Starting a Business

Steve Case and Tim O'Shaughnessy on How to Whip Up 'America's Secret Sauce'

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At the SXSW Interactive festival, Steve Case who is perhaps best known for co-founding AOL took a moment to expound on what he calls "America's Secret Sauce": entrepreneurs.

In addition to opining about how to start up better, faster and stronger, Case who also heads Revolution, an investment firm that he runs with Ted Leonsis and Donn Davis, is actively seeking out big ideas that will change the world. There is room for a "build and flip mentality" among investors, but he is only interested in investing in companies that offer the potential for being built to last.

Case had an opportunity to wax about hot business trends as well as potential law changes that could affect the future of entrepreneurship during a panel discussion about the topic in Austin, Texas. He was joined by Tim O'Shaughnessy who founded daily-deal site LivingSocial, among other companies.

One of the main ideas Case favors exploring is the sharing economy, an idea that he says "will only get bigger in the next few years." This is why he has invested in Zipcar, a company that allows people to share cars throughout their city. Case also invested in O'Shaughnessy's LivingSocial because he sees social media and shopping as becoming ever more linked.

Besides keeping up with industry trends, Case adds that certain structural changes could aid U.S. entrepreneurs. The single most important action right now, that will change the way entrepreneurship is done, is the passing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act, says Case. That legislation, which the House passed last week, is sprawling, but there is one critical piece that will dramatically affect entrepreneurship on its passing -- that is, access to capital will be improved. The legislation would legalize aspects of crowdfunding for companies. The way Kickstarter now, for example, crowdfunds projects would be expanded to thousands of people interested in funding the newest and most promising startups -- and getting a return.

One major challenge Case notes is the need to reform immigration policy to keep talented individuals and would-be entrepreneurs stateside. The U.S. is great on the academic level -- giving advanced degrees to foreign students who come into the country for school, only to send them back once they’ve finished, he says. This leads to graduates returning to their countries of origin and starting companies that take jobs out of the U.S.

As for O'Shaughnessy's ideas on the future of entrepreneurship, he is working on delving deeper into local to become a go-to resource for consumers when they make purchasing decisions where they live and work. Right now there is no "default answer for 'local,'" he says. For instance, the way search is to Google and social is to Facebook, local doesn't have that counterpart.

O'Shaughnessy adds that speed of delivery couldn't be more vital for a growing company. He offers the example of his biggest mistake, which is failing to act faster. Despite the fact that LivingSocial is his highest grossing venture to date, O'Shaughnessy says, it could have gotten to market "six months sooner" -- and six months is a long time in the tech economy.

What do you think might help U.S. entrepreneurs thrive? Leave a comment and let us know.

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