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America’s Startup Divide: “Rise of the Rest” Panel

In the “‘Rise of the Rest’ Entrepreneurship Across America” event last night, a panel discussed the future of entrepreneurship and the policy changes that will affect it. Hosted by Columbia SIPA, the program took place under the dome of Low Library. New Bwogger Michael Beltz shares his experience.

The panel’s speakers included notable and experienced professionals in the fields of business, policy, and entrepreneurship. Headlining the event was Steve Case, the Chairman and CEO of Revolution – the company behind the Rise of the Rest seed fund discussed at this event – and co-founder of America Online (AOL). The lineup also featured Dean of Columbia SIPA Merit Janow, as well as former US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who served under former President Barack Obama.

The event started off like many Columbia events do: mic problems. Janow commented, “We’re innovators here,” which brought out some laughter in a room full of very professional business men and women.

Case explained that his initiative, “Rise of the Rest,” is a seed fund for geographically-underrepresented entrepreneurs who need help scaling their startups. He cited a statistic that 75% of all venture capital last year went to California, New York, and Massachusetts, while underrepresented states such as Ohio got less than 1%. The initiative is trying to “level the playing field” among startups in the US. He also claimed that rising tensions that are dividing America today can be traced back to this imbalance of funding. Entrepreneurs create companies that create jobs, and when all of the entrepreneurs are leaving their hometowns to go to California, it creates a big economic disparity.

“So how do we help with this problem?” asked Janow. Case praised policy that helps startups raise money and the recent tax cut that allows companies to invest more money. He also took a turn to condemn the recent restrictions on immigration, saying that it hurts startups that are, quite often, run by first and second generation immigrants. He said this is largely due to the fact that startups and businesses tie in with the American dream of rising to the top.

Lew was very focused on warning that a strong economy is not what helps entrepreneurship, but rather more funding in education. He also took the side of immigrants being crucial to the future of entrepreneurship.

Case then spoke more about how the fundamental idea of a startup is changing in the digital age and how innovation is no longer garage-based, but requires partnership between businesses and universities to create solutions together. He believes the next digital innovations will be in medicine and education, and that the future hot spot for startups will not be Silicon Valley, but Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins can work with companies to integrate healthcare into the internet.

The Q and A portion came next and was comically dominated by people pitching startup ideas at Case. One man approached the mic with a folder that contained an executive summary of the search engine he is launching.

The program seemed to offer a good idea of the future of entrepreneurship and how Rise of the Rest envisions that future. I actually enjoyed hearing these people speak and was amazed that I was able to attend this big-name event for free.

Ohio is the next big thing via Eventbrite

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