Entrepreneurship and Government

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boston patriots entrepreneurship

Massachusetts is known for Tom Brady, Superbowls, and its active entrepreneurial community support system – including the MassChallenge—a highly successful private accelerator that goes beyond the work of a traditional  incubator to “catalyze a start-up renaissance.”

So if you are the new Mayor of Boston and three of your top priorities are jobs, jobs, and jobs, how do you go about ensuring that your city is the one that attracts top start-ups?

In a model entrepreneurship and government partnership program, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh focused on the Goliath in the room: the City’s unwieldy and lengthy permitting and licensing procedures that ate up entrepreneurs’ time and money. Obtaining permits and licensing in Boston had become a marathon itself, taking way too long to get through the confusing permitting and licensing race.

So, Boston’s young, tech-savvy mayor decided to replace the marathon with a sprint, and implemented a new best-practices approach to attract fresh entrepreneurs.

If the system’s broke, fix it.

Mayor Walsh knew that his job was to manage the change rather than create the solution; that is, he needed to reach out to the right people, find the right technology, and secure the right resources to enable the change.

The right people: The City’s organizational chart simply did not reflect the right framework for this challenge, so Mayor Walsh began his approach to creating a friendlier environment for entrepreneurs by establishing an interagency team. Traditional departments became subservient to individuals and getting the right people together to accomplish the task.

The right technologyAs Harvard’s Ash Center reports in Data-Smart City Solutions, the interagency team applied technological solutions in two ways:

  • First, they began with a Hackathon challenge. Teams that included all stakeholders, developers, designers, city employees, and residents came up with new ideas to handle “the most pressing pain points for those seeking permit applications.”
  • Second, the team followed the Hackathon with overhauling and streamlining their online system. They wanted a system that was user-friendly for “small business and homeowners who do not have the resources to hire an attorney and/or permit expediters,” as Data-Smart City Solutions reported.

The right resources: A major part of the old time-consuming licensing and permitting marathon was the process for obtaining variances—a significant aspect of the burden for entrepreneurs.

  • Mayor Walsh did the practical thing: He doubled Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearings—the path to obtaining variances—and the Mayor didn’t stop there.
  • In an innovative move, the Mayor added what was in effect a second ZBA: another board working under the ZBA for expediting short hearings. To make it easier for small business entrepreneurs to attend, these subcommittee hearings are held outside of regular business hours.

Boston Now a Welcoming Municipal Partner

With the backlog of licensing and permit applications now shrinking, and a shiny, new, streamlined and user-friendly process in place, the City of Boston has met its own challenge to ensure that the municipal barriers to entrepreneurship are gone. The City has become a true partner to entrepreneurs by dissolving its red tape.

Combined with the MassChallenge accelerator and support networks such as the Boston Entrepreneurs Network, the Revolve Nation Boston Entrepreneur Group, and Greenhorn Connect, Boston is a welcoming hub of entrepreneurial activity.

Saint Joseph University in Philadelphia is launching a new entrepreneurship program this spring with a unique three-phase program that allows disabled veterans to pitch their business plan “Shark Tank” style. The Veterans Entrepreneurial Jumpstart program is modeled after an entrepreneurship “boot camp” started by Syracuse University in 2007. That program has expanded to include eight other universities, and Saint Joseph has applied to join the consortium.

The program is free to qualified candidates and is operated out of the university’s Office of Veterans Services. Student participation will be divided into the following three phases.

  • The first phase is an eight-week online course. The self-guided curriculum aims to teach fundamental business principles and help students develop their business plan.
  • The second phase is an intensive seven-day session at Saint Joseph’s Philadelphia campus. Students will attend classroom sessions, participate in workshops and panel discussions, and hear from successful entrepreneurs. The week ends with the sought-after opportunity to pitch their business plans “Shark Tank” style.
  • The final phase includes a six-month mentor program and access to small business services, including accounting and tax advice, Web design and legal services.

The launch of the program is partly credited to the community. The idea came about two years ago when a donor came to the Dean wanting to create an entrepreneurship program specifically for disabled military veterans. Since then, many businesses have offered free services that will contribute to the success of phase three of the program. The goal is to give veterans “enough to jumpstart their ambitions so in the first year…they get their business up and running,” said Ralph Galati, director of St. Joseph’s Office of Veterans Services. St. Joseph University hopes to at least match the 70 percent success rate of the Syracuse program.

Find out more about college entrepreneurship programs for specific demographics, like Veterans, through travisluther.com.

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Let’s face it: there are times when hardworking entrepreneurs could use a boost to their ecosystem and the surrounding business climate. In the distressed parishes and counties stretching across the eight-state Delta Region (Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee), a new partnership aims to do just that.

Entrepreneurship and a Government Partnership

The new Delta Challenge combines the notion of a crowdsourcing challenge with a public-private partnership in the hope of producing new solutions for improving the economic ecosystem in the Delta while at the same time promoting the best entrepreneurs across the region.

The new DRA Entrepreneurship Network is an innovative approach that aims to “raise the profiles of promising entrepreneurs in the Delta region and the Alabama Black Belt,” according to the Orleans-based Times-Picayune.

The partnership intends first to “address deficiencies in the region’s business climate,” and then use the Delta Challenge to “identify entrepreneurs with strong, scalable ideas of how to fix the region’s biggest problems,” reports the Times-Picayune.

The overarching notion behind the partnership is the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats: boosting entrepreneurship across the region will enhance and enrich the quality of life of the entire population in the area.

The Delta Challenge partners

The public partner is the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), a federal-state partnership in itself that Congress established in 2000. The DRA co-chair is a Presidential appointee who collaborates with the governors of the eight-state region. The DRA’s mission is to promote “local and regional partnerships that address economic and social challenges to ultimately strengthen the Delta economy and the quality of life for Delta residents.”

The Idea Village, the private partner, is a 15-year-old New Orleans-headquartered incubator for entrepreneurs. It runs a Startup Network based on the idea that “it takes a village to grow an entrepreneurial movement” and that “entrepreneurship is an agent of change.”

The Idea Village’s CEO, Tim Williamson, says in the Times-Picayune of the Delta Challenge, “This is about … providing support for entrepreneurs coming into town, and communicating that the South is a hub for entrepreneurship.”

More information about the Delta Challenge is online on the DRA website.