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Government Coming to Entrepreneurs

Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK

Guest blog post by Ali Ansary, co-founder of SeventyK.

Ed. Note: SeventyK’s mission is to change cancer care by educating patients, families, and their healthcare providers through innovative ways about age-appropriate treatment and the unique needs of the adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patient. Unlike pediatric and older adult cancer patients, for over two decades the rate of survival for AYA cancer patients has not improved.

Last Thursday I was honored to be part of a panel at the Colorado University Denver Anschutz Medical Campus where Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank discussed the importance of opening four new USPTO offices, including one in Denver.

As Acting Secretary Blank spoke to the new opportunities and growth that will spur from opening new USPTO offices, two quotes came to mind:

#1: "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it" (Albert Einstein). 

For the first time, new offices outside of Washington, D.C. will be part of the solution to accelerate innovation in this country—an important recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in one place—it happens across the country. Now entrepreneurs who need to protect their innovation have a direct line to the government locally. A strong move when seeing that IP-intensive industries account for nearly 35 percent of the FY2010 U.S. GDP.

With this community presence, entrepreneurs can travel regionally and not wait as long to secure intellectual property rights, which in turn allows them to stay competitive and create a stronger product with faster delivery to market. Tomorrow’s growth will come by the government creating new opportunities for emerging companies, which fosters growth. One example of local government stimulating the startup community is in San Francisco, where they passed a pay-roll tax break for small companies based in the city. The expectations being clear: new businesses, more jobs and a stronger economy.

Communication is key. The government is in a unique position to play as a connector between different businesses and innovators. By being in the midst of the conversation, the government can create effective policy decisions. Continued growth will come from an environment that fosters clear communication and low barriers that traditionally have slowed down companies from growing.

At one point I was asked what the Department of Commerce can do today for innovation. One point I made is how important it is to take advantage of new companies wanting to hire U.S. soldiers returning home by creating a virtual place where companies and vets can connect based on needs and skill sets.

#2: "Chance favors only the prepared mind" (Louis Pasteur).

Although education reform seems to be a central debate every year, one valuable opportunity that can arise from creating new USTPO offices is to become involved with local schools. The central focus is to prepare future entrepreneurs by bringing in students to better understand the process of patenting/trademarking, working with other businesses and gaining insight to the rules and procedures of growing a business. These are fundamental skills that are generally overlooked, but can have lasting impacts. We live in a society where kids can potentially find business solutions or advance innovations given the right skill set and access to resources.

With President Obama’s efforts to achieve an excellence in science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM), the Department of Commerce and USPTO are now set up to build on the vision of “Educate to Innovate” in K-12. This has enormous potential by investing in the next generation of ingenuity and innovators.

It is important for government to take advantage of the rise of an entrepreneurial society. However, its role must be a delicate balance. Too much government involvement has the potential to be counter-productive, yet I am convinced that in the right environment, new companies can rise to be the new Google, Apple or even Starbucks.

I know, for one, that I look forward to collaborating with the Department of Commerce in building out this new innovative ecosystem.

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