Obama Gives Startups a Whole Lotta Love

Entrepreneurs are (finally) getting some serious love from the White House via a new initiative called the Startup America Partnership. Announced Monday morning, Startup America is actually 27 new private and public programs designed to spur innovation, jump-start new business creation, and ultimately generate jobs.

To lead the partnership, Obama picked Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, and he's named Carl Schramm, president of the Kauffman Foundation, as a founding board member, giving the partnership some serious entrepreneurial gravitas. Plus, companies such as Google, Intel, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Facebook, have already pledged support and in some cases have programs, such as Facebook's 12 Startup Days, ready to roll.

But what I like best about this initiative is its big focus on the importance of mentoring and education, which is absolutely crucial to the creation of a new generation of high-growth companies. Here are a just a few of the programs that are being rolled out under the Startup America umbrella:

  • NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship), a not-for-profit organization that provides entrepreneurship education for at-risk high school students, will launch new programs with funding from The Pearson Foundation, Google, and New Markets Education Partners.
  • Blackstone Charitable Foundation will ramp up its LaunchPad Entrepreneurship Centers to several more college campuses in economically distressed areas. The program provides experienced venture coaches to aspiring undergrads and graduate students.
  • Marc Ecko will launch "Artists & Instigators Practicum" at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia to invest over $1 billion in 750 startup companies and create 20,000 student apprenticeships by 2016. Participating students will build real-world marketing, design, social media, and research skills in startups.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Campaign for Free Enterprise and the National Chamber Foundation will invest more than $1 million in K-12, college, and post-graduate entrepreneurship education through partnerships with Students in Free Enterprise and the Kairos Society. They'll also expand existing partnerships with Junior Achievement and Extreme Entrepreneurship Tour.
  • TechStars, the elite mentoring and funding organization, will launch 15 independently owned and operated regional entities that will follow the original TechStars business acceleration model in Boulder. The goal: 5,000 successful entrepreneurs will mentor 6,000 aspiring young entrepreneurs who will help create 25,000 new jobs by 2015.
  • MassChallenge, which runs a $1 million annual startup competition and accelerator program, received funding from The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, the Fallon Management, MassMutual, Microsoft, and Johnson & Johnson, which will allow the organization to expand support to over 1,000 entrepreneurs this year.
  • Astia, which connects women-owned startups to investors and advisers, received enough funding form AOL, The Althea Foundation, Fenwick & West, Moss Adams LLP, and Silicon Valley Bank to allow it to support twice as many women entrepreneurs.
The word on the street is that while some of Startup America's initiatives are new (you can read about all of them here), many have been in works for several months and the Obama administration simply packaged into the initiative. But you know what? That's okay with me. I can't remember the last time an administration has made such a major effort to celebrate and support entrepreneurs and right now, I can't think of anything that's quite as important.

Ankur Jain, the 20 year-old founder of Kairos Society, a global student-run entrepreneurship organization, put it best: "What makes this so exciting, what's important about the government getting involved," he told me, "is that it brings back the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation at a time when we need it most. It makes the entrepreneur a celebrity."

What do you think of Startup America? Are these substantive programs that will help fuel entrepreneurship and create new jobs?

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