Posted by: Nick Leiber on February 1, 2011
Yesterday the White House launched its Startup America Partnership, a private sector campaign that is part of recent initiatives by the Obama Administration to better support—and thus wring more jobs out of—high potential ventures.
The campaign isn’t limited to early-stage companies or specific sectors or regions. “Our focus is as much on what we think of as ‘speedups,’ not just startups, says Startup America’s chair, Steve Case, best known as co-founder of AOL and an architect of its ill-fated merger with Time Warner. “Our primary focus will be on accelerating the growth of high-growth companies. They have to be demonstrating that they’re pursuing some product or service that really has the potential to scale. With the capital or mentoring or partnerships or what have you, they can break through and go to the next level.”
Beyond spurring more of this type of ‘growth’ entrepreneurship, metrics for the campaign’s success are fuzzy. “We’re soliciting ideas from everybody,” says Case, who calls the campaign a “multiyear effort.”
While it seems like business as usual for the venture capital arms of large corporations that have committed to invest millions of dollars in participants, Case says “it’s a sign companies are willing to step up and encourage entrepreneurship.” He acknowledges the campaign “still has a lot of work to do.”
Case, chairman of the Case Foundation and CEO of Revolution, which has invested his own money in 20 or so companies such as LivingSocial and Zipcar, says the effort gives him an opportunity to “give back in a broader way; not just focus on the handful of companies and entrepreneurs I work with directly but try to be supportive of the White House’s more broad agenda and the country’s need.”
For entrepreneurs who want to get involved, Case is looking for ideas that justify making Startup America a priority in the White House. “We recognize there are lot of good ideas out there that we’re not aware of. We want to make sure we are aware of them before we set our priorities.”
Case is most eager to hear about ways to accelerate ecosystems that support entrepreneurship. For example, “MassChallenge, TechStars, and others that are sort of incubators-accelerators: how do you scale them up in markets where they currently exist and bring them to markets where they don’t exist? [As an example,] I’ll use my own personal experience in Washington, D.C. 25 years ago when we started AOL, there really wasn’t an entrepreneurial ecosystem here—now it’s developing quite nicely… Which is great but there are a lot of regions where that has not yet happened and we’re hoping to nurture that in the years ahead.”