She expressed gratification that the Obama administration had made innovation one of its top priorities for the last two-and-a-half years. Typical of its approach, she said, was the new initiative Startup America, which is linked to the main innovation agenda. This initiative supports not only basic R&D activities, but also the activities that keep the economy competitive and vibrant, including change, risk taking, and new opportunities, “all of which are at the core of the entrepreneur’s DNA.”
Startup America for High-growth Entrepreneurship
Startup America, Ms. Lew said, is a White House-led initiative to “celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship across the country.” Startup businesses play a key role in job creation in the United States, she said, with small firms creating more than 40 million net new jobs in the past 15 years, or two out of every three new jobs. “We cannot predict what technologies or innovations are going to completely change the game or our lifestyle,” she said. “But we do know that when these bursts of innovation happen, it is very likely that an entrepreneur is responsible. These are the people who are willing to mortgage their homes, work 100-hour weeks, and throw caution to the winds in pursuit of an idea.” Some entrepreneurs go on to build large multinational companies, she said; most do not. They all contribute to a vibrant and innovative economy. “Consider the fact that small businesses in America generate 15 times more patents per dollar than large firms,” she went on. “Small businesses employ more scientists and more engineers than America’s universities and federal labs combined.”
When the White House launched the Startup America initiative in January 2011, the President challenged leaders of both government and the private sector to accelerate the success and economic contributions of America’s entrepreneurs. He asked them to do so in four ways: mentoring, increasing access to capital, reducing regulatory burdens, and accelerating the commercialization of federally funded research. She said that all four were part of her portfolio at the White House.
From the government side, Ms. Lew noted, the Obama Administration had designed this program with “a relatively light touch.” She gave the following description of the program’s four pillars:
• Mentorship: We are looking to lead by example. When entrepreneurs are asked what they need help with, their first answer is not necessarily money; instead, they want access to successful CEOs to help coach them through their growth pains. The DoE and SBA have agreed to recruit 200 successful serial entrepreneurs who will mentor 100 companies that receive DoE funds to bring promising technology products to market.