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A Year for Entrepreneurs

Jonathan Ortmans, President, Public Forum Institute

Welcome to 2012 – a year which, without any official proclamation, will likely be an excellent year for entrepreneurs. In so many respects, advocates in 2011 for startups and entrepreneurs could not have done better in setting up 2012. Better data, more relevant policy and legislation, streamlined programming and more widespread public support should give all reason to be optimistic that more people will take a risk, unleash an idea and make a job. And we should expect even more new developments that will shape even better entrepreneurship ecosystems across the world.

Research and legislation designed to support startups In 2011, the Kauffman Foundation released data pointing to a "jobs leak" – new businesses have been starting up with fewer workers than historic norms and are also adding fewer workers as they grow. This type of data, alongside initiatives such as Global Entrepreneurship Week/USA and Startup America, escalated attention from opinion leaders that has helped guide policy reforms conducive to real economic growth, starting with Kauffman´s own Rules for Growth (January 2011) and Startup Act policy recommendations (July 2011). The year ended with several examples of action by policymakers including a Startup Act of 2011 bill (S. 1965) introduced last month by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) in December.

Citing data and research from the Kauffman Foundation, the bipartisan Startup Act legislation introduced on December 8, 2011, offers policy reforms that would make it easier for new firms to start and grow. It aims at jumpstarting the economy through a five-prong approach:

  1. Reducing regulatory burdens;
  2. Attracting business investment;
  3. Accelerating the commercialization of university research;
  4. Attracting and retaining entrepreneurial talent; and
  5. Encouraging pro-growth state and local policies.

You can read here a full summary of the Senators' Startup Act.

Another important bill for entrepreneurship that will debated on Capitol Hill in 2012 is the Startup Expansion and Investment Act (S. 1962), introduced on December 7, 2011, by Senators Jim DeMint (R-SC) and John Barrasso (R-WY). This bill zeroes in on regulatory burdens imposed on young and growing companies by the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. The bill is based on similar legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ) last September (H.R. 2941).

Efforts will continue to unfold in Washington to address any issues that weaken U.S. competitiveness in what is now a global race to establish the most entrepreneur friendly environments for start ups and job creators. Watch for more leadership and initiatives from Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) who not only chairs the only Senate committee with “entrepreneurship” in its name, but is more and more looked to for leadership on all matters influencing startups even those outside the jurisdiction of her Committee.

A wave of reforms will likely also happen at the state level. For example, after the Kauffman Foundation´s Starting Smaller; Staying Smaller: America's Slow Leak in Job Creation came out, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis examined many of the same issues but from a five state perspective (Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana). On February 9, 2012, the Kauffman Foundation's 3rd Annual State of Entrepreneurship Address in Washington, DC, will discuss effective, low-cost ways of promoting entrepreneurship and innovation at the state level. The event will include an address by Benno C. Schmidt, Kauffman Foundation trustee and interim president, as well as remarks from Dave Heineman, Governor of Nebraska and chair of the National Governors Association and Jack Markell, Governor of Delaware and vice chair of the National Governors Association.

Advanced US attention to these issues is coming at exactly the right time. 2011 saw a global awakening and increased national interest in formulating deeper data sets to better understand the startup phenomenon. Effects to collect better data have increasingly attracted the attention of heads of state whose staff seem to understand that developing better data is essential to any long-term strategy for advancing better policy on entrepreneurship and innovation. Stay tuned in 2012 for data developments through this blog as well as the DataMaven.

Brainstorming at major summits
2012 will also bring a fresh wave of high profile summits and events elevating entrepreneurs on the global stage. First and foremost, in March, I will Chair the Global Entrepreneurship Congress which will gather hundreds of startup champions, thought leaders, government officials and investors from 123 countries in an effort to find better ways to help start and grow new firms in all economies. The Congress will leverage the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) movement – now the largest entrepreneurship event in the world.

GEW itself will also bring other major forums for discussion around the world, including the November 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the United Arab Emirates initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama. For the third time in history (first in Washington, DC, in April 2010, then in Istanbul in December 2011) global leaders and heads of state will gather to collaborate on developing an enhanced global startup ecosystem.

Stay tuned to my blog for weekly reports on all of this. Happy New Year.

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