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Are These the Seeds of an Entrepreneurship Bill?

In a year in which Washington seems fixated on small business--consider SOPA and the JOBS Act--another new piece of start-up legislation might be coming together before our eyes.
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This might just be the year Silicon Valley infiltrates Capitol Hill.

First, start-ups and tech-company founders fought successfully to prevent SOPA, which some argued would expanded the government's ability to police the Internet, from becoming law. Then came the JOBS Act—which was largely aimed at lubricating the start-up process for the smallest companies—which seemed a sure sign of congressional interest in entrepreneurship.

Now, the Senate Small Business Committee, chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, is working on the early iterations of what may become a landmark bill for entrepreneurs, poised to hit Congress some time this summer. Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship held a roundtable discussion on the matter, called Perspectives from the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Creating Jobs and Growing Businesses Through Entrepreneurship.

"Chair Landrieu is particularly focused on making these [entrepreneurial] ecosystems more robust—both in terms of creating more start-ups as well as generating quality jobs," Robert Sawicki, the communications director for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship wrote in an e-mail. "Our ultimate goal is to take the ideas that come out of these discussions and use them as the foundation for a major piece of entrepreneurship legislation." 

Depending on the outcome of the roundtable series—in which the Small Business Committee will hear recommendations from myriad entrepreneurial leaders—the committee plans to include several provisions to the bill that will foster entrepreneurship, according to the committee staffer.

Among those provisions, the committee will convene on the best ways possible to revise the immigration visa process, develop new policies aimed at improving entrepreneurs' access to capital, strengthen tax incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and help students and young entrepreneurs build their ideas.

The Senate committee invited over a dozen entrepreneurs, executives, and academics to testify at the roundtable. Among them included Alex Laskey, the president and founder of Opower, an energy start-up in San Francisco, Jennifer Hyman, the CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway, a New York City fashion start-up, and Scott Gerber, president and founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, a nonprofit based in New York.

Gerber, who moonlights as a columnist for Inc., was asked to address what the YEC is particularly concerned about: young entrepreneurs. His most recent campaign, which he has titled #FixYoungAmerica, targets the the epidemics of youth unemployment and underemployment.

"If we agree that small businesses truly are the engine of job creation in America—as President Obama himself has said—then it’s imperative for us to spur youth entrepreneurship and to ensure the young employees of tomorrow are ready to compete in a global economy," Gerber said in his speech. "Importantly, this is not about making life easier for Millennials, but rather about helping transition the young American workforce into a more entrepreneurial one capable of thriving in the new economy. We believe reforms like this are the key to initiating a paradigm shift away from the antiquated policies and mindset of yesteryear, so that when today's young people become the 30-, 40-, and 50-something leaders of tomorrow, they will have the capacity and ability to lead America forward."

Other speakers addressed a diverse range of topics, such as women entrepreneurship and minority entreprenership. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship has not yet set a date for when the proposed legislation will hit the floors of Congress, but say it could come some time this summer.




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