Five years ago, we had an idea. Combining our business backgrounds and our duty as lawmakers, we figured it was time for members of Congress to open a dialogue with our nation’s entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups.
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.
So five years ago, we launched “Startup Day Across America,” a day devoted to celebrating the entrepreneurship taking place right in our backyards and connect elected officials with startups in their communities nationwide. We’ve been hard at work, as this bipartisan initiative has grown, expanding into both chambers of Congress and increasing participation every year. Over the last five years, Democratic and Republican members of Congress have taken part in Startup Day to engage with new businesses in their neighborhood, and learn about the important role startups play in each and every one of our communities.
We’ve watched as the startup industry has grown not only in our districts, but also across the country. In 2013, when we first launched Startup Day, startup activity was at its lowest point in the last twenty years. Now, it’s continued to rebound, increasing year after year. Today the percentage of adults becoming entrepreneurs in a given month is up 15 percent compared to 2014.
Entrepreneurship is emerging across the board in nearly every industry, from retail and healthcare to entertainment and even education. Startups are using technology and innovative ideas to solve problems, create new products and services, and most importantly – create jobs.
According to the Kauffman Foundation, high-growth startup firms account for 50 percent of new jobs created in the United States. And a significant number of the fastest growing startup companies are no longer just located in Silicon Valley, Austin or New York City. They’re in Kansas City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and our hometowns of San Diego and Boulder. In fact, San Diego now ranks among the nation’s top five metropolitan regions for startup activity, and Colorado remains one of the nation’s perennial hotbeds for new growth.
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.
That is why this Aug. 1 – on its fifth anniversary – we hope that even more lawmakers will connect with startups in their districts, so that they can learn about the challenges new companies face and meet the business leaders who are building the future.
We want to continue to raise awareness on a bipartisan basis of startup activity, job creation, and help build support for our local entrepreneurial communities. It is critical for lawmakers to meet and discuss entrepreneurship with the innovators in their districts, so that we can draft and promote policies that help new and small businesses grow and continue to create good-paying jobs that Americans deserve.
We are privileged to have thousands of startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs throughout the nation. Whether it is a new tech company, a microbrewery or clothing line, we are lucky to have cities and states embrace entrepreneurship and to watch entrepreneurs make their dreams or ideas become a reality.
As Americans, we have always valued the next great idea, we have always embraced ingenuity, and we have always had a vision to the future rather than the past. We hope this year lawmakers will spend the day putting partisan politics aside and reach out and listen to our entrepreneurs, our small business owners, and startup companies. Five years ago we had an idea, and who knows maybe you will find yours in the next five years (or sooner!), right in your own backyard.
Polis represents Colorado’s 2nd District and is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Issa represents California’s 49th District. He founded and served as CEO of California-based Directed Electronics.
The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.