Women. People of color. 40-somethings. Immigrants.
These are the people behind America's startups today. They're bootstrapping. They're working from kitchen tables, co-ops, and garages. They're creating businesses they're passionate about – companies that start as vibrant shops in their local communities and might one day grow into something bigger.
Lots of Americans start businesses, of course. We believe the US to be the land of entrepreneurship - and it is. Except entrepreneurship is no longer growing at the pace we've historically imagined, and the face of entrepreneurship has shifted, too. Neither of those realities are well-reflected in US business magazines and news broadcasts, which primarily focus on young, white men with Ivy League roots launching The Next Big Tech Disruption in a city on the left coast.
This summer, I had the pleasure of attending an event that included an insightful conversation with Seth Levine and Elizabeth MacBride, co-authors of "The New Builders: Face to Face With the True Future of Business," at the Roux Institute in Portland, Maine. It was an apt location for such a discussion – Roux Institute, under the Northeastern umbrella, is focused on propelling innovation and building talent here in Maine and the Northeast.
Levine and MacBride – a venture capitalist and an international business journalist, respectively – have immense interest in advocating for and telling the stories of entrepreneurs in America. In researching their book, they uncovered some crucial truths: A large segment of the "new builders" are women. They're people of color. They're in their 40s or older.
And they're not getting the critical support that they need to keep building.
Additionally, Levine and MacBride’s research discovered that entrepreneurship in America is on the decline, making that support even more critical. This is the future of America's economy. Today's startups are tomorrow's small businesses, big businesses, employers, economic engines, and the storefronts that make our tiny towns and sprawling cities worth living in.
As the CEO of a company that helps companies build value with IT, software engineering, and digital marketing, I asked Levine and MacBride what companies like mine can do to better support these bourgeoning businesses.
Their answer: Support the people building America's future with money and mentorship.
This goes for all of us, whether you're a business owner with the know-how to share or a venture capitalist with funds to invest. Let's give our attention to the men and women putting their passions and smarts into building tomorrow. And let's challenge ourselves to redefine what we think about who and what could be a solid investment for our time or money.
In the process, let's also shift the language we use when talking about entrepreneurs and update our understanding of who is leading change and creating our economy today. Tech startups that could be the next unicorn are flashy and exciting and make for great headlines, but there is so much more going on. Entrepreneurs are also small community-oriented businesses that may never scale nationally or may only have a regional presence. These small businesses are powering job growth and, at the same time, improving their communities.
I encourage you to pick up a copy of "The New Builders: Face to Face With the True Future of Business" and read more about Levine and MacBride's research and some inspiring stories from small business owners around the country.
To learn more about The New Builders, go to thenewbuilders.com
To buy the book: thenewbuilders.com/#buy