Entrepreneurs... the makers, the doers, the dreamers.


Entrepreneurs are people who turn ideas into reality, charging directly into the headwinds to create something of value where there was no value before.

Entrepreneurs create value in many ways. They start new businesses and grow small companies into big ones. They bring innovative solutions to market and address social and community challenges. They turn their hobbies into side hustles, create our favorite shops on Main Street, and make the products and services we buy everyday. They pursue dreams. They feed their families. They create jobs.

They come from all different backgrounds. They represent a wide range of ages and educational experiences. They work across industries and professions. Indeed, anyone can be an entrepreneur.

ESHIP Summit 2018

Entrepreneurs drive progress.

Human history, in part, is the story of people turning concepts into innovations, sharing them with others, and raising standards of living for all. From the wheel to the airplane, from new restaurants to new nonprofits, each improvement changes our lives and allows other innovations to follow.

We celebrate entrepreneurs.

The twenty-first century brought significant changes to our economy and, with them, a resurgent interest in entrepreneurship, both in the United States and throughout the world.

Ecosystem Playbook

We are celebrating and cultivating it in many new ways. For instance, many successful entrepreneurs today have celebrity status. Books, television, and movies tell their stories. Media follow entrepreneurs, covering their businesses but also their personal lives, investments, and philanthropy.

Society is looking for solutions...

Governments seek policies to nurture innovators, grow businesses, and uplift economies. Investors hunt for promising new companies to create wealth. Community leaders search for the missing ingredient that will enable them to help more entrepreneurs succeed and lift their neighborhoods.

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...because entrepreneurship benefits all of us.

Entrepreneurship empowers individuals, improves standards of living throughout a community, and creates jobs, wealth and innovation in the economy. In fact, most of the net new jobs in the U.S. are created by new and young companies.

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But there are discrepancies between perceptions and reality.

ESHIP Summit 2018, discrepancies between perceptions and reality

The reality is that the entrepreneurial economy is much bigger than the famous entrepreneurs in the media. And although entrepreneurship is increasingly an urban phenomenon, it's not only happening in the largest metropolitan areas or those known for their startups. Of the ten metros in the United States with the biggest improvements in startup activity in the past seven years, six are in the middle of the country.

There is an entrepreneur deficit. Startup density 1977-2016. ESHIP Summit 2018

There is an entrepreneurship deficit.

And despite this increase in interest in entrepreneurship, the reality is that we are in the midst of a thirty-year decline in entrepreneurship activity. Although entrepreneurship is discussed a lot, Americans are starting new businesses at about half the rate they were a generation ago.

And it's exacerbated by barriers facing specific populations.

The playing field is not level, and certain groups face more significant and more persistent barriers to starting companies – leaving untapped human potential on the sidelines. There are persistent gaps in economic opportunity, particularly for women, people of color, and immigrants. Rural communities, veterans, LGBTQ entrepreneurs, older entrepreneurs, and people with disabilities also contend with economic opportunity gaps. The descriptive statistics for U.S. entrepreneurs – 80.2 percent white and 64.5 percent male – are notably different than those for the overall U.S. population. These gaps, we believe, are largely due to an opportunity and empowerment divide in our nation.

Exacerbated barriers facing specific populations. ESHIP Summit 2018

Women are half as likely as men to own businesses...

Women entrepreneurs. ESHIP Summit 2018

While it is well-known that women earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to men, it is seldom acknowledged that women own only 32 cents on the dollar compared to men. Furthermore, just 2.7 percent of all U.S. companies receiving venture capital had a woman CEO, and only 0.2 percent of venture capital goes to African American women – despite the fact that African American women founders are the fastest growing entrepreneurial segment.

...minorities own half as many businesses as non-minorities...

Minority entrepreneurs. ESHIP Summit 2018

While minorities make up more than 35 percent of the population, they own less than 20 percent of employer businesses and only 17.4 percent of businesses with at least one million dollars in revenue. Moreover, minority-owned businesses start smaller and stay smaller.

...and rural entrepreneurs face an increasingly uphill battle.


Entrepreneurship largely occurs in urban areas, and while mid-sized metros like Kansas City are winning, small cities and towns in places like rural Kansas are losing. In 1977, more than two out of every ten U.S. startups were in rural areas. Today, just over one in every ten startups is in a rural area.

Rural entrepreneurs face an uphill battle. ESHIP Summit 2018

As a result, the whole economy suffers.

The whole economy suffers when barriers are in the way of entrepreneurship. ESHIP Summit 2018

Everyone in the system is affected when there is a decrease in innovation, entrepreneurship, and opportunity in our communities, and when unrealized potential is pervasive. To achieve an economic system that realizes its full promise, everyone must be able to participate.

Recent research suggests that the entrepreneurship deficit is related to some of today’s biggest challenges: the jobs deficit, slow productivity growth, stagnant wages, and rising inequality. In 2017, 82 percent of the wealth created in our economy went to the richest 1 percent of the population. The poorest 50 percent of the country saw no increase in wealth at all. This inequality has significant costs. Childhood poverty, for example, cost the nation $1.03 trillion in 2015 (or 5.4 percent of the GDP) in reduced economic output, decreased productivity, increased crime, and higher health expenses, among other costs.

The world is shifting...


We are at a turning point in history. The exponential increase in connectivity and technology is ushering in a new economic era. As the Industrial Age comes to a close and a new economic system emerges, we face massive change and uncertainty. But there is also tremendous opportunity to reinvent our economy.

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...and the United States will see a wave of demographic changes in the next few decades.

Demographic changes are ahead for the United States. ESHIP Summit 2018

The population of the United State is becoming older and more racially diverse. By 2055, the United States will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. People of color will represent 52 percent of the population (compared to 39 percent today), comprising the "new majority."

This new majority will need to have equal access to entrepreneurship and other economic opportunities for our economy to thrive. In many ways, demographic change is destiny.

An opportunity – and an imperative...


We must make our economy more entrepreneurial, creating more growth, jobs, wealth, and innovation. Communities need to think beyond stealing companies from other jurisdictions and retaining existing companies. Instead, they must concentrate on growing new companies.

...for everyone.

Entrepreneurial ecosystems are about opening access to economic prosperity for everyone, regardless of who they are or where they come from. We must forge a new American Dream that is more accessible to all—not only to mitigate the social problems caused by inequality, but also to capitalize on the untapped potential of underrepresented groups and improve our economy.

There's untapped potential in diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystems. ESHIP Summit 2018

A new model is required.

Ecosystem Playbook

Traditional methods of helping entrepreneurs aren't enough. We can't just give out more tax incentives, infusions of capital, or access to business incubators. There is no silver bullet that will address the entrepreneurship deficit or the barriers to entrepreneurship that many face. We must address the entire system. We need to change the way we think about helping entrepreneurs. And we need to ensure access and opportunity for everyone.

People are the new companies.

Traditional economic development focuses primarily on attracting and retaining existing companies – which mostly favors large incumbent firms. However, those techniques seem increasingly limited in impact. As our economy changes, our approaches to economic development must also evolve. We need to focus more on the people who bring ideas to life – the entrepreneurs. It’s time to update our economic development paradigm to a human-centered one, concentrating on people who create economic value from scratch. That is, entrepreneurs.

Every entrepreneur has distinct stories and unique aspirations. They all face barriers in their own way. Our task is to help them start their businesses and give them the individualized assistance they need to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Ecosystem Playbook

Ecosystems are the answer.

Ecosystem Playbook

Entrepreneurship doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's the result of countless complex interactions in a community. No single organization can provide sufficient help to all the entrepreneurs in a community.

We have to build the ecosystem that surrounds entrepreneurs. Ecosystems help entrepreneurs thrive at each step. Just as the complex biological system of soil, water, sunlight, flora and fauna in a rainforest allows individual plants to flourish, so the ecosystem for entrepreneurs is essential to their success. Healthy, diverse, and inclusive ecosystems allow talent, information, and resources to flow quickly to entrepreneurs as they need it.