As Chairman of the Startup America Partnership, and co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Steve is still heavily involved in the startup world. The first thing he said is that he loves celebrating entrepreneurship and is very focused on building up entrepreneurial ecosystems around the country. Silicon Valley is the epicenter of course, and back in 1983 when Steve moved here, DC was just the government. He firmly believe that DC has the opportunity to develop into a major center of entrepreneurship.
Steven talked a bit about starting up AOL. In the mid-80s, no one was embracing the Internet. People didn’t find it appealing, and most people didn’t have PCs or modems. The AOL team knew that the Internet would be a major part of every day life eventually; most ideas take a decade or more to hit their stride, so they just kept plugging away.
Which brought Steve to his major point: the keys to success are passion, people, and perseverance, especially when you are building something totally new that will change the world. That’s what AOL did, and that’s what successful startups have done and are doing.
The reason startups across America are so important to the economy, especially right now, is because entrepreneurs built this country. The US is all about new ideas. We have created new industries that built new cities. 40 million jobs have been created by entrepreneurs over the last decade. In order to encourage this kind of growth, Steve emphasized that it has to be easier to get access to capital, mentors, the ability to export, intellectual property protection, and so on, and that all happens here in DC in Congress.
We can replicate the model of Silicon Valley, which is so unique, by creating a startup community where entrepeneurs help each other and with the next generation of entrepreneurs. That is happening in DC, and it is happening around the country.
Steven concluded his speech by saying, “I am proud you have chosen this path. It is a risky path. It’s important work. Collectively it’s important to the nation.”