White House Puts Major Focus on Entrepreneurship

Small business innovation played its part in the State of the Union. Now entrepreneurship has drawn the spotlight in the White House’s next act.

President Obama and his administration announced the launch of Startup America, a multi-group effort to “celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation.” Skeptical? Under the White House website’s “Issues” header, Startup America is one of just three subtopics listed in the Economy category. Safe to say this is not merely a virtual photo-op.

The initiative has the backing of some major worldwide brands and businesses, including IBM, Intel, HP, and Facebook. The latter, as an example, announced it will host a series of “Startup Days,” which the social network described in a blog post as “monthly events for entrepreneurs to work and hack with us to build new apps and websites that incorporate the latest social technologies.”

Key players in the finance field — Ernst & Young and Blackstone among them — are also on board, as are several education and nonprofit partners, including the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship. The non-government arm of the campaign has banded under the heading of the Startup America Partnership, with former AOL co-founder and CEO Steve Case at the helm.

Some other highlights among the initiative’s features:

  • President Obama will propose to make the temporary halt on capital gains taxes for certain small business investments permanent, beginning with the FY2012 budget.
  • The federal government will contribute $2 billion via the SBA to two different investment funds targeting early-stage, high-growth businesses. This capital will match private-sector investments in the same funds.
  • The SBA and Department of Energy will fund programs to help foster 100 new clean energy businesses in the U.S.

Your cynical side might wonder why big business and big government are putting major resources into smaller, younger ventures. But remember: All businesses are small businesses at some point. HP, for example, was started by two guys working out of a garage. It now has more than $125 billion in revenue and 300,000 employees worldwide. Like it or not, small businesses sometimes becomes big ones.

About Kevin Casey

Kevin Casey is a regular contributor here, at InformationWeek and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @kevinrcasey.
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