Americans love pie. When something's easy, it's easy as pie. When people are nice, they're sweet as pie. Something too good to be true is pie in the sky.
Americans also want a bigger piece of the pie. In many ways, this hunger for more drives our country and the world forward. In excess, however, hunger becomes gluttony and greed, which drove the Great Recession, causing enormous value destruction and global job losses. The drive to capture profit -- eating pie -- isn't the problem per se. The problem occurs when we stop creating value first.
Entrepreneurs are the world's economic chefs. They create new businesses, new growth, new value, and new jobs -- they bake more pie. The economic dominance of the United States was built by innovators: revolutionaries who identified global problems and opportunities and created disruptive solutions that redefined industries. Yes, entrepreneurs are about as American as apple pie, but they often don't get the support they need.
Why We Need to Better Help Startups Now:
Entrepreneurs are our value creators and problem solvers. It is with these nimble, high-potential, high-growth companies that we see world's most innovative technologies and newest solutions. It's startups that are pulling energy from high altitudes, or from the ocean's waves, or even human waste. It's startups that are teaching kids math with basketball or intuitive mobile apps. They add a personal touch to sending online gifts and put a genuine smile in email. They're building off-road wheelchairs, growing farms in freights, tracking headaches with phones and pulling water out of thin air. Take any problem in the world, and entrepreneurs are working tirelessly until that industry is revolutionized.
Startups are also creating jobs -- virtually all of them in the U.S. The Kauffman Foundation conducted a study and concluded: "Net job growth occurs in the U.S. economy only through startup firms." Since 1977, existing firms lose 1 million net jobs per year, while startups in their first year added an average of 3 million jobs in aggregate. We need growth, we need it now and startups are the solution.
Meanwhile, the Kauffman Foundation also found that entrepreneurial activity dropped off slightly in recent years. As we climb out of this recession, we need new value and new jobs more than anything. Yet, it is still difficult for early-stage entrepreneurs to find the support they need to launch a new business! We need to better help startups succeed.
How We Can Help Startups Now:
Much as innovation can come from unexpected places, support for entrepreneurs can come from anyone -- not just venture capitalists.
Supporting an entrepreneur can also be much more than forking over dough. More often than not, helping startups means providing time, advice and introductions that can help them improve their product or gain faster access to customers, expertise or funding.
What can you offer to help an entrepreneur? Big corporations, can you sponsor startup showcases, as Fidelity Investments or Verizon have done for startups in Boston? Can you share your marketing resources or office space? American Airlines features a startup in every issue of American Way and PayPal is turning its Boston office into an incubator. Universities, can you reward students for exploring big ideas? Can you run competitions like MIT, Babson or WPI to help vet businesses and cover expenses for the highest-potential teams? Governments, can you launch or support initiatives to provide resources to startups, as Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino do in Massachusetts? Everyone else, can you share your services, expertise and networks? Can you be a customer, or at least provide some feedback as a potential customer?
Or maybe you'd rather start making pie yourself. Do you have a big idea that could change the world? Now is your time.
We all benefit when we foster a system that promotes and supports entrepreneurs. We all get more pie when we make it easy to make pie. This should be one of our biggest priorities as a society, but entrepreneurs continue to toil in their basements and garages without access to the resources and advice they need to become successful.
Want to restore creativity to the soul of America and catalyze a global renaissance? Help an entrepreneur today. While most of us have been busy eating pie, they've been busy solving the world's biggest challenges.
This post was produced by The Huffington Post and MassChallenge. MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator and the first to support early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. For more information (2013 application deadline: April 3), please visit: http://www.masschallenge.org
Follow John Harthorne on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@MassChallenge