Here's How Investors Can Help Put the 'United' Back Into 'United States'
VC funding is abundant in Silicon Valley and a few tech hotspots, while throughout the nation entrepreneurial energy withers for lack of capital.
Rarely have we been so divided as a country. This election was a referendum on that divide: rich vs. poor, urban vs. rural, us vs. other. A large segment of the country feels disconnected from the 21st century economy. In today’s digital age, manufacturing jobs have largely left the US, and emerging technologies like driverless vehicles threaten many of the remaining options for blue-collar employment.
In the days and weeks to come scholars and pundits will offer numerous reasons why this happened and how our political prognostication systems so badly missed the mark. As entrepreneurs and members of the global startup community, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and recognize the role we have to play.
Our team has focused, since inception, on the notion that there is enormous opportunity across the so-called Digital Divide. We know there’s a profound dislocation between where the great startups are and where the smart money is. Today, almost half of all US venture capital goes to companies on that small peninsula of northern California, but most Americans don’t live in San Francisco or the other high-tech epicenters. Most industries aren’t centered along Highway 101 or Route 128.
Entrepreneurs are perhaps our greatest asset for building a resilient economy. Inspired entrepreneurs are everywhere, but venture capital is not. We must listen to the outrage of our fellow Americans who feel left behind. We must fund more companies in more communities and collectively ensure that all our citizens enjoy the benefits of the digital economy.
This is where a new era of investing comes into play. With new opportunities from crowdfunding to online syndicates, whether you want to invest a thousand dollars or a million, there’s never been a better time to become a startup investor.
At Startup Angels we’re working to level the playing field for more entrepreneurs in more startup communities. We often hear about the lack of capital available to women, minorities, and LGBT founders. That’s absolutely true, but this election shed light on the lack of capital in much of the rest of America as well.
So in light of @_CaliExit and Shervin Pishevar’s misguided campaign to lead California’s secession from the union, I’d like to pose an alternative option. If you don’t like the outcomes of this election, start investing in the rest of the country. If you don’t understand the angst of Trump voters, don’t get mad, get involved.
Get to know the startup community where you grew up. Take a look at entrepreneurs building amazing businesses in your own backyard, or in the shadow of your alma mater. Learn about startups solving real problems instead of building concierge apps for the 1%. Or just invest a few hours mentoring at a Startup Weekend or a local accelerator.
If we learned nothing else this election, we know we need greater engagement from all Americans. Don’t wait for 2020, or even 2018 … start today. We all share the responsibility to lead our country into the future.
As Marc Nager, founder of Startup Weekend and Managing Director of Telluride Venture Accelerator says: “It's time for us to double down on investing in tomorrow's great leaders no matter where they live, what education they have access to, what they believe, who they love, or where they come from.”
Leslie Jump has over twenty-five years experience building, advising and investing in new companies, products and brands, in the US and across the globe. She is the Founder and CEO of Startup Angels, a platform to inspire and enable new angel investors across the US and around the world. She is an alumna of St. Johns College (Annapolis, MD/Santa Fe, NM), and serves on its Board of Visitors and Governors.