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Is The Startup America Initiative Moving Fast Enough?

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In a recent article about the Startup America Initiative (a public policy and programmatic priority of the Obama White House) and the Startup America Partnership (the private non-profit initiative focused on catalyzing private sector resources for entrepreneurs), I was quoted as saying "everything is moving too slowly." While I do wish that the macroeconomic situation in the country wasn't making it so hard for the private sector initiative to generate outcomes more quickly, I actually couldn't be more impressed with the speed and the implementation of the White House's Startup America Initiative.

To be clear, the Startup America Initiative is the public sector policy and programmatic activity led by the White House focused on increasing innovation and commercialization and accelerating support for U.S. entrepreneurs. These efforts are being deployed through federal agencies like the Departments of Energy, Labor, the Small Business Administration and Commerce including the Economic Development Administration. I've had an upfront and active seat from which to learn about and contribute to this work, as a year ago I was selected to participate in the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), an organization President Obama and then U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke charged with identifying public policies and programs to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization.

There's no doubt there has been tremendous progress in all the areas on which the Startup America Initiative is focused. To get more money into companies, the SBA has created two $1 billion dollar programs to fund investments in our country's highest growth companies; companies that have the potential to create thousands, or tens of thousands, of U.S. jobs. As a way to increase mentoring programs, the new Veteran Fast Launch Initiative teams up retired expert entrepreneurs with veterans, better enabling our country's brave men and women to start their own businesses. The Fast Track patent processing system program addresses criticisms that it takes too long (an average of three years) to secure patent protection, during which time, for many entrepreneurs, market advantage can be lost. And a revamped SBIR.gov portal makes it easier to find government grants that fund entrepreneurs and researchers to better develop their ideas into products that can enter a market.

To have accomplished all of this, much in less than 10 months, is working at the pace of business.

But from my seat, the most impressive and helpful change has been how the federal government has been working. The scale at which this initiative has created change so that federal agencies are required to be more collaborative, focused on shared priorities, and implementing programs efficiently is unprecedented. One example of this is the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, an initiative of 16 federal agencies and bureaus to accelerate innovation-fueled job creation. This Challenge brought together funding from three agencies, and technical assistance from 13 more, to provide $33 million in benefit to entrepreneurs for innovation and job growth to occur more quickly.

The leaders in the administration understand the real challenges facing entrepreneurs in the U.S. and are aggressively moving forward to do whatever they can to mitigate these challenges. Do I think they've made fast progress on the right path? Absolutely.