Those experiences inform the way I look at today’s crisis and the important role that public policy can play in supporting inclusive recovery. Three actions can help put policymakers and entrepreneurs on a shared path to a brighter future:
1. Engage regularly with entrepreneurs and underrepresented innovators
Both policymakers and business leaders benefit from meaningful engagement with each other. Reaching out to better understand entrepreneurs’ priorities and roadblocks to growth helps policymakers create programs that can act as accelerants to economic opportunity.
Dr. Jennifer Riria, Kenya’s celebrated microfinancing leader featured in "The Unstoppables", often cites her lifelong efforts to cultivate productive relationships with local governments as vital to her business success. These connections have fostered opportunities to influence policy evolution and overcome resistance in her drive to fuel the potential of Africa’s women founders.
At the same time, connecting with underrepresented innovators enables policymakers to better understand their ambitions and obstacles and enable inclusive opportunity. And it might go beyond the typical policy areas associated with entrepreneurship. For example, thanks to valuable feedback shared by immigrant founders during the Startup America initiative, the Obama Administration clarified important visa requirements for immigrant entrepreneurs, smoothing the path for ambitious, creative innovators to stay and flourish in the country.
For entrepreneurs, building positive relationships with policy makers often falls to the bottom of their overfull to-do lists. But helping policymakers understand what tools entrepreneurs need to build and grow can benefit not only the entrepreneur but the broader ecosystem.
2. Address barriers and lack of clarity
A key step in enabling opportunity is to dismantle the barriers that make it unduly complicated for innovators to thrive. Addressing the price of admission — including regulatory reforms related to starting a business, getting credit, paying taxes and resolving insolvency — can help more players get in the game. Improving clarity around regulatory structure is important too, as it helps to equalize the advantages that larger, more mature businesses have when navigating the regulatory landscape. Doing Business (pdf), an annual publication from the World Bank Group which measures the regulations that enhance — and constrain — business activity has recorded nearly 4,000 regulatory reforms since its first study was published in 2003. Uruguay stands out as a great example: since 2003, concerted efforts to improve access to credit, reduce startup capital minimums and address cumbersome tax protocols have helped foster easier routes for the nation’s founders.
3. Improve access to capital
Access to capital remains vitally important to the entrepreneurs building tomorrow’s businesses and industries. The International Monetary Fund’s January Outlook found, in a sample of 13 advanced economies, that bankruptcies have fallen during the current recession as compared to past recessions. The decline was attributed in part to government transfers to firms, emergency lending programs and credit guarantees, and moratoria on bankruptcy filings. Policies and mechanisms that make it easier for innovators to tap into affordable capital should remain a priority as the world’s markets seek to drive growth.