As a country looking to create new jobs, new opportunities and new industries, we're supporting and investing in our regional entrepreneurial ecosystems--which represent the collective of technology-based economic development organizations, entrepreneurial incubators, colleges and universities, venture and angel funds, and other resources dedicated to spurring the creation of a region's high growth entrepreneurs.
Still, we're not reaching everyone. Although African-Americans comprised nine percent of all new entrepreneurship activity in 2011, a CB Insights study revealed that in 2010, less than one percent of all venture capital investment went to digital startups with African-American founders. Similar findings exist across industry sectors with respect to the percentage of African Americans attracting venture capital investment. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department Of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency reported that between 2002 and 2007, the number of Hispanic-owned businesses increased 44 percent, to 2.3 million. However, of these 2.3 million companies, only 250,000 had employees -- and of those, just 44,000 firms had gross receipts greater than $1 million.
However, the challenge is not so much in the volume of businesses being started by the majority of African American and Hispanic entrepreneurs, but in the type and size of such firms. Even today, these remain primarily smaller service-oriented businesses, rather than the higher-potential opportunities that can attract investment capital and create larger numbers of new jobs. And, while this reality has been well documented for many years now -- and has in part led to a much-needed focus on creating a pipeline of minority entrepreneurs through heavier investment in STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) -- the focus of this article concentrates on what regions across the country can do today to begin to reverse some of these unfavorable trends and connect more minorities to the nation's emerging tech-based economy.
Communities can best begin to foster the development of inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems that produce higher growth, diverse businesses by forming connections and collaborations, and creating dialogue. Programs such as America21 realize the importance of communication as it relates to inclusive competitiveness. With a strategy based around building on the strengths of minority communities, America21 strives to "facilitate a new narrative to inspire free exchange of innovative ideas among community, business, government and education leaders, students and entrepreneurs, with a goal of achieving exponentially greater economic growth and prosperity throughout America."
Still, this dialogue can take many different forms and comprise many different organizations. Here are just a few valid options to explore:
Of course the aforementioned ideas are just a few suggestions to begin the process of connecting historically disconnected populations. It is my sincere hope that each example can stimulate additional discussion and potential action plans. Emerging technologies in the biosciences, advanced and alternative energies, advanced materials and manufacturing, information technologies and a host of other key technology clusters are where America is placing heavy bets on its economic future. To maintain our competitive edge in the new and increasingly complex global innovation economy, we will need our full complement of diverse talent to truly put forth the best that America has to offer.
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