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HESS Industries Ltd. at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield - Photo Bob Perkoski
HESS Industries Ltd. at the Braintree Business Development Center in Mansfield - Photo Bob Perkoski | Show Photo

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AOL founder Steve Case touts Ohio's innovation economy as an example of the 'rise of the rest'

NASFV
NASFV
Ohioans will see plenty of both President Obama and Governor Romney between now and November 6th, 2012. Yet despite a slew of references to big business and small business on the campaign trail, one term we aren't likely to hear very often is "entrepreneurship."

That's what AOL founder and Startup America Chair Steve Case told an audience of over 200 people at the annual conference of the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF) in downtown Cleveland.

"The story of America is the story of entrepreneurs who built our economy and propelled it to become the leading economy of the world," he said. "If we're going to continue that kind of leadership, then we need to double down on entrepreneurship. The place to focus is on high-growth companies that will create jobs."

Case outlined his recommendations for focusing U.S. policy makers on supporting entrepreneurs who are creating new companies that will grow our economy. He also talked about issues facing startup companies.

JOBS Act and Startup Act 2.0. While the passage of the JOBS Act earlier this year was a rare act of bipartisanship in Washington, more work needs to be done. The "Startup Act 2.0" will create a legal path to citizenship for high-skill immigrants who want to build companies in the U.S.

"Other countries are stepping up, and we're almost asleep at the wheel," he said.

The Rise of the Rest. Case believes that the future will bring a broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in which other areas besides Silicon Valley are important. "Many years ago, you couldn't launch a startup in some areas, and now you can," he said. "Costs are down, and the ability to get talent is up."

While areas like Ohio might produce companies that take longer to become successful, that's OK, said Case. "We're interested in built-to-last companies as opposed to built-to-flip companies," he said of his own investment vehicles.

Crowdfunding. Despite the increased availability of funding for entrepreneurs, there are still a lot of founders out there that don't have access to capital, said Case. Most regions of the U.S. are conservative when it comes to startups.

"Crowdfunding democratizes access to capital," he said. "Yes, it is risky. But it gives people the tools to invest, as long as they're made aware of the risks."

"Previously, the law driving investment was the Securities Act of 1933," Case went on. "You didn't have to be an accredited investor to lose $5,000 in Vegas."

Talent. Case made a strong case that entrepreneurs can be leaders when it comes to recruiting talent and revitalizing the cities that they are a part of. "You have to create a sense of momentum and possibility," he said. "Tell those that grew up here and have an affinity for Ohio that now is the time to come back."

As he concluded his talk, Case urged the entrepreneurial community to focus on passage of the Startups Act 2.0, which he likened to the next phase of the JOBS Act, after the November elections are over and policy makers get back to work.
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