As entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, we’re united in our belief in the impact of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystem building as a strategy to build, and now rebuild, economies. It’s a common core value that distinguishes ecosystem builders.
But our conviction in the power and impact of ecosystem building is not shared by most people, especially those who are in positions of traditional power such as many civic leaders, business leaders, and traditional economic developers.
We know firsthand the struggle and frustration of explaining the importance and impact of working to support and grow entrepreneurship in a community. But our messages and attempts to change the system are often unheard or ignored. Society doesn’t understand the value of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial ecosystems and the limitations of our current economic development model.
But imagine the impact of accomplishing ESHIP Goal 6—expanding external stakeholders engagement in ecosystem building. We could realize a true shift in the economic policy narrative. If the ESHIP community can bring an understanding of the impact of ecosystem building to public advocates at the local, regional, and national level, we can change the trajectories of our economies and the lives of millions.
Over the last few months, a new hero has begun to emerge to champion universal support and expand external stakeholder understanding and support for entrepreneurial ecosystem building as a priority of economic recovery and justice. The Right to Start campaign launched recently with a mission to build the American economy by putting starters first—by changing minds, policies, and communities.
Founded by veteran ecosystem builders Victor Hwang and Kim Lane and built on the fundamental belief that we are all starters, Right to Start has a mission to create a new civic infrastructure and rebuild economies.
Initially motivated by pervasive and troubling economic indicators such as declining business starts, lowering entrepreneurship rates, difficulty accessing capital, and policies that favor established mega corporations, the movement gained extra urgency due to the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.
In his manifesto for the new campaign, “We Are All Starters: A Manifesto to Renew Ourselves and Our Nation,” Victor Hwang talks about the motivation behind the movement.
“For years, a movement to support the Right to Start has been building quietly, gaining momentum and success, and is finally coming into maturity. The evidence is unambiguous. For each of us, the Right to Start brings dignity, autonomy, and opportunity. At scale, the Right drives prosperity through community renewal, job growth, greater productivity, and economic justice.
Now – as we recover from crisis – it’s time for this movement to reveal itself into the open, to show a path for our nation to renew itself, to reopen businesses that have shuttered, to right historical wrongs, and to build a new national civic infrastructure that ignites the Right to Start for everyone, everywhere.”
The Right to Start campaign is fighting for three fundamental changes:
- Change minds. Shift our nation’s conversation so the Right to Start becomes recognized as critical to American renewal.
- Change policies. Advocate for policies to enshrine the Right to Start at all levels of our system.
- Change communities. Engage ordinary Americans in lifting their communities through simple actions that strengthen the Right to Start.
“We’re fighting to build a new civic infrastructure to expand entrepreneurial opportunity for everyone. We’re doing that by changing minds, changing policies, changing communities.”
What started with a manifesto has developed into specific tactics and policy proposals. The Right to Start team has proposed 11 “shovel-ready” policies for implementation at federal, state, and local levels, including:
- Eliminating all registration costs, minimum income taxes, and licensing fees to cut red tape for new businesses at start and in their early years.
- Allowing businesses to defer federal and state income tax deadlines, or to skip filing income taxes for a year if net income is below $5,000.
- Creating Entrepreneurial Capital Catalyst Grants to invest in starting and restarting businesses underserved by the capital marketplace.
- Redirecting 5% ($2.7B) of workforce training and economic development funding into helping Americans start businesses through local entrepreneurial support organizations.
Find the full set on their Ready to Start: A Roadmap for Recovery.
The Right to Start campaign is closely aligned with and complements “America’s New Business Plan,” a comprehensive policy roadmap, backed by the Start Us Up coalition of over 160 organizations, to energize America’s entrepreneurial economy. America’s New Business Plan proposes 14 recommendations with 43 specific points, provides valuable data and case studies, and gives action checklists of 25 to-do’s for federal, state, and local policymakers to follow. Download and read more about “America’s New Business Plan.”
How can ecosystem builders get involved? Right to Start has developed resources, including a starter kit with simple steps that ecosystem builders can take to activate the project in their communities, educate policy makers, and drive change.
In the manifesto Victor Hwang invites all of us to get involved to help change policy and the national narrative. “Talk to your leaders about these ideas. Engage with your family, friends, and neighbors. Win hearts and minds, one conversation at a time.” Hwang adds, “We can also advocate for policy change. While political leaders want to hear from citizens, most entrepreneurs and other starters are often too busy (or too cash-strapped) to advocate for themselves. So be a voice for the voiceless starters. Talk to political leaders, and let them know the Right to Start de- serves their support.”