- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The U.S. is a world leader in cutting edge technology and innovation, but the White House says many women and minorities are not getting a fair shake in entrepreneurial enterprises.

In an effort to make start-up businesses and investment opportunities more inclusive, President Obama on Tuesday hosted the first White House Demo Day, featuring a diverse range of entrepreneurs from around the country to showcase their innovations.

Mr. Obama met with leading businessmen and women to talk about their inventions and highlight their success stories, but he also discussed some of the challenges that hamper the progress of many underrepresented innovators.

“With technological advancements like cloud computing and big data and 3D printing, the fact is there has never been a better time to launch an idea and bring it to scale right here in the United States, right now,” the president said. “But we’ve got to make sure that we’re taking full advantage of this moment by tapping all the talent America has to offer, no matter who they are or where they set up shop.”

“It’s always hard to get in front of the right people, but sometimes it’s harder if you’re a woman or an underrepresented minority who all too often have to fight just to get a seat at the table,” he added.

Companies founded by women and minorities receive a disproportionally small share of venture capital funding and early-stage business investments.

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In the U.S., just 1 percent of venture funding went to company founders who were black, according to a 2010 analysis cited by the White House. The White House also says that women lead just 3 percent of America’s venture capital-backed startups and only 4 percent of investors are women.

“We’ve got to make sure that everybody is getting a fair shot — the next Steve Jobs might be named Stephanie or Esteban,” Mr. Obama said. We’ve got to unleash the full potential of every American — not leave more than half the team on the bench.”

As part of the Demo Day festivities, Mr. Obama announced new measures to advance inclusive entrepreneurship.

Ten cities and states signed on to the president’s TechHire initiative, which brings together employers and local officials to develop training and recruitment camps for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Fifty cities also joined the “Startup in a Day” initiative, aimed at removing red tape in local governments so that entrepreneurs can bypass bureaucratic restrictions to establish a business in just one day.

Mr. Obama also announced the addition of the National Science Foundation’s “Innovation Corps” program at six federal agencies to help more “scientists move their ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace.”

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In 2011, Mr. Obama unveiled his “Startup America” initiative, which was launched to honor leading entrepreneurs and foster the next generation of innovative business. The White House Demo Day, the initiative’s latest installment, welcomed startup founders from all different backgrounds to meet with the president and showcase their products and ideas.

One of those products was a talking teddy bear embedded with educational apps that helps children with diabetes learn about healthy living practices.

Mr. Obama also met with the founders of other products that serve a range of needs, including an application that helps students manage their loan debt and an education project that teaches people languages.

• Brennan Weiss can be reached at bweiss@washingtontimes.com.

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