Sunday, April 12, 2015

Why is US entrepreneurship declining precisely when entrepreneurship is getting easier?

This should be alarming for policymakers (Inc):

The Kauffman Foundation, citing its own research and drawing on U.S. Census data, concluded that the number of companies less than a year old had declined as a share of all businesses by nearly 44 percent between 1978 and 2012. And those declines swept across industries, including tech. Meanwhile, the Brookings Institution, also using Census data, established that the number of new businesses is down across the country and that more businesses are dying than are being born. All this at a time when entrepreneurship had reached its cultural apex and was widely viewed as the sole sizzling ember in an otherwise cooling economy. The business and academic worlds were left slack-jawed: How could this be?

The implications are huge. “New businesses are disproportionately responsible for the innovation that drives productivity and economic growth, and they account for virtually all net new job creation,” says John Dearie, executive vice president for policy at the Financial Services Forum. “I would say, as a policy person, this is nothing short of a national emergency.”
I'm not convinced by Inc's theories. Generational? Markets have actually increased with access to more markets globally - and I'd argue risks have actually declined with the costs of starting a business falling.

Big companies? Big companies and the lure of a secure job seem to have been even greater in the past. Funding? Again, I'd suggest it's easier today than ever before. Possibly related, TheSignal has a fairly aggressive column making the argument that the decline in jobs (making the fall in entrepreneurship even more alarming) is the result of government and regulation that's currently sucking the oxygen out of the job market. Maybe it's also true for US entrepreneurship? (And on a related note, maybe it's the dramatic rise in student debt?)

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