Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are the author’s alone.
Have you seen this sticker on cars over the years? It’s the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s campaign during the Great Recession, meaning “Entrepreneurship = Recovery.”
It was really a time of “push” for our political structure — and our communities in general — to understand that very thing. If we focus some intense effort on our entrepreneurs, sustained economic recovery will eventually follow.
After a recent trip to Washington D.C., I’ve rediscovered a new meaning for E=R. And boy did I need it. I thought you might as well.
“An unexpected gift of the week was rediscovering my own patriotic optimism while reflecting together about entrepreneurial success stories in our country.” – Joni Cobb
I am, like so many in our country, really disillusioned by the tenor of our presidential campaign. Regardless of your political affiliation — or if you even feel you have one — this election has been draining and discouraging on many levels.
I keep trying to energize my own children to be excited about their chance to be an active participant in our political process. But I have to say, I agree that it is hard to get excited about any of this when you turn on the television* and listen to these debates. After listening to the “reality television type” arguing, and hearing all about “what is so wrong in our country,” I too began feeling pessimistic about our collective future.
But then something happened to me. I had an occasion last week to visit our nation’s capital with …with colleagues from all over the country who are working to build entrepreneurial energy in their hometowns. It was an honor to be there representing our region with such an impressive group.
An unexpected gift of the week was rediscovering my own patriotic optimism while reflecting together about entrepreneurial success stories in our country. Our region is blessed with so many entrepreneurs identifying problems that need to be solved. We’re fortunate to have innovators who dig for solutions, who create entirely new markets, who also invest money and effort into other entrepreneurs. And upon success and exit, they start the process all over again.
“While we may not be looking forward to months more of discouraging rhetoric, we do have some options to recover from this barrage of negativity.” – Joni Cobb
I mean that is some terrific news folks — whatever your political leanings! It was so invigorating to share these stories with members of Congress, and many others who were looking for insight into moving our country forward. Clearly they needed the energy boost, too.
After our meetings, I took a long walk along the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. I was hit by the familiar rush I used to have as a student when thinking about the significance of this historic place. Except something was even better this time. I thought about our entrepreneurs’ place in this pivotal moment in our country’s evolution. You have to imagine that Abe Lincoln would love this bunch of scrappy self-starters who jump over obstacles to solve problems. I like to imagine him hanging out at Startup Weekend just for the energy and the perspective.
But back to E=R.
As I boarded the plane to come back home, I took out my computer to share my renewed energy and confidence in our country’s future. Entrepreneurship really does equal recovery in many different ways. While we may not be looking forward to months more of discouraging rhetoric, we do have some options to recover from this barrage of negativity. We can turn the noise off for a moment and reflect on what is working well right now. And our own entrepreneurs are standing in the center of many of these positive stories.
I can’t wait to get back home and celebrate my own “attitude recovery” and thank our region’s hard working entrepreneurs for their relentless optimism and dedication. I’d vote for them any day. Come to think of it, in a way, I already do.
– Joni Cobb
*correction: my kids told me they use their laptops, not the television.
Joni Cobb is President & CEO of Pipeline, as well as a board member of a new national organization, the Center for American Entrepreneurship, which has been organized to work with policymakers to promote American entrepreneurship.