The CPD Blog is intended to stimulate dialog among scholars, researchers, practitioners and professionals from around the world in the public diplomacy sphere. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.
If there ever were a time for a new beginning in this country, it is now. The recession is still very much with us. Global crises and disasters compound daily. Our national attention is consumed with political candidates on both sides of the aisle who seem to have completely lost their minds. And yet amidst the absurdities, there are signs of real hope and cause for optimism.
One such indication is the momentum and support at the federal level for the promotion of entrepreneurship. An example of this support is a program my organization, Business for Diplomatic Action (BDA), EO (the Entrepreneurs Organization) and the US Department of State just wrapped in New York -- a ground-breaking exchange program, which brought 28 entrepreneurs from 28 countries to the US for three weeks of intensive mentoring, coaching and business development. The fellowship, aptly titled “New Beginnings – Innovation & Entrepreneurship” is part of the President’s Initiative on Entrepreneurship and was announced at the White House Summit on Entrepreneurship last April. The impetus behind an entrepreneurship focused exchange program has been building since the President delivered his address in Cairo.
“On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.”
- President Barack Obama, June 4, 2009
Bringing such a vision to life is not an easy endeavor, and I commend the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs for their leadership in cultivating the concept and delivering State backing to launch the effort. Doing anything in the entrepreneurship and innovation space, especially at the federal level, is a delicate business – particularly as very few in the private sector know how to do it and do it well. There are so many factors at play beyond an individual's desire to succeed – the environment must be right, the entrepreneurial eco-system that supports innovation must also be in place. No one knows entrepreneurs better than EO, the leading global entrepreneurs’ network with nearly 8,000 members worldwide. EO’s global leadership spear-headed the development of this ground-breaking program with State and BDA, sharing their proprietary Accelerator content and engaging their local membership in the host cities: DC, Phoenix, San Francisco, and New York.
I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with the New Beginnings entrepreneurs during their stop in San Francisco. The University of San Francisco’s MBA School generously provided our venue for the EO Accelerator Day and sponsored our evening reception, providing the perfect backdrop on their Lone Mountain campus. I listened to each of the entrepreneurs’ stories and marveled at the many obstacles they had each overcome. Their intense passion, optimism, and energy were infectious. What a privilege. I learned from them, laughed with them, and felt part of their newly formed family. They came from such diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and geographies. Many of the entrepreneurs are women who are proud of what they represent for women in their own countries and the legacies they are leaving in their wake for generations of young girls. They remarked at how surprised they were by the generosity and kindness of Americans and how face to face we really are different than the stereotypes they see portrayed in movies and on television. In my short two days with them, I was changed forever.
“Across America, immigrants helped to start 25 percent of the new tech and engineering companies of the past decade.” – Vivek Wadhwa
Immigrants (from 1995-2005) helped launch 39% of the new high tech companies in California, 38% in New Jersey, and 29% in Massachusetts.
In 2005, immigrants founded companies that generated $52 billion in sales and employed 450,000.
Of the immigrants who launched high tech companies, 96% held bachelors degrees, 74% graduate or post grad; Degrees concentrated in critical STEM areas (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
Twice as many immigrants start businesses than native born Americans.
Their critical skillsets:
Social Cohesiveness & Role of the Family – Intense Support Structures
Given the impact entrepreneurs have had and will continue to have on our economy, shouldn’t we do everything we can to encourage bright, hungry, dogged entrepreneurs to not only come here to study but to stay here and create businesses? The Immigrant, Inc. authors cite Wadhwa’s work charting the Reverse Brain Drain and the statistics of those who come here to study but now choose to go home to start businesses is alarming. And if that weren’t enough, we also see America’s competitive edge eroding precipitously – sliding from the #1 spot just two years ago, to #4 now behind Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden .
We should also be aware as EO shared with us that the connection between job creation and entrepreneurship is not only real but a story rarely told or understood across the country.
Supporting and empowering high-growth, high-potential entrepreneurs, and giving them tools to succeed more quickly, will be critical in job creation and creating economic stability. Which brings me back to New Beginnings. Can there be any better investment in our economic future than bringing leading entrepreneurs together to help them do what they do best and expand on a global scale? When entrepreneurs come together, magic happens. Innovation, growth, prosperity for all. I hope politicial candidates on both sides of the aisle are listening and paying attention.
Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of this country and there is no going back to a time before it was critical to our national prosperity. Entrepreneurship should be aggressively nurtured and encouraged at every level of American society. As Andy Grove underscores, “Don’t bemoan the way things were. They will never be that way again.”
Cari E. Guittard, MPA is the Executive Director of Business for Diplomatic Action and resides in San Francisco, CA.
Adrienne Cornelsen on October 21, 2010 @ 10:42 am Thanks so much for sharing these inspiring thoughts and experiences. We are in the midst of an important movement that has the potential to create a remarkable positive impact!
Martha Adams on October 21, 2010 @ 1:03 pm Congratulations to all involved in launching the "New Beginnings-Innovation & Entrepreneurship" Program and for all those that will receive opportunities through it. What an outstanding opportunity! Entrepreneurs and businesses today have become so important in our globalized world. Excited to see the role of entrepreneurs, as non-state actors, in future policy making. Thanks for sharing!
Winnie Hart on October 21, 2010 @ 3:10 pm Cari - Thank you for supporting entrepreneurship! I can only imagine the impact this program had and will continue to have on the lives and work it touched. Thanks for being a part of it and sharing your story. Best, Winnie
Gil Keinan on October 21, 2010 @ 4:21 pm Cari, your writing skills are exceptional and you obviously have a natural ability to connect theoretical concepts to daily observations and make sense of them. Reading this really energizes the entrepreneur in me.
Here my commentary:
1) "They remarked at how surprised they were by the generosity and kindness of Americans and how face to face we really are different than the stereotypes they see portrayed in movies and on television. "
I believe you have hit the nail on the head with this comment.
It is poignant that after a decade of excitement about globalization we now see growing distance between nations and religions, thus promoting greater 'misunderstanding' between cultures. I wonder if we got too cozy together and this is nature's/human way to 'mark to market'?
Regardless, instead of concentrating on standardizing the way banks do business, I believe there would be a real value to creating international cooperation within media, especially in television and radio. People often believe what they hear, let's make sure we teach & connect to those who tell.
2) "Given the impact entrepreneurs have had and will continue to have on our economy, shouldn’t we do everything we can to encourage bright, hungry, dogged entrepreneurs to not only come here to study but to stay here and create businesses? "
I came to America on a J-1 Visa. This is a post study visa that allows for training in the US with the direct purpose to return to the country of origin to teach the workforce how Americans do business. I returned home after my visa expired, but because I missed the US so much, I ended up returning back here. While abroad, I was an unofficial ambassador to the US.
On the long term, I believe keeping talent in America may dilute our ability to successfully conduct business internationally. We would understand others, but others wouldn't understand us. We cannot act as a standalone nation- have to show the lead in how to behave.
Especially as it comes to the many developing Muslim nations, sending out 'unofficial US ambassadors' back to their countries will assist not only our trade, but also continue to generate positive curiosity in America in generations to come.
3) "And if that weren’t enough, we also see America’s competitive edge eroding precipitously – sliding from the #1 spot just two years ago, to #4 now behind Switzerland, Singapore, and Sweden ."
Just a temporary dip- no worries!
Thanks again for the great insight and for taking the time to organize the exchange.
camille lavington on October 21, 2010 @ 5:12 pm Once again, Cari you hit it out of the ball park. Entrepreneurs are the answer to our problems. Creative thinking is priceless and your talent brings it to a new level. Well done!
Cari Guittard on October 22, 2010 @ 9:15 am Many thanks for the wonderful feedback, it is so appreciated.
Gil, thank you for reminding me what incredible Ambassadors for America international students are when they do go home. I couldn't agree more and wish there were a better way to empower and equipped them as defacto Ambassadors. Something to think on further.
Cari Guittard on October 22, 2010 @ 5:52 pm Feedback Received From Janet Elliott of IVCLA:
“This is a great piece - so good to read something with a positive tone for once. Providing entrepreneurs from around the world the opportunity to share their spirit is definitely positive.
The Los Angeles economy is powered by small business and entrepreneurs. There are more minority-owned and women-owned businesses here than anywhere else in the nation. I'm sure future participants in the ""New Beginnings-Innovation & Entrepreneurship" program would gain a wealth of information by meeting some of LA's many innovators.”
Fares Dhaoui on October 25, 2010 @ 6:42 pm Thank you for beeing so helpfull Cari
This programm changed my way of life.
I hope I can give you back all i get
Pat Fustich on November 19, 2010 @ 5:38 am Dear Cari,
You never cease to amaze me - I aspire to be more like you. When you clear away all the negativity that often muddles ones perception, you get people who are caring, nurturing teachers and students who have a hunger to learn, and in the end we all benefit. Thanks so much for all you do for us all.