Startup America comes to Boulder

A few days ago I drove over to the CU campus and participated in the Obama administration’s Startup America roadshow. To be honest, I didn’t come with very high expectations, but I did keep an open mind.

What I saw and heard confirmed (2) things. I’m a skeptical optimist; and the government isn’t wired to be a business partner to anyone.

The event started with a panel, except it really wasn’t a panel, it was a lot of talking about what they each did and not much of it meant anything to me or my business. The final panelist to speak led off with a pretty simple question: “raise your hand in the audience if you are either a startup entrepreneur or an investor in startups.” – 150 hands out of 150 went up. Next question: “Did you learn anything that would help your business over the past hour of listening to what the panel had to say?” – less than 3 hands went up.

The point isn’t that the information wasn’t interesting; it just wasn’t useful or valuable to the majority of the audience.

Mostly I learned there are a lot of smart and passionate people that are building interesting companies that employ lots of people. I also learned that in every case, they’ve been successful in spite of regulatory, government assistance, or headwinds.

It strikes me that the resourceful always seem to figure it out. They put their shoulder into raising capital, finding good people, and navigate competitive markets. There were some real, tangible, and near-term ideas that came out which ought to make these start-up companies progress smoother or perhaps a bit easier and less burdensome… but my hunch is the strong entrepreneurs were going to succeed anyway.

I’m skeptical, but optimistic. I don’t believe the government should be your business partner – ever. Nor do I believe that you can hang your hat on reduced governmental burdens or breaks. Reducing barriers would be great, but I’m not feeling any real market pain I can attribute to the US government.

I’m sure that the folks driving Startup America mean well and I applaud them for it. It’s not a job I’d want to have. I’d prefer to keep doing what I do and figure out how to build a great company along the way, regardless of the obstacles that might exist.