Entrepreneurship drives American dynamism and economic growth, but it’s in a rut. The rate of new business creation in the US is lower than at any point in the past thirty years. The businesses that do grow and scale tend to be clustered in a few ‘hot spots’ around the country: more than three-quarters of venture capital investment in the US goes to just three states (Massachusetts, New York and California). And the people who receive startup investment in the US don’t fully represent the American public: less than 5% goes to female founders and less than 1% goes to companies started by African-Americans and Latinos.
Put simply, the opportunity to start and grow a business is not equally accessible to hard-working entrepreneurs everywhere in the United States. And because of that fact, our country’s economic dynamism is in crisis, as is the American Dream.
We need a Moonshot for the American Dream, and in April 2017 the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation convened a diverse group of 50 professionals to map out goals and milestones for this Moonshot, just like the NASA planners in 1963. Over two days in Kansas City, the group discussed one fundamental question: What would we do with a trillion-dollar collective investment in entrepreneurs across the United States?
We challenged ourselves to think through the lens of a transformational moonshot: what would it take to deploy $1 trillion dollars in new businesses over the next 10.
In the 1960’s, NASA worked with people from all different parts of industry (banking, steel, electronics) because they realized a space mission was a challenge no one industry, company or individual could tackle. Similarly, the convening in Kansas City brought together bankers, venture capitalists, community development finance executives, entrepreneurs, representatives from government entities, faith community leaders, and aligned foundations. Through a series of iterative workshop sessions we engaged their collective insights and began to design solutions.
The group generated hundreds of ideas that could help to bring about a substantial sea-change in our system for investing in entrepreneurs. But ideas are one thing: practicality is another. At each phase of the process, ideas were refined and those with highest-potential were put to a group deliberation; finally a participatory budgeting process identified solutions with the greatest evidence of promise. This report is a compilation of those ideas.
As Victor Hwang, Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, said: “Only when you sketch out the future can you know what you need to do in the present.”
How would you invest $1 trillion in America’s under-served entrepreneurs over the next decade?