THE BLOG
09/23/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2013

Innovation is the Engine of Prosperity and Success for All People

"As the United States looks to the future and to building long-term competitiveness, innovation is the engine of prosperity and success for all people," I responded when I was recently asked why innovation is important for government at an event organized by the White House, Fuse Corps and the Presidio Institute at Fort Scott. After all, not only does government touch the lives of tens of millions of people every day, it accounts for about 40% of gross domestic product including state, local and federal spending.

We have seen a number of industries rapidly transform through innovation. As someone closely involved with industry pioneers such as Nokia, NBC Universal, General Electric, Yahoo and as a former entrepreneur, I have seen first-hand how developing mobile phones at affordable price points, or how the digitalization and opening up of media and news content, or how the proliferation of internet services can truly improve the lives of billions of people around the world.

However, the sector where innovation has historically lagged most has been the public sector where many would agree is the greatest need. The question to ask then, is how can we have innovation pervade through government to address pressing national issues that face us in key areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, transportation and energy. President Obama has emphasized, "We've got to have the brightest minds to help solve our biggest challenges." House Speaker John Boehner has also talked about the nation's need to "foster innovation."

To help accomplish this, several public and private sector leaders were invited to the White House several months ago to discuss cross-sector leadership and the need to develop solutions for key issues. White House senior staff such as Jonathan McBride, Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Personnel; Todd Park, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer; and Jonathan Greenblatt, Special Assistant to the President together with McKinsey & Company, Fuse Corps, Inter-Sector Project and other well-known national organizations brought to action President Obama's vision of having the best private and public minds work together. I brought my own experiences from Fortune 500 and high growth companies to the vision and believe that to truly succeed, we will have to take this beyond Washington D.C. and focus on driving meaningful impact across cities and states.

Improving government through innovation is critical and I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve and drive this forward working together with visionary public leaders in California such as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Jay Nath, and the departments and agencies serving San Francisco which is aptly called "The Innovation Capital of the World."

San Francisco is well placed to help lead this vision of innovative government - as the hub of advancement across Silicon Valley starting with semi-conductors in the 1960s, to software in the 1970s and 1980s, to internet services in the 1990s, to the most recent set of companies such as Twitter, Airbnb, Square and Yelp that are disrupting traditional industries. In many ways, San Francisco is the heartland of innovation. San Francisco also represents many elements characteristic of government - a large annual budget of over $8 billion, diverse workforce of about 28,000 employees and more than 50 different government agencies and departments.

Our goal has been to take this DNA of innovation - from startups to San Francisco's government and from San Francisco's government to across the United States. As we worked on several initiatives, our intent has been to build a sustainable model that would yield impactful and lasting results. We also wanted to have a program that could be replicated across the nation. It is therefore with great delight that I share that San Francisco in collaboration with the White House has unveiled San Francisco's first ever Entrepreneurship-in-Residence program.

The program brings in world-class entrepreneurial teams to work on opportunities that are actual pain points and needs of government. This is a novel program within government, which is by far, the largest consumer of products and services in the nation. We expect to drive significant innovation and growth in areas of pressing importance such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, transportation, energy and infrastructure. San Francisco's entrepreneurship-in-residence program will select top entrepreneurs and help them develop technology-enabled products and services that can capitalize on the $142 billion public sector market.

The entrepreneurial products and services developed through San Francisco's program will drive significant impact such as increased revenue, meaningful cost savings and also help save lives. Attracting top entrepreneurs and technologists, the program provides them with direct access to government needs and opportunities, senior staff and their expertise, in addition to product development, ramp-up support, and insights into a gold mine of government problems and opportunities through San Francisco. Teams will also receive mentorship from senior public leaders across the Mayor's office and San Francisco departments and agencies in addition to support from private sector leaders with experience at companies such as McKinsey & Company and Goldman Sachs.

It is great for me to see that San Francisco is well on its way to accomplish the vision of driving innovation across government and bringing together the best of public and private sector minds to solve critical issues. However, in our discussions with other great cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston, Seattle and many others, it is remarkable to see the commonality of the challenges we face across cities and states. Products and services that successfully solve issues faced by San Francisco will easily expand to addressing similar needs of other cities and states. Even so, our intent is to see these innovative programs expand and grow all across the nation.

President Obama famously said back in January of 2011, "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation... What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the creativity and imagination of our people." I certainly hope that our collective efforts in San Francisco and across the nation mark the beginning of a future of innovation, prosperity and success for all.

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