One of my favorite authors once said, "Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple" (Dr. Seuss). In the case of how we drive job growth in the United States, a better end to that quote would be "Sometimes the answers are simple, but they take an entire community to execute."
Here's the simple premise.
Startups are responsible for nearly all net job growth in our country the last 30 years. As a nation, there is no greater lever we can pull than helping more companies get started and scale more successfully in whatever community they decide to call home.
The things startups need to increase the odds of becoming high growth, job-creating engines are not impossible to provide; in fact, our country has them in abundance. Things like capital (we are the seventh richest nation in the world according to Forbes), mentors (in 2011, Ernst & Young had to choose its Entrepreneur of the Year from nearly 2,000 highly qualified people from allover the US), and customers (524 of the 2,000 largest companies in the world are based in the United States).
We have all the ingredients necessary as a nation (and in every single state) to kick some serious entrepreneurial tail and drive all the jobs we need for generations to come. All it takes is leadership and a plan.
Over the past year, hundreds of successful entrepreneurs have joined with the Startup America Partnership in acting on these beliefs. What started as a simple idea (get successful entrepreneurs to step up and lead their communities) has become a national army of hundreds of "champions" volunteering in 30 states (and growing!) to work on making their cities and states stronger places for new companies to start and scale.
Collectively, they are increasing the flow of capital, talent, mentors, corporate engagement, government support and more to their communities' startups. And they're succeeding in some very unexpected places: Nashville, Baltimore, Des Moines, Omaha, Chicago, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City and more.
Beyond rolling up their sleeves locally, these champions are committed to breaking traditional models where states compete against each other to attract jobs. Rather, they are aligned around a common philosophy of national collaboration and idea sharing, so that the things that are actually making a difference for startups spread like wildfire.
Last week, over 120 of these champions from 35+ states joined us in Chicago for the Startup America Summit, where they joined national figures such as Brad Feld (Foundry Group, TechStars), Steve and Jean Case, Kevin Willer (1871), Brad Keywell (Lightbank Ventures and Groupon), Jason Fried (37signals), and Howard Tullman (Tribeca Flashpoint Academy) for discussions on the leadership, approach and big thinking needed to make local communities stronger. They also spent two days sharing ideas, identifying and tackling common challenges, and discussing the big ideas that could make every community a great place to grow a startup.
Now these champions are back in their hometowns, figuring out how to apply the lessons they learned from other Regions in order to foster more growth in their own. This was our fourth Summit; each time it grows as we launch more Regions and each time the feedback is tremendous: allowing entrepreneurial leaders to learn from each other is a key facet in accelerating growth throughout the country.
The past year has been incredible. Never could I have envisioned that hundreds of successful, serial entrepreneurs -- in every corner of our nation -- would be this passionate about startups. It makes me proud to be an entrepreneur and hopeful that we can build an incredible national startup ecosystem, one community at a time.
Follow Donna Harris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dharrisindc