This year, Congressional Startup Day landed in the midst of unprecedented devastation to new and small businesses. After decades of neglect from policymakers, the pandemic now provides quite the backdrop for conversations about how to support entrepreneurship.
Yesterday, champions from across the country engaged with members of Congress on issues related to funding, access, and support — many of the themes that anchor America’s New Business Plan. Advocates include members of the Start Us Up coalition, from Engine to the NC Rural Center to BioSTL and others. In the coming weeks we look forward to sharing updates from their conversations with federal policymakers.
For now, though, we’d like to underscore why these conversations are so critical.
It’s no secret that big corporations wield tremendous power in Washington. Last year, 18 separate companies logged more than $10 million in lobbying expenditures. How many new ventures even scratch that in total revenue?
Meanwhile, the Congress-to-corporate board pipeline is very real, and it wasn’t until last year that the House moved to prohibit sitting representatives from holding board seats.
Yet it’s been an uphill battle to simply get entrepreneurs a seat at the table.
So, when members of Congress are motivated to engage with new and small businesses, it’s critical we take advantage of the moment. Launched in 2013 by former U.S. Representative Darrell Issa and current-Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Congressional Startup Day allows for just that.
In a 2017 op-ed for the Hill, Fmr. Rep. Issa and Gov. Polis wrote:
“We both know what it’s like to start a new business, and we both have seen first-hand the challenges new companies face as they take the entrepreneurial leap of faith to step out and chase their dream. We’ve seen for ourselves the challenges businesses must overcome and the incredible joy that comes when your hard work finally pays off. We wanted to share this important experience with our colleagues in Congress, to help others see why it’s so important to support job creation, and work together to ignite the fire of American ingenuity.”The Hill
They also said, “it’s welcome news that the United States is inching closer to entrepreneurial activity being at the same level as before the Great Recession, and that makes Startup Day Across America more important than ever.”
Three years later, America is mired in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression — and new and small businesses are bearing the brunt of it. Policymakers are distracted and their plates are full. And if we don’t act now, big, established businesses will once again be made the priority.
As advocates take their message to policymakers, it’s our hope Congress embraces their pleas. If Issa and Polis saw 2017’s version as uniquely significant due to prior progress, America’s ongoing backslide should make 2020 the most important yet.