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Steven Strauss: Startup America

Question: When I watch these so-called “civil servants” in Washington talk about the economy and creating jobs and whose fault it is and so on, I am reminded of that old joke – everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. So what I am wondering is, is there really anything that can be done in this negative political climate?

(Part 2 of 2)

Answer: In my column last week, while lamenting the sad state of political affairs in this country (it really does seem they are fiddling while Rome burns, does it not?), I shared that I have found at least one silver lining: Individual initiative is on the rise. The political and economic situations are such that they are inspiring more and more people to come up with personal and joint creative solutions to the problems we face as a country.

It’s not surprising, really. This is a country founded upon the ideas of individual liberty and freedom of expression. It is no wonder that entrepreneurship thrives here. My personal hero is a man named Buckminster Fuller (an inventor, mathematician, poet, and more) and he put it this way (paraphrasing): “I asked myself what one small person could do in the face of great states and huge corporations with their vast wealth and armies. And I answered that only the individual can decide to take individual initiative to do those things that he or sees need doing. The individual does not need to ask permission of anyone to dedicate themselves to making a difference.”

Last week, we looked at how the Clinton Global Initiative America is making just such a difference by encouraging its members to make specific commitments to getting the country back to work by creating jobs, starting business, and more.

This week, I would like to share another organization that is doing similar, albeit different, work: Startup America. Launched in January of 2011 as a White House initiative to “celebrate, inspire, and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship throughout the nation,” (Whitehouse.org) Startup America that brings together entrepreneurs, corporations, universities, foundations and other stakeholders to “fuel innovative, high-growth U.S. startups. The Startup America Partnership is based on a simple premise: young companies that grow, create jobs. As a core American value, entrepreneurship is critical to the country’s long term success and it’s time to step up our game.”

And step up their game they have.

In a little more than a year, the Partnership (now an independent private 501(c)(3) that gets no government funding) has gotten more than $1 billion in business service commitments from corporations, foundations and individuals that is being offered to a growing network of startup companies; companies that are going to put America back to work. These commitments include expertise and mentoring, access to vital services, assistance with training, connections to thought leaders, help with building a customer base, and aid with getting access to capital.

Once a startup applies and joins the Startup America network, they access and mange their resources through an online dashboard and regional Startup America support and mentors.

For example, in Chicago, one person a Startup America startup founder might be fortunate enough to meet is JB Pritzger. The dynamic Pritzger is a successful and experienced entrepreneur and venture capitalist, and a person as committed to helping startups as anyone I have ever met. His venture fund, New World Ventures, has been seeding and investing in tech startups for more than 15 years and he has also been instrumental in the development of 1871, a sort of uber-business incubator for Chicago startups. Like all Startup America regional outlets, the one in Chicago is a grassroots, entrepreneur-led initiative that brings together startups, talent, universities, corporations, mentors, and local government to support the startup community. It is an entreprenurial ecosystem.

Startup America is being run and championed by Scott Case, the founding CTO of Priceline.com. Case and his staff are brining their passion for entrepreneurship to a growing number of cities and regions throughout the country and in the process, are making it easier for visionary entrepreneurs to fulfill their mission. And, in the process, they are helping to get America back to work.

If you are an entrepreneur running a young company, you can register here to join the Partnership.

Today’s Tip: How do other small businesses keep their data and systems secure? According to the Hartford Small Business Data Protection Survey, the top practices are:

•    Restrict employee access to sensitive data – 79%
•    Shred and securely dispose of customer, patient or employee data – 53%
•    Lock and secure sensitive customer, patient or employee data – 48%
•    Use password protection and data encryption – 48%
•    Use firewalls to control access and lock-out hackers – 48%
•    Update systems and software on a regular basis – 47%

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, writer, and speaker, and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, here, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, here, Follow him on Twitter, here, and Like TheSelfEmployed on Facebook, here. You can e-mail Steve at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com. © Steven D. Strauss

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