IBM Loads Up the Startup Bandwagon with $150 Million
February 7, 2011 Jenny Thomas
Last week, the White House launched “Startup America,” a national campaign to help America promote high-growth entrepreneurship by encouraging the private sector to invest in nurturing small businesses to create the jobs and industries of the future.
IBM heard the call and immediately announced plans to invest $150 million in 2011 to fund its Global Entrepreneur program, which it created last year to promote entrepreneurs and new business opportunities in the United States.
“The investment will help us greatly expand the work we’re doing to build business skills and provide market opportunities for the most innovative new companies in the country,” said James Corgel, general manager of IBM’s developer and academic relations. “These start-ups are tackling some of the country’s most pressing challenges and opportunities.”
And IBM isn’t the only company throwing money into its own programs. Intel has pledged to spend $200 million in its Invest in America initiative. And Hewlett-Packard is promising to add more than $4 million to its existing global project aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small business owners create and grow commercial opportunities. (That seems kinda stingy, doesn’t it?)
All the dough being thrown sounds great on paper, but let’s look at the real impetus behind Startup America. In last week’s White House press release announcing the imitative, President Obama said, “Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the belief that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country. And in fulfilling this promise, entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs.”
The keyword is still “jobs.” With the latest unemployment rates still hovering at 9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, America is dire need of them.
It’s great that big companies like IBM, Intel, and HP want to help the little guy, but how do they justify spending more on their internal programs instead of cutting to the chase and creating more work on U.S. soil? On one hand, the big guys will clearly benefit from enticing entrepreneurs into their programs, where they will use their products to create the businesses that will create the jobs that America so desperately needs. On the other hand, by taking a helping hand from IBM, for instance, small businesses can be set up from the beginning to operate on a global scale.
IBM also points out that since introducing its Global Entrepreneur initiative in 2010, it has helped launch more than 500 new businesses in key areas such as green energy, healthcare, and transportation. And IBM is promising to use its $150 million investment to:
Even with all that investment, we still have a long road to travel before we see these budding entrepreneurs offering up the amount of jobs we need to make a real dent in U.S. unemployment numbers. (The economy needs to create at least 200,000 per month just to keep up with population growth.) To be fair, we can’t rest the entire burden of job creation on our big companies. America was founded on innovation, and the birth of new businesses does not just equal growth and prosperity for our country, it also solidifies the U.S. as one of the greatest nations in the world. Not that we’d turn our nose up at some more jobs at home, IBM.
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama said, “We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise.”
So could any of this money trickle down to the fledgling IBM i shop just trying to make its way in the world? Anything is possible. To be eligible to sign up to become an IBM Global Entrepreneur, your company must be privately held, have been in business for less than three years, and be actively engaged in developing a software-based product or service. If you meet those criteria, the program is free to join. You can get more details here.
In the meantime, let’s hope IBM also starts investing some money in some of the American business that run on IBM i. Industries with a wide i installed base of customers like food and beverage, trucking, warehousing and distribution, finance and insurance, and even government are part of the backbone of America. Assisting those companies is maybe the best investment in U.S. jobs that IBM could make. The “i America Initiative” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?