1871 CEO Howard Tullman led six entrepreneurs to the White House Thursday for a national summit on entrepreneurship, which included a roundtable with techie Colorado congressman Jared Polis and a meeting with administration officials. The six founders who attended didn’t just represent their own startups and 1871 at the nation’s capital, but also the tech scene of Chicago as a whole.
This delegation to DC is just one of many efforts to promote Chicago’s tech scene to those outside the Midwest. Just last month, Tullman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and investor J.B. Pritzker led an entourage of Chicago “makers” to SXSW to show what this city is made of. And in October, the Chicago Venture Summit, is aiming to attract outside investors to Silicon Prairie during Chicago Ideas Week.
Participating in last week’s delegation were the founders of Zero Percent, Rippleshot, 640 Labs, Q-It, CancerIQ and Waitbot, who besides getting a bit of “White House high” from the trip, picked up on some valuable insights into policy issues that affect startups. Here’s the top lessons learned that they wanted to share with other Chicago entrepreneurs:
- Entrepreneurs need to stay engaged. “Your representatives actually want to hear from you and care about your opinions, especially tech entrepreneurs. They'll take your phone calls and will actually meet with you in person. This is the best way to influence political change and rule making.” - Dave Turner, CEO, Waitbot
- To make open data happen, we need to give the government some direction. “CancerIQ is partially built off of publicly available data sets (to drive our evidence-based decision support algoritms), so if there are problems with the data (in terms of quality, volume, format, etc), we should be letting the government know what data would be more helpful. More likely than not – they have the data, but haven’t released it yet.” - Feyi Olopade, CEO, CancerIQ
- The US economy needs startups. New businesses (not necessarily small businesses) contribute the most to the economy. "According to the White House, the US economy loses 2 million jobs a year (through corporate downsizing) and entrepreneurs pump 3 million jobs back into the economy every year.” - Canh Tran, CEO, Rippleshot
- Let your recommendations be heard. “It was very refreshing to see how open and accessible some of the senior advisers in the administration are. None of them tried to fend off any question. As the founder of Zero Percent, I recommended establishing the same incentives for small businesses for donating food that are available to corporations, and releasing more data about food stamps participation through the Open Data initiative.”- Rajesh Karmani, CEO, Zero Percent