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Initiative will support “the entrepreneurial revolution”

Think the government is not crucial to fostering entrepreneurial success? Some experts would beg to differ.

A national American Express OPEN initiative that launched today in Milwaukee is based on the idea, conceived by renowned entrepreneurship thinker Daniel Isenberg, that public sector leaders, including government officials, are key to boosting the development of entrepreneurship ecosystems. Milwaukee is the first of several select U.S. urban areas where the new program, called OPEN for Enterprise: Coalitions for High-Growth Entrepreneurship, will attempt to channel government power to supporting entrepreneurship and existing businesses with great growth potential.

OPEN for Enterprise uses a model developed by Isenberg, professor of entrepreneurship practice at Babson College and founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, also known as BEEP. BEEP is dedicated to promoting high-growth entrepreneurship by “pioneering a new way of thinking and acting for public and private leaders.”

Elements of an entrepreneurship ecosystem: The Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystems Project

The BEEP website declares that the “entrepreneurial revolution must be instigated and led by public and private leaders, including in many cases government officials.” According to Isenberg, who has also worked as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and angel investor, “Forward-looking policy, culture, and the private sector are critical for high-growth ventures and can bring extraordinary value to a city.”

In a Harvard Business Review article last year, Isenberg suggested that, just as society would benefit more from resources allocated to raising children well rather than to producing more children, communities would benefit more from scaling up existing businesses rather than starting up more new ones. He says the new initiative launched in Milwaukee today “focuses on scale-ups and a growth mindset to generate significant job growth and create a culture that propels the growth of other entrepreneurial firms to follow.”

What exactly will that look like? The initiative will nurture the formation of coalitions of city planners, private investors, academics, entrepreneurs, public officials, and other stakeholders who can together identify new ways to stimulate, support, and scale up new and existing ventures.

For instance, in Milwaukee, which has a stated strategic priority to reclaim manufacturing excellence, the Greater Milwaukee Committee has joined forces with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Administration, and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, to “construct a tangible plan that cultivates a self-sustaining and holistic ecosystem for entrepreneurship,” according to Julia Taylor, Greater Milwaukee Committee president.

Isenberg has tested and validated successful entrepreneurship ecosystem programs in Colombia, Brazil, and Denmark where policies, institutions, and cultures stimulate long-term economic growth, development, and prosperity through programs and workshops. The Greater Milwaukee Committee claims that the same assets that exist in those countries are evident in Milwaukee, which will be the first U.S. city to incubate Isenberg’s model.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said in a statement today, “By nurturing an environment for scalable Wisconsin-based businesses, Greater Milwaukee Committee’s partnership with Daniel Isenberg and American Express OPEN will help to support the State’s pledge to bring 250,000 jobs to Wisconsin – one-third of which will come from Milwaukee.”

The work in Milwaukee is designed to produce a framework that will help identify the next city, the program creators say. Wish a program like this would come to your city? Stay plugged in to the work in Milwaukee and new opportunities by visiting Scale Up Milwaukee.

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