Startup America—Dead on Arrival


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make a payroll with no money in the bank. We’re trying to kick-start a national initiative on startups, entrepreneurs and innovation with academics, economists and large company executives. Great for policy papers, but probably not optimal for making change.

Rather than having our best and the brightest visit for a day, what we need sitting in the White House (and on both sides of the aisle in Congress) are people who actually have started, built and grown companies and/or venture firms. (If we’re serious about this stuff we should have some headcount equivalence to the influence bankers have.)

Next time the talent shows up for a Startup America initiative, they ought to be getting offices not sound bites.

Lessons Learned

  • Lots of credit in trying to “talk-the-talk” of startups
  • No evidence that Washington yet understands the types of entrepreneurs and startups; how they differ, and how they can form a cohesive and integrated jobs and innovation strategy
  • Not much will happen until entrepreneurs and VC’s have a seat at the table

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Steve Blank is the co-author of The Startup Owner's Manual and author of the Four Steps to the Epiphany, which details his Customer Development process for minimizing risk and optimizing chances for startup success. A retired serial entrepreneur, Steve teaches at Stanford University Engineering School and at U.C. Berkeley's Haas Business School. He blogs at Follow @sgblank

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6 responses to “Startup America—Dead on Arrival”

  1. David L says:

    Steve, according to Brad Feld it sounds like there are a lot of smart folks with backgrounds in VC and early-stage tech companies involved. I’ve been critical of the administration’s efforts to date in stimulating the innovation economy, but this seems like a positive step. What am I missing? Would be interested to know what you’re basing your impressions on.

  2. Lars M says:

    This is the same President who taxed “carried interest” not only for hedge funds, but for VCs — The most likely regulation to kill innovation.

  3. JD says:

    Lars M,

    I think you put to much emphasis on the current Obama Administration when I believe it was specific individuals who introduced the bill originally (two senators).

    With that being said, it is the Obama Administration currently leading the entrepreneurship efforts in the US with Startup America compared to past administrations not mentioned here who have done very little.

  4. JD says:


    I do not blame you, if I was your age, I would not want to lead this program either.

    I mean, not to say that you still don’t have the mojo, but lets be honest, your not up for the game to LEAD!

  5. GS - Erie, PA says:

    To state that an Entrepreneurship Policy can’t be formulated by policy wonks and other types is like saying K – 12 Educational Tests and Standards can’t be created without the active buy-in of K – 12 students. BALONEY!

    Many in congress, economists, large corporate managers and economic developers indeed have run small businesses. Perhaps they have not segmented the market in the same way you have Steve.

    Regardless, this is a start, and a good one. I agree however that this kick-start program is not a substitute for comprehensive industrial development policy. The absence of such is a major chink in our domestic armor as global competitor’s methodically attack our industries and markets.

  6. Steve,
    I really liked your review of the different startups and a very good profile of “small business”. I am much more positive on the direction and value of Obama’s efforts. Besides adding more people with startup scars to the national team, what will be an effective national strategy?