Jennifer Zeszut is the Chief Social Strategist at Lithium Technologies. Jennifer is the founder and former CEO of Scout Labs, a SAAS platform for real-time social media visibility and customer analytics which was acquired by Lithium in May 2010.
In Obama’s first
State of the Union Address last week, the President laid out his plan to
increase economic and job growth by “out-innovating, out-educating, and
out-building the rest of the world.”
He emphasized the important role that entrepreneurs play in economic
growth and reminded us that this country is founded on and forged by great
I was inspired
by the President’s words and, for a moment, it got me wondering how I might be
able to help advance entrepreneurship in this country. And then I got back to work.
But I was shocked out of complacency
and into action when, on Saturday afternoon, I received a call from the White
On Monday, Jan 31st, the
President would be launching “Startup America”, a national campaign focused on
encouraging investment in job-creating startups, accelerating research, and breaking
down barriers to success for entrepreneurs and small businesses. They wanted entrepreneurs in attendance
for the kickoff event with the media and afterward for a closed-door
brainstorming/planning session with staff from the Executive Office of the
President. Why me? How me? The amazing Astia organization had given them my name, having
recently won their Technology Innovator Award for Entrepreneurship.
you get on a plane tomorrow? And are you willing to speak at the event?” In a daze, I packed a bag…
event at the White House was truly inspiring. In attendance were Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, Energy
Secretary Steven Chu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, National Economic Council
Director Gene Sperling, Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, chairman of the Case
Foundation and now Chairman of the Startup America Partnership initiative, and
Carl Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation. The President was NOT able to attend
after all -- something about
Egypt….;-) Public and Private Sector commitments were made on multiple fronts, including education, mentorship, funding, incubators, tax incentives and more. Facebook, HP, Intel, Microsoft and others made financial and resource commitments to further the cause.
There were some very inspiring statistics today:
More than half of the companies in the Fortune
500 started in a recession or bear market. (Kauffman foundation). Takeaway: It is in times of economic downturn when people come together and take
40% of our GDP comes from firms that did not
exist in 1980. (Kauffman Foundation). Takeaway: We can’t have huge
companies without first nurturing small ones.
great entrepreneurs spoke as well, including the inspiring Zoe Damacela an
18-year old college Freshman and entrepreneur who has pulled herself out of
poverty, even homelessness, with her successful clothing company.
it was my turn to address the room (my speech is in the 54th minute), I decided to speak on behalf of
entrepreneurs everywhere to help the government officials and industry people
in the room understand what amazing passion and talent they unleash if they can
support us, fund us and make it easier for us to do what we do. I likened us
entrepreneurs to sled dogs – born to run with new ideas. Startups are job creators, to be sure – Lithium
employs more and more people every year.
But just as important as the
number of jobs we create, is the KIND OF WORK we create. We do work that we
is passionate work. Fun work. Work with purpose.
is productive work. You want to increase Americas’
productivity? Come walk the halls
of any of our companies, and you will see people wearing 10 hats, doing
whatever it takes to see our ideas thrive. It is astounding what we accomplish
in a day.
it is deeply connected work.
Starting a company is forming a new family. We are connected to the idea and to each other in profound
ways. It is a bond and a sense of
community that is often life-long.
This is the kind of work this
My country has called me, both literally and figuratively. I have some thinking to do on exactly how I will stay involved in this movement, but there is no turning back. What i DO know is that the President should create a place for this passionate, entrepreneurial community to connect online (a Lithium powered community???) and should be very carefully listening to and learning from the wisdom of the crowd (Lithium SMM????)
You can follow Startup America efforts at #startupamerica and #startupamericapartnership