Innovation is essential to the growth of any economy. As President Obama officially kicks off his second term in office today, I wanted to offer him some ideas for how to make entrepreneurship and innovation the centerpiece of his second administration. It is critical for the future of our nation to intentionally foster the next generation of entrepreneurs. At this moment, the United States has an ultra-thin lead as the economic leader of the free world. Innovation is defined as creating value from ideas. It is time to get radical about fostering innovation in America through education reform; our children need more skills than reading, writing and math. They need to know the value of a dollar and how to earn money. People in our country who want to run small businesses need better training and technical support. Mr. President, you can do this and I’m willing to help. Here are five suggestions to make 2013 the Year of The Entrepreneur.
The Government Should Cultivate Innovation in the US: Look at the examples in China, Singapore, Brazil, Chile, and India for how to grow entrepreneurs. Since 2010, Start-Up Chile, a program sponsored by the Chilean Government, has forged to attract world-class early stage entrepreneurs to start their businesses in Chile. They provide a work visa for one-year, $40,000 in start-up capital, along with access to the most potent social and capital networks in the country. We could easily replicate and enhance a program like this in the U.S. Stop wasting resources on programs targeting small business owner that are not generating results. Create government sponsored business plan competitions, elevator pitch programs and invest in programs like Start-up Weekend.
Offer Technical Assistance Grants in Addition to Loans: Increase the funding by $30 Billion more to alternative leaders who will be able to consider more than credit scores in loan criteria including CDC’s, CDFI’s and SBA micro lenders. Provide grants to lenders to provide 25% of the amount of any loan in the form of technical assistance to recipients. Most business owners have great ideas; they just don’t know how to manage all aspects of their businesses.
According the WEF, the U.S. is the fourth easiest nation to start a business. Sweden, Switzerland, and Singapore are all ahead of us. Whatever priority innovation takes in President Obama’s next term, to maintain our prominence as the world’s strongest economy, it is clear to that we must do things differently.
Create a Culture of Entrepreneurship in America: The World Entrepreneurship Forum (WEF) last fall declared a goal to create 500 million entrepreneurs by 2050 to eliminate the cycle of poverty worldwide. In order to accomplish this, children must be taught principles of financial literacy and entrepreneurship from age six, as they are being taught to read. Through experiential learning we can grow innovators. Nine out of 10 teachers believe experiential learning is effective in getting students interested in higher education and careers. There are plenty of good models that can be duplicated as we rethink our nation’s public education system. Encourage corporate partners to pour resources into youth entrepreneurship programs such as Junior Achievement and NFTE The Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship and some lesser known programs such as The Generation E Institute in Battle Creek and Candi Sparks who is leading the way with bilingual books and resources to teach business with her Can I have some money? Financial Literacy Series. We can empower parents, schools, and faith based programs with resources to teach entrepreneurship as a government priority.
Immigrants Educated in the U.S. Should Be Encouraged to Remain Here: We open our nation’s colleges and universities to anyone from around the world to be educated here, and when they graduate, we make it impossible for them to secure a work visa to stay in our country to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. This practice must end; it has caused an incredible brain drain and economic loss to our nation.
Start Directing Resources Where They Have the Greatest Impact: 95% of the 27 million small businesses in the U.S. will never gross over $1MM in revenue. Yet, most programs, even those targeting women and minorities, focus on nurturing and funding the next Facebook. If we focused on turning the $250,000 businesses into $1MM+ revenue generators we would create more sustainable small businesses that would create millions of living wage jobs.
Do you have any ideas for President Obama to foster innovation in the U.S.?