06/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

We Must Support America's Entrepreneurs

While historians and commentators will analyze President Obama's first 100 days, entrepreneurs will likely remember the administration's 107th day, when a key step was taken to further unleash our country's entrepreneurial potential.

On May 5th, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the creation of a White House Social Innovation Fund, with the mandate to tackle the issues of our day by supporting the most innovative non-profits and social entrepreneurs. Although the funding is directed at the non-profit sector, this historic commitment to promoting the ideals of entrepreneurship by encouraging innovation and recognizing the power of individual determination will resonate throughout the economy.

In many respects, all entrepreneurs are "social entrepreneurs" -- from those who develop new green technologies to those who commercialize new life-saving medical technologies to those who create jobs that enable people to be productive citizens in our economy and society. We rely on entrepreneurs -- in non-profit and for-profit sectors alike -- to expand individual opportunity and improve standards of living in our communities across America.

American history makes clear that we cannot have a sustained economic recovery without yet another burst of entrepreneurial energy. Many of our most innovative companies, from Disney to Genentech to Black Entertainment Television to Whole Foods Market, were launched during economic downturns or bear markets. Since 1980, new companies less than five-years-old have accounted for literally all net job growth in the United States.

Entrepreneurial ideas are also behind many of the once-radical technologies upon which our modern society now rests: the automobile, the airplane, electricity generation, computers, software, and Internet search.

We must continue to foster the formation and growth of the next wave of companies that will become tomorrow's innovators and job creators. At the same time, we must also provide the training and resources that enable successful non-profits in communities nationwide to expand their reach.

At the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, we know that entrepreneurial activity is the key to a sustained economy recovery. Through a broad range of programs, we aim to create social value by equipping individuals to take charge of their own economic destinies. Our Urban Entrepreneurship Partnership, for example, offers coaching to minority business owners so they are able to grow their companies to scale, while our FastTrac program is providing needed training and mentoring to aspiring entrepreneurs across the country -- including many who have been laid off in cities particularly hard-hit by the recession, such as New York and Detroit. These programs promote real opportunities where opportunities aren't always plentiful.

On the innovation front, we are committed to expanding our support to educate the next generation of green energy scientists and entrepreneurs, and have established a Translational Medicine Alliance that aims to help scientists accelerate the commercialization of technologies that will cure diseases.

Across America, entrepreneurs are bringing innovations to life and creating jobs in the process. These efforts are also providing creative solutions for protecting our environment and providing services to people in need. We must do all we can to support them.

As Mrs. Obama said the other night, we should not miss the "opportunity to inspire a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs who will direct their energy and talent toward solving their community's -- and our nation's -- most serious social problems."

Promoting and enabling this entrepreneurial spirit will create jobs, solve problems and improve lives across the nation. In that respect, all entrepreneurs truly are "social entrepreneurs" and we applaud Mrs. Obama for taking a lead role in making the resources and support available for ensuring entrepreneurial values translate into genuine social value.