February promises to be a busy month in Washington for entrepreneurship policy. Next Tuesday February 8th will see Kauffman’s annual State of Entrepreneurship Address delivered by Carl Schramm followed by Capitol Hill briefings and a host of interesting activity on job creation. Today, I post from an event at the White House where President Obama has just announced a “StartUP America Partnership,” a new initiative aimed at fostering successful innovative, high growth businesses in the U.S. It marks a commitment of the current administration to a national entrepreneurship-based strategy to stimulate economic growth and the creation of quality jobs.
The StartUP America Partnership consists of a new nonprofit entity led by Steve Case and the Case Foundation and Carl Schramm and the Kauffman Foundation. The two foundations will combine their resources and expertise to bring together top entrepreneurs, start-up firm financiers, CEOs, universities, foundations, and other leaders from across the private, government and non-profit sectors to work together to spur new business creation in the country. While not a grant making entity, they will identify and encourage private-sector partners to commit resources to help seed and grow entrepreneurial companies. They will use both existing proven models and new programs and efforts to help entrepreneurs focusing on three key areas:
Education: Expanding high-impact entrepreneurship education programs to more high schools, community colleges, and universities, reaching thousands of additional students.
Commercialization: Clearing the path to market for primary research in more universities, through a combination of regional ecosystem development, faculty engagement, and streamlined technology licensing.
Acceleration: Replicating successful entrepreneurship accelerator programs in more cities and universities, by recruiting more experienced mentors to support more startups.
More than a dozen firms and organizations have already joined the StartUP America Partnership. For example, General Electric, Conoco Phillips and NRG formed a joint venture that will leverage GE’s existing innovative venture investment platform to invest $300 million in some of the country’s most innovative energy startups. The Pearson Foundation, Ernst & Young, Google, and New Markets Education Partners will collectively support the expansion of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programs, which provide entrepreneurship education for at-risk high school students from low-income communities. Facebook will launch Startup Days, a new series of 12 to 15 events around the country designed to provide entrepreneurs with access to expertise, resources and engineers to help accelerate their businesses. The Blackstone Charitable Foundation in turn announced a $5 million expansion of the Blackstone LaunchPad program piloted at two Detroit colleges.
The White House should be applauded for seeding this new effort. I am particularly pleased to see here not just the Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and SBA Administrator Karen Mills, but the economic team led by Gene Sperling from the National Economic Council and Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors. The President has recognized how important it is to inspire Americans to capitalize on their heritage as pioneers who built the largest economy in the world. Of course we will look with interest as the details unfold. I hope his leadership is taken seriously on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies where government does the all important work of defining the rules and setting the incentives necessary to inspire and support those Americans who take a risk for the team and try to make American jobs.
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Jonathan Ortmans is president of the Public Forum Institute, a non-partisan organization dedicated to fostering dialogue on important policy issues. In this capacity, he leads the Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship, focused on public policies to promote entrepreneurship in the U.S. and around the world. In addition, he serves as a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.