Two weeks before he officially joins the White House's Startup America Partnership initiative as CEO, Priceline co-founder Scott Case is asking entrepreneurs how the newly minted business-assistance organization can best help them create jobs.
In opening remarks to the crowd attending the tech-industry's DEMO Conference in Palm Springs yesterday, Case said, "With enterprises less than five years old responsible for creating all net jobs in America over the past 30 years, the importance of promoting innovation is more paramount than ever. High-growth startups are vital to the future economic growth of the country, and the Startup America Partnership will work with the private sector to ensure that startups have every best chance to succeed."
Translation: The Partnership wants to get involved in helping small businesses, many of which are often important vendors for Fortune 1000 companies. There have been a few wins in this department already -- for instance, Intel's commitment, shortly after Obama's innovation-centric State of Union Address, to put another $200 million into startup investments through its Intel Capital venture-capital investing arm.
In addition, H-P has committed $4 million to expand its entrepreneurship program, while IBM is revamping its own, added Case.
But mostly, Case came to take the pulse of tech entrepreneurs about what the organization should make its top priorities. What would help small business owners the most?
Among the suggestions he heard:
- Scale existing mentoring and seed-investment programs such as TechStars, which runs a three-month-long training program in four cities.
- Build the capacity of organizations that support women entrepreneurs such as Astia and Springboard Enterprises.
- Create a special startup visa for entrepreneurs who'd like to set up shop in the U.S.
- Foster better coordination among angel investors across the country.
- Increase government funding and support for properly vetted, qualified angel investors.
- Build more innovation centers around universities with strong entrepreneurship programs outside the usual Silicon Valley/Boston axis.
- Slash the multi-year backlog at the U.S. Patent Office, so entrepreneurs can build their businesses confident they're not infringing existing patents and gain swift review of their own patent applications