Startup America Going Strong at Three Years

Last month, President Obama began his State of the Union address by praising the role of America’s entrepreneurs in expanding opportunity for all:

Today in America…an entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years. 

Last month also marked the third anniversary of Startup America, a White House initiative to celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the Nation.  In 2011, President Obama issued an all-hands-on-deck call to action for Federal agencies, Congress, and the private sector to help increase the success of entrepreneurs across the country.

Here’s a look at three big ways the Startup America initiative has led to action over the past three years:

1.  Expanding access to capital: Two years ago, the President sent to Congress his Startup America Legislative Agenda, which proposed three ways to expand access to capital for innovative companies, from crowdfunding to “mini public offerings” all the way to initial public offerings (IPOs). Congress responded and in April 2012, the President signed the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, enacting these proposals to encourage startups and support our Nation’s small businesses. Thanks to this law, today smaller emerging growth companies have a smoother path to transparent capital markets through an “IPO On-Ramp,” which provides a maximum five-year phase-in for certain costly audit requirements, consistent with investor protections. In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has proposed new rules designed to allow startups and small businesses to more efficiently raise capital from investors, including through streamlined “Regulation A+” mini public offerings and through a new class of regulated crowdfunding platforms.  As the President said in 2012 when signing the JOBS Act, expanding the promise of crowdfunding is a potential game-changer because “start-ups and small business will now have access to a big, new pool of potential investors—namely, the American people. For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.”

2.  Moving research breakthroughs from lab to market: As the President said in his recent State of the Union address, “Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones.” From life-saving drugs to world-changing hardware, the scientific research that begins in our Federal and university laboratories can lead to new companies, new jobs, and even new industries. That’s why in 2011, as part of the Startup America initiative, President Obama signed a memorandum directing all Federal agencies with research facilities to accelerate the transfer of these innovations from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace. In line with these Lab-to-Market efforts, the  Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health have made it much easier for entrepreneurs to license patents owned by the Federal Government, and are supporting the next generation of science-intensive startups through the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition and the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge,.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) is supporting the Epicenter entrepreneurship education hub for engineering undergrads and the Innovation Corps training program for entrepreneurial scientists, while the Department of Commerce continues to develop technology transfer partnerships across the country, and the Small Business Administration streamlines entrepreneurs’ access to R&D funding.

3.  All hands on deck for entrepreneurship: In response to the President’s initial call to action for an “all hands on deck effort to ensure that America remains the best place on Earth to turn a great idea into a successful business,” an independent alliance of entrepreneurs, foundations, and companies came together to form the Startup America Partnership. This private-sector partnership is dedicated to strengthening entrepreneurial networks all across the country by empowering local grassroots leaders to create action-oriented startup community programs. For example, an organizer located in the Colorado Rockies can now access the Startup Colorado Community Fund to support a local tech meetup, while nearly 200 young companies in the Nation’s capital can work side-by-side in a new startup campus created by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. The Startup America Partnership is now operating around the world as “UP Global,” which recently committed to support and train 500,000 entrepreneurs in 1,000 cities over the next three years. And many other organizations are making good on their Startup America commitments to expand opportunity for entrepreneurs, including the rollout of campus entrepreneurship career centers at colleges and universities across the Nation, the growth of a global startup accelerator network to cities across the country, and the expansion of a startup innovation fund and a “Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge” at more and more community colleges.

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama renewed his call to action, saying “Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.” For Congress, that means acting on commonsense immigration reform to grow our economy and help create thousands of new jobs, as well as working with the President to develop a small business agenda to support America’s entrepreneurs.

In the year to come, we look forward to making the Startup America initiative even more successful by engaging additional stakeholders across the country. Whether you’re a university or community college, a Fortune 500 firm or a new venture, an investor or a public servant, let us know how you plan to accelerate startup success and expand opportunity for entrepreneurs in your community.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)

Doug Rand is OSTP’s Assistant Director for Entrepreneurship 

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