Developing America's Long-Term Strategy for Entrepreneurship
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For decades, America’s entrepreneurs have led the way in cultivating many of the innovative ideas that have fueled our economy and changed the world in countless ways. That leadership role is now being challenged in new and inventive ways from an increasing number of competitors. If our country is to remain at the forefront of the world economy, we will need a long-term and dynamic strategy for fostering entrepreneurship in America. As young entrepreneurs, we have a unique insight into what our country’s plan should include, addressing the challenges we have already encountered and observed in our own entrepreneurial careers.
We are graduates of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), a year-long program that teaches young people how to develop bright ideas, build business plans and secure investor capital. There is a growing number of YEA! programs and graduates across the country, and many of us have launched companies, earned business degrees from top U.S. schools, and gone on to pursue entrepreneurial careers.
Many of America’s future entrepreneurs are in school today or just entering the workforce, and there are generations of business leaders and innovators behind them. We face a dynamic economy and hi-tech business landscape, and our national approach to entrepreneurship needs to address the challenges and opportunities we encounter today, as well as those in the future. American enterprise also depends on how the country continually prepares and encourages countless new entrepreneurs, creating the innovative products and services that can drive U.S. business success for decades to come.
We envision a future where industries form quickly, and national GDP growth is driven by an expanding private sector. New communication and commerce technologies allow entrepreneurs to reach a truly global marketplace, and a national focus on promoting entrepreneurship can harness the spirit of enterprise. To realize this future, the U.S. strategy for entrepreneurship should include tactics and initiatives in some critical areas.
Our access to entrepreneurial instruction and support through YEA! made a big difference in our decision to pursue business and innovation, shaped our educational experiences, and helped guide our professional careers. Yet, to build the country’s entrepreneurial capacity, we need educational opportunities like these in middle and high schools (as well as colleges and universities) across the country.
Courses would cover the benefits of starting a business and the positive impact entrepreneurship can have in the community, and for the nation’s overall economy. It would use case studies on successful startups, revealing the tactics and ideas that helped them grow. By introducing entrepreneurship to all of America’s students through effective programs, we can take a critical first step in attracting our country’s most talented young minds to worthwhile occupations.
Encourage a Pro-Business Environment
As young entrepreneurs, we are concerned that the type of environment that helped America become home to the world’s greatest innovations is in jeopardy.
What is needed is a national tone that celebrates achievement, hard work, and business success.
This more positive national tone requires corresponding legislation and reform that supports small business and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs, startups, and other small businesses can benefit from incentives that promote small business growth. Starting a business should be easier and less burdened by regulation, bureaucracy, and tax penalties.
The country can also boost entrepreneurship through funding innovations and competitions. This could mean allocating funds to research organizations, like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), or competitive initiatives, like the X-Prize. These efforts should evidence public-private collaboration, with advisory committees including entrepreneurs and investors.
Strategic Immigration Reform
Fostering entrepreneurship includes attracting skilled talent from abroad. Many of the world’s best and brightest come to the United States to pursue higher education. Unfortunately, after graduation, many are not able to acquire a U.S. visa that would allow them to remain in the United States, start new businesses and develop innovative products. By forcing them out of America, these entrepreneurs take their ideas, energies, and opportunities to our competitors—thus making the competitive landscape even tougher.
America needs the boldest minds to help create and build new enterprises and technologies. For that, we need an effective immigration policy that welcomes foreign entrepreneurs and fast-tracks their visa process. Why limit the legislation to support foreign Ph.D. graduates? Many of our best companies have been created by immigrants educated in the United States, and many foreign-born potential entrepreneurs are being turned away because of a visa issues. We must align the U.S. immigration and visa system with the country’s entrepreneurial goals.
Inspire and Motivate Young People
Some of the most important attributes for an entrepreneur are a positive attitude and a limitless drive to succeed. To build America’s entrepreneurial potential, the country’s long-term strategy should encourage and inspire young people to start their own businesses. All entrepreneurs need an enduring passion for their startup, one that breeds dedication, commitment and sacrifice. It also fosters a winning attitude, which can inspire employees and drive business success. The country’s strategy should nurture this positivity and passion.
A pro-business environment, ongoing education in entrepreneurship, and other strategic initiatives contribute to a widespread positive perception of entrepreneurship, which can attract new generations of American innovators and business leaders. The promise and allure of an entrepreneurial career path must outweigh the risks that come with starting a business.
From experience, it is difficult for a young person to forego more traditional jobs in favor an entrepreneurial venture, particularly after spending thousands of dollars on a college education. There is a fear that one’s résumé could become uncompetitive if their startup fails. At a time when other young professionals are climbing corporate ladders and developing as employees in various fields, entrepreneurs take a risk by pursuing their own ideas and businesses. If their startup fails, can young entrepreneurs still land a job? This is one of the biggest deterrents to a thriving entrepreneurial culture among young people.
We must communicate to younger generations, and all of those out there thinking about starting their own businesses, that in the industry of entrepreneurship, you will fail. You may fail 5 or 10 or 100 times along the way, but you must not give up. The successful entrepreneurs and business owners we see today are the men and women that worked through those failures and kept going. It will not be easy, but if you have the passion and perseverance, you will get there. As entrepreneurs, we have a real impact on our
businesses—we have the final say in our company strategy and operations, we use our creations and ideas to build better businesses and potentially change lives. There are numerous benefits that outweigh the risks, and we invite you to join us and take the plunge.
Our message to lawmakers and community leaders is clear: a strategic approach to cultivating future generations of innovators and business leaders will take our country to greater heights of entrepreneurial activity and economic growth, and will sustain America for decades to come.