Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Why Entrepreneurs will Save the World" (Part 1: Losing the American Dream)

Perhaps saying the American Dream is "over" is a bit extreme. But I think it may be time to discuss or reset how we pass the American Dream onto the next generation.

Many people have different definitions of the "American Dream" - some focus on wealth, some focus on fame, some focus on freedom. I suspect it is all relative to where someone comes from and what they yearn for... but to me I am going to focus on what I feel the American Dream represents - the entrepreneurial spirit. The dream of coming to America with nothing but the will to create something from nothing.

In today's society, I feel the dream is fading. When kids go to school, the inclination is to grow up to be doctors and lawyers... this is how we measure success in education. Nothing against these professions, but it seems like we place to much importance on income and perhaps social status - and less about what really matters - letting kids do what they love.

Being an entrerpreneur is not necessarily someone interested in starting their own business. An entrepreneur is someone who has passion about something, and doesn't just see how the world is, but how is should be. So that brings me to my point... why don't we teach kids how to be entrepreneurs?

We require students to study biology, physics, algebra and many other topics that I think many of us question the real relevance to being a well rounded person. I understand if someone wants to be a biologist, biology is important... but in general education - shouldn't we try to instill ideas that focus on self-improvement and showing the next generation how to take an idea, execute a plan and achieve?

We continually ask ourselves why our children drop out of school. Perhaps it is because they are bored. The curriculum we teach is outdated, and more relevant in the industrial age, and doesn't seem to translate well into what is happening outside the school.

We have kids that get C+ in math, but when they go home they spend 2 hours on a multi-player video game that requires intense memory and logic to play through complex and convoluted levels. It is clear to me, that it's not just because games are "fun", and math is not - its more than that... its because the game gives kids what that want - adventure and challenge. We consistently blame our children for their grades or performance, but we never think for one moment that perhaps we have failed our children.

I realize it may seem like am going off on a tangent... I will bring together my argument. We are not teaching the American Dream. In fact, I would say that most parents may discourage their children from folling their American Dream. What a better place to recapture the dream, then in school.

Over the next 20 years we are going to see the world economy turn upside down. We see all "industrial" jobs being automated or shipped overseas. We are seeing more innovation being supported and funded abroad because of the "lost" American Dream. We are seeing companies break into the Fortune 500 overnight, and creating the youngest and most dynamic class of millionairs and billionairs in world history. Yet, we still sit in denial. Instead of making major efforts in duplicating the successful ventures on the Internet, New Energy, Biotech and other innovative fields... we spend our time and money trying to bring the old economy back from dead.
My final points:

1. I would rather see my children learn about the basic of economics, business and practical experience in the work force, then learn biology and physics. Save the fringe sciences for kids who want to go into the field.

2. Transform education into a project-based curriculum. In is in our culture to want to create, build and finish. It is what America thrives on. We need to move away from the monotone of how we teach. Memorization does not correlate to success and intelligence. In today's world, I don't need my kids memorizing Abe Lincoln's speech... what I want is for them to know how to find it on the Internet, and write a short paragraph on how the speech was relevent and used to change America.

3. No more doctors and lawyers. Why is it, that "Pre-med" and "Pre-law" carry so much weight? When did the pinnacle of achievement in America get twisted? Nothing against these professions, but they are exactly that - professions. We need to teach our children to follow their passion. If their passion is law, then so be it.... but lets not build a path that is based on prejudice.

We need to revive the American Dream for the next generation. If we want America to compete in global marketplace, solve poverty, solve disease, solve our dependance on oil and find new ways to improve life for all human beings - we need to have a graduating class of entrepreneurs and not a class of employees.

This is the first post in a series "Why Entrepreneurs will save the World"

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why Obama is best for Entrepreneurs

First, let me say that I never felt politicians could help entrepreneurs. Primarily because the time it takes a politician to enact policy, the entrepreneur's needs have changed. However, many politicians seem to have good intentions in helping the small business and I think in today's economy we need to pay more attention to the ones that can make a difference.

I was encouraged by Senator Obama's post he made on LinkedIn asking how he could help the small business person. This simple gester goes above and beyond what I have seen any other politican do. Let me explain:

1. First, the fact Obama understands that LinkedIn and social networking is a place to reach people with valuable opinions and as a place for valid feedback is big deal. It shows that he is in tune with technology and how today's entrepreneur communicates.

2. Second, just look at how he runs his campaign. Not only is he executing every aspect perfectly, but you can clearly see he is running it like a business. His marketing and public relations are near perfect, and he is managing every aspect of probably one of the biggest upsets in political history. He may be a politician, but running a national campaign they way he has, clearly shows me he understands how to manage a business.

3. Third, I truly believe (if you read his policies on business and taxes) that he understands there is a clear need for investment in technology and innovation. The current government just talks about investment, but is fearful of overstepping their bounds with Big Oil and Auto. By Obama not taking funds from lobbying groups.

4. Fourth, look at the team is brought on to run his campaign. Instead of hiring a bunch of Washington has-beens and lobbyists, he has stocked his Capitol Hill staff with employees whose résumés include McKinsey, the old Andersen Consulting, and other nonpartisan business advisory firms. This shows me that he appreciates real experience and business minds, more than he appreciates the "old" way Government works with handouts and favors.

5. And Fifth, and most important.... this is the first time I have ever heard a politician consider the following as part of their tax policy.

In Obama's tax policy and TO INSURE AGAINST A NEGATIVE impact on innovation and new business formation, Obama would have a zero rate on capital gains for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and small-business owners forming new enterprises.

He has won my vote.