Looking Back at Highlights and Trends from 2015

dec 2015 2The field of entrepreneurship policy has expanded rapidly in the past few years and policymakers are now considerably more sophisticated in understanding how to better enable firms to form and scale. 

One recent example occurred at a meeting of foreign ambassadors to the United States at the opening of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Washington, DC. I heard one ambassador after another eloquently outline their nation’s strategy for entrepreneurship – many without notes. Five years ago, that would not have happened. Entrepreneurship policy was not high enough on national agendas that a country's principal diplomat to Washington was articulate on the details of their national strategy -- if one even existed -- to foster entrepreneurial growth. Another indication that entrepreneurship policy is a rising priority is the rapid growth in the global community of advisors from entrepreneurship communities. Startup Nations, one such group, doubled in size in 2015 as nations continue to grapple with unemployement and ripple effects from a larger than expected economic slowdown in China. 

Two areas of particular note in the past year are efforts to: (1) increase the number of talented entrepreneurs who can turn innovative ideas into profitable enterprises; and (2) increase the capital available to them to enable them to grow. 

A number of countries -- 14 by our count -- have implemented startup visas to attract and retain high-skilled talent from outside their borders. Canada was one of the first countries to enact a startup visa for entrepreneurs but unfortunately, it is off to a slow start. The lesson that we can take from that is that as legislation rolls out it will take all the leaders and feeders to ensure that it is leveraged to taxpayers' satisfaction. Policies and programs that aren't utilized aren't very valuable. 

There is a bit more excitement and promise when it comes to crowdfunding and increasing the availability of early stage capital. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized rules guiding how startups can sell equity -- a real step forward after several years of deadlock. Of course, it is still early and the crowdfunding rules will not be in effect until late April or early May 2016. 


As we look back at 2015, these and other issues rose to the surface. Below the 15 most popular posts of 2015. 

1. Crowdfunding Rules Announced. What Next?
Jonathan Ortmans | November 9, 2015
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finalized last week the rules guiding how startups can sell equity. What are the details and what is next after these new guidelines become active on Jan. 29, 2016? 

2. Entrepreneurship Seen as Strongest Aspect of US Economy
Mark Marich | September 14, 2015
A new survey of Harvard Business School alumni pointed to entrepreneurship as the strongest element of the national economy -- and that it is still improving. Entrepreneurship was joined by capital markets, universities and innovation as significant strengths in the U.S. 

3. Building Ecosystems Starts With Creating More Connections
Jonathan Ortmans | May 14, 2015
Whether you use dated expressions like “it isn’t what you know but who you know” or you are deep into “networking theory,” we all know the importance of having communities to turn to for advice or validation. But how important is what Dane Stangler and Jordan Bell-Masterson call “connectivity” in their Kauffman Foundation report offering policymakers a framework for evaluating and measuring entrepreneurial vitality?

4. Six Strategies to Create Strong Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Mark Marich | October 5, 2015
As policymakers throughout the country--and around the world--look for ways to help entrepreneurs launch and grow new businesses, a new research paper from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation underscores the importance of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. “Enabling Entrepreneurial Ecosystems” by Philip Auerswald, associate professor at George Mason University, outlines six strategies to help create connected, dense and diverse environments for entrepreneurs.  

5. Startup Activity on the Rise, but Room for More Growth
Jason Wiens | June 8, 2015
The U.S. economy reversed a five-year downward trend in startup activity last year with a big
jump in the number of new entrepreneurs. With the largest year-over-year growth in two decades, American startups are on the rebound, according to the 2015 Kauffman Index: Startup Activity. 

6. Learning to Take the Pulse of an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Jonathan Ortmans | April 13, 2015
“If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” iconic entrepreneur Bill Gates has famously said. But, when it comes to creating the conditions that allow entrepreneurs to thrive — that is, well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystems — policymakers often wonder whether what they are seeking can be quantified.

7. How Much Do Taxes Affect Startup Investment Incentives? 
Donald Marron and Joseph Rosenberg | March 9, 2015
Taxes create a wedge between what a new venture earns and what investors receive, boosting the hurdle rate that must be met in order to attract funding.

8. The Sharing Economy: Access Trumps Ownership
Lisa Gansky | June 29, 2015
The recent ruling by the California Labor Commission the declared an Uber driver was an employee rather than an independent contractor sent shockwaves through the sharing economy – with policy implications that will reverberate for quite some time.

9. Gauging Impact: A Closer Look at Entrepreneurial Density
Jonathan Ortmans | April 20, 2015
A new groundbreaking report by Dane Stangler and Jordan Bell-Masterson of the Kauffman Foundation proposes four baseline indicators — density, fluidity, connectivity, and diversity — as a starting point for evaluating and measuring entrepreneurial vitality. This week, I look at entrepreneurial density. The effect of entrepreneurial density can be dramatic: when talented makers and innovators interact regularly, new successful ventures are likely to emerge. 

10. Avoiding a Startup Monoculture
Jonathan Ortmans | April 6, 2015
As the number of entrepreneurship support programs increase, whether for fluid talent and ideas or basic startup support, there is more competition for finite resources. Are we unwittingly creating a global startup monoculture? That is a question raised by Amisha Miller from the Kauffman Foundation at the Startup Nations meeting during the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan last month.

11. Are Young American Entrepreneurs Becoming Extinct?
Jason Wiens | January 26, 2015
A recent story in The Wall Street Journal by Ruth Simon and Caelainn Barr had a provocative headline, calling young American entrepreneurs an “endangered species.” The idea of youthful entrepreneurs diminishing in numbers conflicts with the portrayal of entrepreneurship in popular culture and the media as booming in college dorm rooms, with young adults dressed in hoodies, not suit and tie. But the data give reason for the Journal’s declaration and should cause policymakers to pause and reflect on the implications.

12. Policy Levers to Measure (and Strengthen) Entrepreneurial Cities
Jonathan Ortmans | July 13, 2015
Headliner data no longer impresses startup community leaders examining alternative policy levers for building city ecosystems for entrepreneurs. City decision makers want robust, granular analysis alongside opportunities for more collaboration with their peer cities. So how are startup cities assessing themselves? Now that urban centers accommodate more than half of the world’s population, they have become important trend setters for local and national policymakers.  

13. Cities as Labs for Entrepreneurship Policy
Jonathan Ortmans | January 12, 2015
When the Kauffman Foundation focused its annual State of Entrepreneurship Address in 2012 on ideas for a Startup Act for the United States, a new set of questions emerged in the entrepreneurship policy world. Mostly, those questions were around where and with whom it was realistic to focus energy on in order to create better environments and ecosystems for new firms to form and thrive. While work at the federal and state level remains paramount, it has been encouraging to see such attention given to the local level – particularly by mayors and cities.  

14. Is Education the Real Beneficiary of an Entrepreneurial Economy?
Jonathan Ortmans | June 1, 2015
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn,” said futurist Alvin Toffler. Are policymakers focused on building entrepreneurial economies in the name of jobs, or is it really a cunning worker training strategy as we start to equip all our young to be familiar with the dynamics of opportunity recognition, the educational value of “failure” and the magic of iterative testing and validation that underpins modern day entrepreneurial endeavors? 

15. What are American Cities Doing to Help Startups Grow?
Jonathan Ortmans | November 2, 2015
As federal governments around the world increasingly explore how national policy can help the country’s economy, it is important that we not lose sight of local efforts that have the potential to be replicated on a larger scale. With four of the top five startup ecosystems in the world, according to the Compass 2015 Startup Ecosystem Report, U.S. cities are still at the forefront of experimenting with new policies and programs.

From Washington to Kanas City to Silicon Valley, the country will quiet down for the holidays over the next two weeks -- and so will the Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship. We will be back on Monday, January 4, 2016. 

Photo Credit: Flickr


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