Well rested from last night, we began with opening remarks from Thom Ruhe and Patti Gillenwater.
Governor Roy Cooper
Governor Cooper starts by saying how important entrepreneurship is to our state and its citizens. His vision is for our people to prosper financially and in their health. NC is on pace to set a record for the number of new businesses launched. And it is supported in a great way by our university institutions.
Cooper says that even though the past few years have been good, there are some troubling signs. The number of entrepreneurs among the youngest adults is a lot lower than it should be. There are challenges in transportation and in lack of security of leaving a job. Cooper says one of the keys is to re-think the education system and how we educate our kids.
But Cooper says that entrepreneurship is more than tech start-up’s and unicorn investors. It is about the small businesses that are in every town and city: laundromats, barber shops and restaurants. (This was a statement just made by an investor at our table at the conference that morning over breakfast.) Cooper says that a bipartisan effort is needed to foster education initiatives to train business owners. He has put together a council to make recommendations on how to reintegrate those released from prison into jobs and businesses. As a person of faith, he says it is the moral thing to do as well as the sensible thing to do.
Cooper’s Vision for Education
Part of Cooper’s vision is to have the middle school system educate kids on their job and business options. He would also like students to evaluate whether a four-year degree is the right path for them after graduating high school. There are other options that are viable paths to a prosperous career.
Cooper says he was proud to help repeal HB2 and wants to continue to promote diversity in his cabinet and staff. He touts the fact that NC is number 1 in women involved in the tech industry, and in HBCU with NC A&T producing more African American engineers than any other university in the US.
Cooper’s Vision for Health
A healthy NC is important as well, and Cooper then outlined his plan to expand Medicare for the whole state. He explains the economic impact of doing so – 30-40,000 jobs, lower health costs and billions of dollars in healthcare investment. It has been done in 37 other states with Cooper citing Mike Pence in IN and John Kasich in Ohio who did the same and saw great results.
Cooper closed by thanking all those attending for taking the risk to bring a new idea to market. He thanked the investors for making it possible. Cooper says that he believes NC is the best state in the US, and open for business.
Ted Dintersmith – What School Could Be
Dintersmith complimented NC Idea for putting on the conference, and that he was surprised to learn that something this big is happening in its first year.
His background includes 40 years of technology innovation management. And he is interested in the intersection of technology, education and the future of our democracy.
He showed a video from his organization (www.WhatSchoolCouldBe.org) emphasizing the takeover of technology with robots. The pace of change in technology is exponential not gradual. We have to prepare our kids for that future. It will require an engaged, responsible citizenry.
Dintersmith tells of examples where automated technology is generating news and information in such a way that it is getting harder for people to distinguish truth. It must become part of our education system to teach students how to find the truth.
Dintersmith’s Journey into Education
In his experience in business investing, he began by prioritizing big name college education credentials. But over time, he began to understand that the education system was setting people up for failure. This began his journey to better understand what was happening in education.
He began to find that schools and universities are teaching students to get to an answer to pass a test to get credentials. To prove the point, he showed a video of MIT grad’s who couldn’t use a wire and battery to light a small bulb. They had formal education, but didn’t have the ability to apply that education to solve problems.
Dintersmith relates one of the big problems with school environments. Students are asked to do worksheets that don’t seem to teach them to think. His experience and data show that kids who are given ambiguous problems to solve can do so regardless of socioeconomic background. We should encourage more open-ended problem-solving in our kids. Additionally, we don’t need to push the message to our kids that a four-year degree is the only way to success. Many of those graduates are deep in debt and untrained in an entrepreneurial mindset.
Darrin Redus, Sr. – Creating Inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Redus is the VP Exec Dir of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber. He began his talk by saying that everyone in the US benefits from diversity in entrepreneurship and business development.
The system he has helped put in place in Cincinnati have four pillars: Grow the existing portfolio, build the pipeline, attract larger scale MBE’s, and create new MBE’s via acquisition. The last one is a unique approach. Redus searches for businesses that have no succession plan, and works to help MBE’s to acquire them.
One of the most interesting data points that Redus shared was around the GDP contributions from black-owned businesses. As of a few years ago, black-owned businesses account for only 1% of business GDP in the US. Our history of “separate but equal” policies in the not-so-distant past has created separate ecosystems. As proof, Redus cites the founding of HBCU’s and minority professional organizations which have created “separate worlds”.
Trends in Conflict with Each Other
Two interesting trends that Redus cites are seemingly in conflict. Corporate America has done a much better job of setting up policies to encourage minority-owned suppliers. At the same time, most corporations are consolidating their supplier base. The latter is helping negate the first positive trend.
From there, Redus began to outline some of the challenges to increasing diversity in the entrepreneurship community. To be sure, there are historical and political challenges. What was created over 400 years is not going to go away in one generation. It will take many of us working to understand the scope of the issue and potential solutions. There are many different stakeholders that will need to come ready to participate and solve the problem.
Following the presentation, there was a panel discussion with Redus and Jose Alvarez, VP of Prospera USA.
A variety of breakout sessions followed the large group sessions.