The federal government descended on the Navy Yard on Wednesday in hopes of learning about the challenges that local entrepreneurs face — and what the government can do to help.
While panelists and audience members suggested programs (Restructuring a student loan for those who choose to work at startups? Sponsor vocational degrees for computer science?), one of the decided feelings was that government isn’t, and shouldn’t be, necessarily the answer to all the problems that entrepreneurs face.
Representatives from the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy weren’t offended. In fact, they were encouraged.
“So often, you hear that government should do this or government should do that,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, head of the Office of Advocacy, which led the effort on the event. But here, Sargeant said, “the entrepreneur seeks to lead.”
Starting last year, The Office of Advocacy has been on a White House-funded tour of the country, working with community members to organize events where it can learn about the entrepreneurial landscape. This week’s Philly stop was part of a New Jersey-Delaware-Philadelphia run. The office has already hit Seattle and Pittsburgh. It plans to share its findings with the White House and Congress, Sargeant said.
Sargeant shared with us his three main takeaways from the event, organized by Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners, Philly Startup Leaders and Technical.ly Philly. Find them below.
- We need to do a better job of “plugging in” the scene, Sargeant said. RJMetrics CEO Robert Moore confessed that, even after three years in the Philly tech scene, he hadn’t heard of many of the entrepreneurship and education programs that had been discussed at the event. Sometimes entrepreneurs are lazy when it comes to seeing things outside of their business, he said. Sargeant said he thinks the federal government could try to better publicize opportunities and programs for tech entrepreneurs.
- Working at a startup is the best startup education. While audience members suggested programs like a college focused on entrepreneurship education and a vocational degree for computer science, “there’s no substitute for being involved with a startup,” Sargeant said he noted at the event.
- Sometimes the spinoff talent is more important than the original venture. Moore spoke of TurnTide, which sold to Symantec for $28 million in 2004, and whose alumni are now some of the most prominent people in Philly tech: David Brussin, Josh Kopelman, Lucinda Duncalfe.
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