP Global has a presence. We’re excited to share more on Entrepreneurs Across Borders in the coming weeks. I’ve seen firsthand the power of exporting the ideals and principles of entrepreneurship and am incredibly enthusiastic about the good that will come from these new initiatives.

So while we should continue to do all we can to build the U.S. economy and support our own entrepreneurial sector, now’s the time to broaden our focus, and seek to inspire the world. That’s what the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship will aim to do. It’s a big challenge, to be sure, but it’s one we need to tackle. I am thrilled to join with Rich Barton, Tory Burch, Helen Grenier, Reid Hoffman, Sal Khan, Quincy Jones, Daphne Koller, Hamdi Ulakaya, Nina Vaca and Alexa von Tobel as the initial ambassadors. And I am grateful for the leadership and support of President Obama, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of State John Kerry, and USAID Administrator Raj Shah.

Together, we are committed to creating for others the same opportunities that were afforded us – with the hope, and the expectation, that perhaps this entrepreneur-centric effort can play a small part in helping to build a safer and more prosperous world.

The Startup America Partnership: Moving UP

When the Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation launched the Startup America Partnership at the White House in January 2011, it was designed as a three year initiative to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship in the U.S. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made over the past two and a half years, including launching 32 startup states, substantial corporate partners and resources, and building a network of more than 13,000 startups nationwide.

So, where do we go from here?

I’ve lived in Washington for nearly thirty years, and in that time I’ve seen many Washington efforts launch and continue operating so long as they had enough dollars to keep the doors open – never pausing to seriously ask the questions: Are we still needed? Are we having an impact? That’s why we gave ourselves a three year mission with Startup America – to maintain a sense of urgency and to give us a deliberate moment in time when we would stop and ask ourselves those very questions and make a hard decision if we should double down or shut down.

For the past several months, Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership and our board has been scouring the landscape, connecting with partners and supporters to determine if we should stay or go. And, if we stay, should we stand up a new independent organization or expand our reach by partnering with an existing like-minded organization. At the end of this exhaustive process, here’s what we’ve found:

First, there was resounding and virtually unanimous feedback that the country, entrepreneurs need the Startup America Partnership to continue celebrating entrepreneurs, creating meaningful connections, building cross-sector bridges and sparking much-needed conversations.

Second, we realized that the best path forward was to partner with an existing like-minded organization that would be interested in joining forces to exponentially increase the reach, depth and impact of our singular work.

Third, we found that perfect match in an organization that shares our values and our goals, Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is one of America’s most innovative and promising social enterprises, led by one of America’s most innovative and purpose-driven entrepreneurs, Marc Nager. The organization supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship through events worldwide that educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. It has built a network of more than 100,000 alumni, thousands of volunteer organizers and over 100 trained facilitators spread across more than 400 cities in more than 100 countries.

Today, we’re excited to announce that the Startup America Partnership is joining forces with Startup Weekend to create UP Global, a combined organization dedicated to empowering the entrepreneurial community and building networks that drive collaboration and strengthen entrepreneurs worldwide. Together we will offer startups at every stage (from idea to IPO) programs and expertise to continue to advance ecosystems and build a truly national startup network with deep roots in communities.

Both Startup Weekend and the Startup America Partnership will retain their brand names and missions, joining with Startup Digest, Startup Next and NYSE Corporate Connections, all closely collaborating and all powered by UP Global. I am delighted to serve as the first chair of UP Global and I will continue to serve as chair of the Startup America Partnership advisory board. Marc Nager will serve as CEO of the combined organization. And, Scott Case will become interim CEO of Startup America Partnership and join the board of UP Global. The Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation will support both Startup America Partnership and UP Global. And, we’re delighted that Google for Entrepreneurs, Microsoft and the Coca-Cola Company are all founding funders of UP Global as well.

There’s an African Proverb that’s a hallmark of the Case Foundation’s Be Fearless campaign that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In this unique and fearless partnership we plan to do both. We will quickly become the world’s leading entrepreneur organization, providing clear pathways for regions to jumpstart their entrepreneurial ecosystems. And together, there’s no limit to how far we can go to celebrate entrepreneurs and give them the tools they need to invigorate sluggish economies and strengthen communities in need.