When Networking Works: Startup America Expanding

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February 8, 2013; Source: Boston Globe

If you built a network of entrepreneurs scattered across the country, would they use it? From the success of the nonprofit Startup America, it spears they would not only use it, but also find new ways to leverage the network to get their businesses up and running. A year ago, the White House announced the Startup America partnership, chaired by Steve Case and initially funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation. The idea was to increase the development, prevalence and success of innovative, high-growth U.S. firms. Startup America planned to bring together top entrepreneurs, start-up funders, CEOs, university presidents, foundations and other leaders.

The founders thought the partnership could help by offering group rates on goods and services to the startups. But once the network was built and entrepreneurs had a way to talk to one another electronically, they found it was also opening doors in the real world. For example, Will Fuentes, a Boston business starter, says when he traveled to Seattle recently, he not only got help setting up meetings with people he needed to get in front of, but his connection to the network also landed him “a workspace, introductions, and even restaurant recommendations via the group,” according to this article in the Boston Globe. In addition, the network helped him to streamline his trip, putting together all the meetings he needed in one visit rather than having to return multiple times.

Entrepreneurs have a lot of balls to juggle. They know they need to network and build relationships locally, but Startup America seems to point out the lack of connection that has existed among start-ups on the national level. Startup America is continuing to expand its network. It now has local initiatives in 30 states and plans to add 10 more this year. –Mary Jo Draper

  • Chuck Blakeman

    A workspace and restaurant recommendations? The government set aside $2 billion in SBA funding for Startup America for this?

    Very interesting that no one is holding SA’s feet to the fire for the results they themselves claimed they would get. They wanted 100,000 businesses signed up in the first year. Over two years later there are around 5,000. A real business that needed to make money would call this a cataclysmic failure. They also wanted to fund a very high number of these businesses with the $2billion set-aside. SA won’t respond to requests to reveal how many have been funded and what result it achieved in those that have been funded.

    “Startup America” is not about startups. And it is definitely not for small business.

    The SBA set aside of $2 billion that you refer to for Startup America is just another “special interest” set aside. NONE of it is available to the 600,000 annual startups that want to be small businesses. It goes directly to venture capital firms, focused on a tiny percentage of existing larger companies started as early as 2001 (NOT startups).

    Scott Case admits these freakishly few startups have no intention of being one of the 28 million small businesses in America. His words: “If you ask which of them are small businesses, no one will raise their hand. What they’ll tell you is that they are giant businesses that just haven’t scaled yet.” http://wapo.st/tgmcXl

    Why is SBA money being diverted from small business owners, given directly to venture capitalists who are intent on building giant corporations?

    If ever there was a “superior-race” business mentality openly proposed by giant business and giant government, Startup America is it. It is an elitist club for the freakish few pre-giants to help them do an end-run on the free market system.

    Just watch where the money goes. 100% of it is going to venture capitalists who will fund “giant businesses the just haven’t scaled yet.”

    This is NOT a program focused on supporting small business in America, and the government will rue the day they backed it. As small business owners become more and more aware of the diversion of $2billion to venture capitalists who will never invest a dime in a local dry cleaner, there will be the appropriate backlash. The SBA and the White House need to dump this program.