Small businesses have the power to revive the nations economy; they just need the opportunity, technology and the right government policies to help them succeed, according to a report from the Center for Public Policy Innovation (CPPI) and the Digital Dialogue Forum (DDF). The report also notes small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and they are responsible for two-thirds of the 40 million jobs created in the country over the past 30 years, calling them the nations greatest source of innovation and vital to maintaining the countrys economic competitiveness.
A December forum in Washington, D.C., entitled Creating Jobs and Unleashing the Potential of Small Businesses Through Technology and Innovation addressed many of the issues that impact the ability of American entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life at home and abroad, including the growing importance technologies like cloud computing and mobile connectivity hold for startups and small businesses.
Steve Felice, president of global consumer, small and medium business at Dell, facilitated the discussion with Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership; Sean Greene, associate administrator for investment and special advisor for innovation at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA); and Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Week and senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Felice framed the discussion as one about "access"access to capital, access to global markets and access to modern technology. According to Felice, focusing on these three elements will help small businesses thrive in a way that will reinvigorate the United States economy as a whole. This is something we have to keep evangelizing so everyone understands. We tend to focus on the large companies, but its the small businesses that create jobs, said Felice.
In addressing technology, the panel highlighted the fact that cloud computing and mobile technologies have lowered the cost of entry for smaller firms, allowing them to invest more in their innovative ideas. Global supply chains used to be controlled by larger firms, but now, smaller firms have the ability to build virtual supply chains to expand their presence around the world. Access to technology has also allowed some of the brightest minds to collaborate on a global scale, creating a community of innovators unrestrained by distance and geographical boundaries.
While Case spent $3 million on equipment when founding the travel Website Priceline.com in 1997, he estimates that entrepreneurs can now harness the same level of processing power and technology platforms for approximately $1,000, courtesy of low-cost cloud computing providers such as Dell, Intuit and Amazon. The game has absolutely changed in our ability to leverage technology and the ability to access terabytes at almost zero cost by lowering the cost of entry. Everything has information wrapped around it, Case said. There are bits around everything, even the chair youre sitting on. The movement around startups is about leveraging that platform and being able to invest more in their ideas.
Access to technology has also helped level the playing field for established small businesses. Felice said he was struck by the way smaller firms are able to compete with large companies. Traditionally, large companies had a big advantage in the supply chain, and theyve also had much better access to customers through marketing. But with technology like cloud applications, even the smallest business can get off the ground, he said.