There have always been more reasons not to be an entrepreneur than to be one. No one knows better than our readers about the superhuman hours, the strain on family, the repeated rejection, and, hanging over it all, the prospect of failure. Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Cafe, Shake Shack, and many other well-known New York City eateries, is without question one of the great business leaders of his generation. Yet even he waited nine years to launch a second restaurant, convinced that his success with Union Square Cafe was a fluke.
That's why it flabbergasts us at Inc. when national policy makes entrepreneurship harder than it already is. The Exit Interview that ends this issue (page 120) is with Ayah Bdeir, the brilliant immigrant founder of littleBits, a toymaker whose products inspire kids to engage in science and technology. In terms of national interest, that's about as noble a mission as any commercial business could have. Yet even after founding her company and hiring 45 employees, Bdeir still lived in daily fear of being deported. Yes, immigration is a complicated issue. But a policy that drives away entrepreneurs is not just conflicted; it's also self-destructive.
That's especially true when you consider our plunging rate of business formation. As editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan writes in "The Vanishing" (page 54), startups' share among all U.S. businesses has declined about 44 percent in the past three decades. Buchanan weighs the possible explanations, which range from slowing population growth (and hence a shallower pool of potential entrepreneurs), to a crowding out of small businesses by big ones, to a young generation that--the Zuckerbergs and Blumenthals to the contrary--is proving significantly less entrepreneurial than Boomers were at the same age.
Whatever the source of the problem, it's clear that the solution lies with that same generation. Statistics aside, it's hard not to be encouraged by Bdeir and the young founders profiled in "Making Their Mark" (page 96), who include 29-year-old Kegan Schouwenburg, creator of 3-D-printed orthotics for the footsore, and the Irish-born Collison brothers, John, 24, and Patrick, 26, founders of online payments disrupter Stripe.
The only thing is, we need more of them. You can define the entrepreneurial urge in several ways: Carol Dweck of Stanford dubs it "the growth mindset"; in "The Icons" (page 24), Barbara Corcoran more colorfully identifies it as when "it bugs you to work for someone else." Regardless, it can be as much a curse as a blessing for those who have it. But for the nation as a whole, there's no doubt at all: It's a blessing. And those who have it are any nation's greatest resource.