“Bring on the Entrepreneurs!”: A Commentary

In the July/August issue of Inc., the cover story is a special report which is the magazine’s plan to revitalize the American dream and create thousands (upon thousands) of new companies and millions of jobs.  It was a response to Thomas Friedman’s op-ed piece about the critical role of entrepreneurship in re-establishing a healthy economy in the United States.   I’d like to offer my reaction to reading the length piece and comment on the magazine’s belief that the ideas are”highly practical, doable and reasonable.”

 

  1. I found the ideas to be a bit too unrealistic.  Many of them talk about existing mechanisms already in place (e.g., incubator entities) and the problem is a lack of capital applied to these initiatives along with the proper financial incentives provided by federal and state governments.
  2. I fundamentally disagree with the “Get Them While They’re Young” idea in the article.  While I passionately believe we should be nurturing a student’s entrepreneurial tendancies, they must also complete their studies so that they build the full range of skills required to be effective entrepreneurs.  It’s not an “either or” scenario.
  3. Another idea in the article was “Give Founders What They Need To Get Started.”  There are ample mechanisms available to entrepreneurs in this area.  The bigger issue is capital.  Many universities have the types of entities that the article says is lacking; for example, Georgia Tech’s Venture Lab. 
  4. The idea about student loan forgiveness based on going into certain lines of work is absolutely a valuable incentive that could be further expanded. 
  5. Angel tax breaks are already being deployed in more than 24 states, most recently implemented in Georgia, my state of residence.
  6. Without getting into a lengthy tangent, I wholeheartedly agree that the SBIR process is hopelessly flawed and needs to be completely redesigned.  The process needs to be expedited, the criteria more balanced to allow startups to apply for such grants, and reviewers should have experience or basic understanding of the more forward-thinking education technology concepts being thrown at them.  I’ve seen firsthand how flawed the SBIR process is.  It’s another example of a great vision that was poorly executed.
  7. Competition drives innovation, and as long as someone uses their “residual skills” without divulging trade secrets, non-compete clauses should absolutely be diluted, if not eliminated.

 

I could go into more detail with many of these points, but overall, I think you get the picture.  The magazine is merely reaffirming a number of common-sense approaches to entrepreneurship, but is devoid of the “how” in all of these ideas.  Who pays for them?  Which economists will project an economic impact from implementing some or all of the ideas in the article? 

 

It’s worth the read, but will leave you with more questions than answers.

 

 

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