By: Dane Stangler
Entrepreneurs have little time for government and public policy. They’re busy working on their companies, hustling to find customers, financing, employees, and a million other things.
Some entrepreneurs also see little utility in directly engaging with government. Policy can only hurt (fees, bureaucratic burdens) not help, so why bother? Even government efforts to help startups, including through procurement, often seem to be too unwieldy to be useful for entrepreneurs. Government is also perceived as the opposite of being entrepreneurial. How many times have you been in a mixed public and private sector meeting and heard someone say, “I’m an entrepreneur, I move fast, I don’t get government”?
So does it matter for American entrepreneurs that the U.S. Senate has a newly established Entrepreneurship Caucus? Answer: yes.
For one thing, the new Entrepreneurship Caucus is bipartisan, with Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) leading the way. There don’t seem to be a lot of bipartisan areas of agreement these days, so seeing members of both parties elevate entrepreneurship as a priority is important. At the very least, it hopefully means that senators will consider the varied interests of entrepreneurs when considering legislation. Congressional caucuses can be enormously influential in driving new ideas and keeping issues front and center. At best, the Entrepreneurship Caucus will help rally support for legislation that aims to help American entrepreneurs.
For example, the Startup Act has been introduced once again by Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mark Warner (D-VA). This is, by my count, the sixth time the Startup Act has been introduced in the Senate.
The new Entrepreneurship Caucus also matters because it has the backing and support of several organizations committed to renewing America’s entrepreneurial vigor. These include the Economic Innovation Group and the Kauffman Foundation. Most notably, the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE) helped lead the charge for standing up the Caucus.
In only a couple of years, led by John Dearie, CAE has become perhaps the leading voice for U.S. entrepreneurs in Washington. This matters because CAE is doggedly promoting ideas that would make a meaningful difference for startups and business owners of all types. Their incredibly detailed policy agenda includes ideas such as:
- Expanding I-Corps, which would increase the translation and commercialization of academic research. At a time when some economists think innovation is getting harder and harder, this kind of change would open up all sorts of entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Increasing the SBA guarantee for SBICs–by all accounts, the Small Business Investment Company program has been successful in enhancing access to capital for entrepreneurs. CAE urges that the guarantee cap be raised to allow even more financing.
- Limiting non-compete agreements: economic research increasingly finds such agreements to be a barrier to the spread of entrepreneurial ideas and talent. While there is a balance to strike between mobility and protection of proprietary information, CAE and others believe that balance is currently out of whack.
The changes proposed by CAE are only part of what needs to be done. Entrepreneurs also face plenty of obstacles–and could receive plenty of help–at the state and local levels of government. But with a federal-level Congressional caucus highlighting specific ideas and leading the charge on adoption, the bipartisan pro-entrepreneurship spirit could spread to cities, counties, and states.
Policymaking takes time, and it’s understandable that entrepreneurs get frustrated with the slowness of the policy process. But it’s supposed to be slow, it’s supposed to be about deliberation. So the more that entrepreneurs have a champion on Capitol Hill, the more weight they throw behind organizations like CAE, the more they’ll find to like coming out of Washington.
But support for entrepreneurship policy–and for CAE and others–should transcend those who are starting and running businesses. Entrepreneurship is really about everything: job creation, economic growth, rural development, closing socioeconomic gaps, and so on. So the real hope for something like the new Entrepreneurship Caucus in the Senate is that it will broaden horizons and make more people realize how central entrepreneurship is to so many big social and economic goals.