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I vote for entrepreneurship

November 6, 2012

It’s immensely difficult to begin a piece about the United States presidential platforms and entrepreneurship without a healthcare preface. The fact that there are more Americans without health insurance (around 48 million) than the entire population of Canada (34 million) is, to me, rather frightening.

To leave a job in the United States to attempt to become an entrepreneur involves a far greater risk than in other nations (here in Canada, for example, and in Sweden, which I know intimately), yet the US remains at least a metaphorical beacon of entrepreneurship.

In their convention speeches, each of the presidential candidates mentioned entrepreneurship. From where I sit, both candidates seem to understand that job creation is a priority in the United States, though they differ in how they approach this critical task.

At the risk of gross oversimplification, President Barack Obama has struck many observers as the voice of the entrepreneur and of startups (which I’ve long opined that we should, for a variety of practical and cultural reasons, go back to calling “small and medium businesses”), while presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the voice of larger businesses.

During the past four years, President Obama has been as open as any president in history to hearing the voices of entrepreneurs. Relatively small things, like his positive and active relationship with über-entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar of Menlo Ventures, signal his intent to match the needs of entrepreneurs to the needs of the nation. Shervin is one of the most positive and active champions of innovation and entrepreneurship in the world, so the fact that President Obama chose to cultivate a relationship with him speaks volumes.

The April 2012 passing of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act or JOBS Act, speaks to this assertion. The law, which was intended to encourage the funding of startups in the US by easing various securities regulations, passed with bipartisan support.

Conversely, the Startup Visa has yet to pass. This initiative ties directly into the notion of the United States as the land of opportunity, which, if it still is for non-American entrepreneurs, is stealthily disguised. The idea behind the Startup Visa is simple: enable non-Americans to work legally as entrepreneurs in the US, with the goal and result being job creation. To many (myself included) this makes perfect sense. However, this visa for job creators remains a movement rather than a law, and it’s an issue into which the media has yet to really sink its teeth.

In a superb, recent Inc. article on entrepreneurship, Bill Murphy Jr. asked: “What can entrepreneurs learn from the backgrounds of the two men running for the highest office in the land?”

As I’m sure we would all agree, the answer is “a lot.” It’s a piece that you really should read, as it points out how little background in entrepreneurship the 44 men who have served as American president have actually had, including the two current candidates. Romney is actually one of the notable exceptions, given his experience at Bain Capital.

Without regard to whether President Obama retains his office for the next four years or Mitt Romney becomes president, there is no doubt that entrepreneurs and the products of their work are the key to pushing forward an American economic recovery.

The next president needs to follow Roy Ash’s advice for all entrepreneurs: “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll [sic] quickly learn how to chew it.”

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  • Ram Angod

    Listening to Obama and Romney, I didn’t get a sense that Romney understands the nature of entrepreneurship. Romney equates running a business with being an entrepreneur, which it isn’t. Entrepreneurship is about undertaking a business underpinned by a fantastic idea surrounded by a high level of financial risk. As such, it is Obama who flogs the idea that America’s imperative is to encourage entrepreneurship in strategic industries.These are mainly the high-tec ones, like the hundreds that fed into and grew the likes of IBM, Microsoft and Apple. They are true “enterprises”, risky ventures with great upside but over 65% of which fail before their third year of operation. Banks don’t lend to these start-ups and true entrepreneurship is reflected by the Presidential candidate who is prepared to spend on these entities as national strategy. Romney’s bayonets and buggy paradigm reveals itself again in his open longing for manufacturing jobs to return from low-wage Asia to America. This won’t happen in the foreseeable future!

    Incidentally, Bill Murphy’s Inc article is insightful. Thanks for recommending.

  • Marcus Samuelsson

    This is one of the best articles on the subject of entrepreneurship that I have read in a very long time. This should have been the most important part of both parties campiagn platforms but it is not evident in either of their materials or internet sites. For people who live outside of the United states this is even more important because their country is the lead in the entire world for the culture of starting businesses. Thank you for writing this, Mr Solomon.

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  • Sabrina Zhuang

    When the day comes that we all realize the importance of being an entrepreneurial person I will be very happy.

    The amount of work that entrepreneurs do every day is acknowledged here but not by the government in the USA. It is very difficult to follow your American Dreams anymore but without startups there would be no jobs at all being created. How is that fair???

Aron Solomon

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An educator and entrepreneur who has never accepted the status quo, Aron Solomon has over a quarter century of experience in the business of education and innovation. He continues to speak regularly on education and innovation, and is an advisor in the ICE practice at MaRS.

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