In Praise of StartUp America

By , February 11, 2011

This is my new favorite quote: “Everyone deserves a chance to change the world.” It was spoken by Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, in his remarks at the White House StartUP America Partnership announcement, which I attended last week in Washington, D.C.

As a social entrepreneur and advocate for people with disabilities, I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Goolsbee. I’m thankful for opportunities and resources that I’ve been given to follow my vision of impacting change and improvement for accessibility in our communities. However, there are thousands of entrepreneurs around the country who do not always have the resources or direction to put their ideas to action.

Enter StartUP America. Thanks to this new White House initiative, there will be increased opportunities for entrepreneurs to find the resources and capital they may need. In a nutshell, StartUP America is part of President Obama’s initiative to “foster growth in the startup world and jumpstart job creation,” as reported by Aneesh Chopra, the US CTO, in his TechCrunch article. This initiative is chaired by Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, CEO of Revolution LLC and chairman of the Case Foundation, and supported by the Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation.

You can read all about different initiatives from the White House, the StartUP America website, and TechCrunch. In these articles, you’ll get information on who is providing nearly $400 million in capital to support start-ups, and how StartUp America plans to foster education and understanding of entrepreneurship.

This isn’t just another pot of money or “pet project.” I got the sense that there is a real commitment to change and improvement in how government approaches entrepreneurship, from seed funding to tax credits for investors who invest in startups. There was a deep interest in creating a “Silicon Valley” from the White House & Government. Yes!

On the panel and in the audience, there was a real spirit of knocking down barriers to opportunities, whether you:

  • came from a low-income background, (Google is partnering with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship)
  • are a college student,
  • an immigrant,
  • a woman (less than 4% of venture-backed companies are led by women!)
  • a person with a disability, or
  • a veteran who has returned from overseas.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union Address (video & transcript) last week, we can win our future through innovation. It’s really about capturing the American Spirit, and as Steve Case mentioned, the Story of America is the Story of Entrepreneurship. If you think about it: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Steve Jobs were all entrepreneurs, and they all at one point, were working out of their garage (or literally, by midnight oil!). So there’s a real charge to educate our children and provide opportunities for America to improve its economy by supporting these ideas from the very beginning, so that they can be successful and create jobs for the future.

One entrepreneur from the audience, Jennifer Zeszut from the Bay Area, talked about how entrepreneurs tend to be a crazy bunch – people who (willingly) work around the clock to relentlessly chase a dream, despite all the obstacles that one may face. This is done all out of passion for the work, and this type of passion should be spurring job creation and development, and a connected community. This woman likened entrepreneurs to sled-dogs, who are going after this vision while pulling America forward. What a great analogy!

Think Beyond the Label loves to hear these personal success stories, about how people start their businesses and make their dreams come true (not to mention helping to push down the unemployment rate for people with disabilities). Tell your story to Think Beyond the Label here, or tell it to StartUP America on Twitter (#StartUpAmerica & @StartUPAmerica) and on Facebook.

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Author: Catharine McNally

Catharine McNally is the founder of Keen Guides, which was formed to create more mainstream and accessible tourism experiences for everyone. McNally spends her efforts on user experience and design, video production and distribution, and staying ahead of the accessibility curve. You can follow Catharine on twitter at @cmcnally.