Thursday, November 29, 2012

At Triangle Startup Factory’s Pitch Day, Aaron Chatterji Talks About the Triangle’s “Secret Sauce” for Entrepreneurs

“Entrepreneurship is the one true bipartisan effort in Washington, D.C.,” said Aaron Chatterji, associate professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the first of two keynote speakers at today’s Triangle Startup Factory’s Pitch Day. “All people want to see record job creation, and all of us want to see entrepreneurs succeed.”

Chatterji is one of the members of the founding team behind the Startup America Partnership, a bi-partisan effort supported by the White House to fuel entrepreneurial growth in America. And he works in the Triangle, teaching entrepreneurship at Duke University.

The United States, historically, has been the most attractive country for entrepreneurs to start their business, said Chatterji. The US is attractive because of the robust capital markets, an open pathway for immigration, access to capital and credit, and a phenomenal K-12 and secondary education system, yet “our country is now falling behind in some of these issues,” said Chatterji.

Take access to capital and to credit. Many small business owners rely on home equity lines of credit or home equity loans, and the housing crisis took a huge toll on this group, said Chatterji. Our K-12 education system is falling behind in STEM education, and we’re facing major issues in dealing with immigration reform, continued Chatterji.

While the 18th and 19th centuries were about ports and railways, and the 20th century about the interstate and airways, the 21st century’s infrastructure needs will be entirely about mobile infrastructure, said Chatterji. “We need to make the investments, now, into this new infrastructure,” argued Chatterji. Want proof? “The smartphone in your pocket possesses more computing power than NASA had when NASA landed a man on the moon,” asserted Chatterji.

The political debate around entrepreneurship, said Chatterji, is mostly going to revolve around this question: “How do we find the money that we need in order to support our entrepreneurs?”

The Triangle and North Carolina are fundamentally different from many other regions of the country, said Chatterji, and we can address the question “What is it going to take to launch successful entrepreneurs here?” more readily than other regions struggling with this issue.

“We’re dynamic [in the Triangle],” said Chatterji. “We have a lot of fundamental advantages, like the presence of many large firms, which are a benefit to the entrepreneurial market.” These firms train a highly-intelligent workforce, and focus on innovation and research, said Chatterji, which is how growth-stage companies are able to scale rapidly and build large enterprises.

“Silicon Valley and Boston are not models that we should seek to emulate,” said Chatterji, “we have our own model. The entrepreneurs here are poised to bend the cost curve in healthcare, solve educational issues, leverage technology in new and innovative ways, and change the world.”

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