For many Americans, the term “entrepreneurship” evokes images of people like Mark Zuckerberg and places like Silicon Valley. But next year, expect start-up enthusiasts and government leaders to push for new business formation among demographics and in cities not traditionally known for producing entrepreneurs.
Startup America, a public-private initiative intended to accelerate high-growth businesses across the country, is among those leading the charge to dismiss the notion that tomorrow’s next big company must come out of start-up hotspots like Austin, Tex. or New York City. Over the past year, the group has launched regional chapters in 30 states, and the team is planning to set up at least another half dozen in early 2013, hoping to boost the number of entrepreneurs and high-growth firms in those regions.
“I believe Silicon Valley will remain the most important entrepreneurial ecosystem, but in the next decade we’ll see an acceleration of innovation and entrepreneurship all across the nation,” Startup America Chairman Steve Case wrote in a blog post earlier this month. “As the cost of starting companies continues to decline, and connectivity makes it easier for entrepreneurs to hire the best talent from across the U.S., the ‘rise of the rest’ will give entrepreneurs more flexibility to start companies where they prefer to live.”
The declining cost of entry, thanks in large part to technology like cloud computing and inexpensive social media marketing, has also made entrepreneurship more accessible to individuals who in past years may not have been able to afford the risk of starting a business.
Through its Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs (PRIME), which provides federal funding to help low-income individuals start and operate their businesses, the U.S. Small Business Administration this past year awarded 127 grants to business development organizations in 43 states and the District of Columbia, more than double the 58 grants it doled out in 2011.
Meanwhile, the agency is making a new push to promote entrepreneurship among the nation’s aging population of baby boomers, many of whom they hope will elect to start businesses after they retire. The SBA formally teamed up with AARP this past summer on a new initiative intended to encourage what they call “encore entrepreneurs.”
“Millions of Americans keep dreaming of owning their own business as a second or third career, using their creative talents to do productive work that also helps them gain economic stability as they move toward retirement,” AARP chief executive A. Barry Rand said following the announcement of the partnership.
In the U.S., the self-employment rate for adults 55 and older has been on the rise for roughly a decade, now up to 16.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor. Rand and SBA officials said they hope to accelerate the trend by offering targeted counseling and training resources designed specifically for an older generation of business owners.