By Steve Case
When the Case Foundation and the Kauffman Foundation launched the Startup America Partnership at the White House in January 2011, it was designed as a three year initiative to celebrate, inspire and accelerate high-growth entrepreneurship in the U.S. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made over the past two and a half years, including launching 32 startup states, substantial corporate partners and resources, and building a network of more than 13,000 startups nationwide. So, where do we go from here?
I’ve lived in Washington for nearly thirty years, and in that time I’ve seen many Washington efforts launch and continue operating so long as they had enough dollars to keep the doors open – never pausing to seriously ask the questions: Are we still needed? Are we having an impact? That’s why we gave ourselves a three year mission with Startup America – to maintain a sense of urgency and to give us a deliberate moment in time when we would stop and ask ourselves those very questions and make a hard decision if we should double down or shut down.
For the past several months, Scott Case, CEO of the Startup America Partnership and our board has been scouring the landscape, connecting with partners and supporters to determine if we should stay or go. And, if we stay, should we stand up a new independent organization or expand our reach by partnering with an existing like-minded organization. At the end of this exhaustive process, here’s what we’ve found:
First, there was resounding and virtually unanimous feedback that the country, entrepreneurs need the Startup America Partnership to continue celebrating entrepreneurs, creating meaningful connections, building cross-sector bridges and sparking much-needed conversations.
Second, we realized that the best path forward was to partner with an existing like-minded organization that would be interested in joining forces to exponentially increase the reach, depth and impact of our singular work.
Third, we found that perfect match in an organization that shares our values and our goals, Startup Weekend. Startup Weekend is one of America’s most innovative and promising social enterprises, led by one of America’s most innovative and purpose-driven entrepreneurs, Marc Nager. The organization supports the development and expansion of entrepreneurship through events worldwide that educate aspiring entrepreneurs by immersing them in the process of moving an idea to market. It has built a network of more than 100,000 alumni, thousands of volunteer organizers and over 100 trained facilitators spread across more than 400 cities in more than 100 countries.
Today, we’re excited to announce that the Startup America Partnership is joining forces with Startup Weekend to create UP Global, a combined organization dedicated to empowering the entrepreneurial community and building networks that drive collaboration and strengthen entrepreneurs worldwide. Together we will offer startups at every stage (from idea to IPO) programs and expertise to continue to advance ecosystems and build a truly national startup network with deep roots in communities.
Both Startup Weekend and the Startup America Partnership will retain their brand names and missions, joining with Startup Digest, Startup Next and NYSE Corporate Connections, all closely collaborating and all powered by UP Global. I am delighted to serve as the first chair of UP Global and I will continue to serve as chair of the Startup America Partnership advisory board. Marc Nager will serve as CEO of the combined organization. And, Scott Case will become interim CEO of Startup America Partnership and join the board of UP Global. The Kauffman Foundation and the Case Foundation will support both Startup America Partnership and UP Global. And, we’re delighted that Google for Entrepreneurs, Microsoft and the Coca-Cola Company are all founding funders of UP Global as well.
There’s an African Proverb that’s a hallmark of the Case Foundation’s Be Fearless campaign that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In this unique and fearless partnership we plan to do both. We will quickly become the world’s leading entrepreneur organization, providing clear pathways for regions to jumpstart their entrepreneurial ecosystems. And together, there’s no limit to how far we can go to celebrate entrepreneurs and give them the tools they need to invigorate sluggish economies and strengthen communities in need.