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 entrepreneurs.
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 House.
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.
“Could you get on a plane tomorrow? And are you willing to speak at the event?” In a daze, I packed a bag…
Today’s 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:
Several 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.
When 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 LOVE.
This is the kind of work this country needs.
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
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