U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today participated in three separate events at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas underscoring the importance of entrepreneurs and small businesses to the economy. During her SXSW events, Secretary Pritzker highlighted how the U.S. Commerce Department invests in innovation, supports the digital economy and is helping provide American businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow and hire.
Secretary Pritzker began the day by participating in a roundtable with business incubators, tenant startups and other startup stakeholders at the headquarters of RideScout, a smartphone app created to increase transportation efficiency. During the roundtable she listened to local business leaders and startups describe what the future of business incubation will look like, and the kind of investments and support they will need to successfully spin-out new companies. She was joined at the roundtable by the Department’s newly hired, first-ever Chief Data Officer Ian Kalin. Secretary Pritzker appointed Kalin to this role to help unleash more of the Commerce Department’s data to strengthen the nation’s economic growth. The new Chief Data Officer will work to make Commerce data easier to access, understand, and use, while also ensuring we maximize the return of data investments for businesses, entrepreneurs, government, taxpayers, and communities.
Following the roundtable, Secretary Pritzker participated in an armchair discussion entitled “Move Fast, Government, or Get Out the Way.” Before beginning the discussion Secretary Pritzker took a few moments to swear in Michelle K. Lee, as the new Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Lee is the first woman to hold this position in the more than 200 year history of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. After the swearing in ceremony, Secretary Pritzker participated in the armchair discussion with DailyMail.com CEO John Steinberg. They discussed the importance of data to the U.S. economy and Secretary Pritzker also used the opportunity to announce the findings of a new Commerce Department report highlighting the importance of data jobs to the U.S. economy and the huge growth in these high-paying jobs over the past decade. During the event, she also stressed the importance of re-tooling the patent system to adapt to the rate and pace of technology and fuel, not slow, innovation.
To close the day, Secretary Pritzker participated as a panelist in a showcase of five of the top startups from the Capital Factory, an Austin business incubator. The five technology companies are early-stage startups raising funding for their ideas and concepts. The Secretary was joined on the panel by Founder of the Texas Tribune John Thornton and 1-800-Contacts Founder Jonathan Coon, and Capital Factory Executive Director Josh Baer.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses owners are the back bone to the economic growth of the United States. They have generated more than 65 percent of net new jobs over the past two decades and startups in high-tech hubs like Austin account for over 40 percent of new jobs each year. As Secretary Penny Pritzker stated during her SXSW events, “Everyone here today recognizes what we, at the Department of Commerce, have long embraced: startups are vital to our economic growth. And when startups succeed, our economy succeeds, our workers benefit, and our families are better off.”