(Photo by Lalita Clozel)
An “entrepreneurial ecosystem-in-a-box.”
That’s one of the five ways Steve Case and Carly Fiorina propose to help spur entrepreneurship in the United States.
Case, the cofounder of AOL and investment firm Revolution, and Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, co-chaired a special commission created by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center to investigate how best to encourage “entrepreneurship and middle-class jobs.”
They discussed their findings and recommendations in Georgetown’s Halcyon Incubator last Wednesday during an event that also marked the start of the 2015 Spring Fellows program.
Complicated regulations are “crushing of the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit in this country,” said Fiorina, a potential 2016 presidential contender.
Small businesses are the first casualty of governmental red tape, she said. In D.C., for instance — “a town of big government” — big companies are advantaged because they can afford to hire lawyers and lobbyists.
“The Main Street entrepreneur who opens up a dry cleaner,” she said, should be “as celebrated as Mark Zuckerberg.”
Case struck a more hopeful picture of entrepreneurship, a spirit that has taken different shapes in each city of the United States but which he considers to be embedded in the country’s history.
At the height of its auto industry, he said, “Detroit was Silicon Valley.”Before that, “Pittsburgh was Silicon Valley.”
“Thirty years ago, when we started AOL, there wasn’t really a startup ethos here,” Case later told Technical.ly DC.
But, he added, “building strong startup communities requires a collective effort of people.” He suggested that big companies should network closely with startups, through initiatives like SwithPitch, where established companies pitch ideas to startups eager to work with bigger enterprises — for their own good. Though the big players draw lots of talent, he said, even “more smart people aren’t working for them.”
All in all, the report had five points of advice for the country to grow a more powerful entrepreneurial sector:
- Unlock Capital for Main Street Entrepreneurs by modifying the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund), two long-standing federal government initiatives designed to increase access to capital at the local level.
- Accelerate Impact Investing Through PRIs (program-related investments) to encourage more foundations to invest in startups.
- Build a Regulatory “Roadmap” that would clarify the regulatory landscape faced by new businesses.
- Empower the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs by creating an annual national entrepreneurship competition.
- Entrepreneurial Ecosystems-in-a-Box, or a set of initiatives that would promote best practices to spur the growth of entrepreneurial hubs.
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