Bob Ackerman of Allegis Capital– America Depends on Entrepreneurs While Current Public Policy Assaults Them




Images On June 25th I moderated a panel on the implications of America’s
Innovation Crisis for Cybersecurity at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C.  The full transcript of the slides integrated with my
prepared remarks is now posted at www.levp.com .  This event was sponsored by the non-profit Security Innovation Network.

At the end of the panel I asked each of the panelists, Bob Ackerman of Allegis Capital, Professor Randy Katz of Berkeley, and Dave Robbins of BigFix, to answer the following question:

“In closing, I would like each of our panelists to comment on the most
important change that they would like to see implemented in order to
promote the protection of our nation’s critical infrastructure.”

Bob Ackerman’s answer follows:

“The solution to the critical needs of our country  – whether it is in reinventing our economy or the innovation that is essential to protecting our nation’s critical infrastructure – will depend on the creativity and drive of entrepreneurs. At precisely the same time that political leaders are calling for expanded innovation to meet our national needs, there appears to be an almost all out assault on entrepreneurship in America – by deed if not by word.  Capital and talent are the two most valued and at the same time portable assets in the global economy.  For more than three decades, the United States was the destination for the best and brightest minds from around the world.  In the US, brilliant entrepreneurial risk takers found the resources they required to implement their dreams and an environment that rewarded those that took the risks associated with innovation – and succeeded.  Today, we are making it increasingly difficult for the best and brightest to come the US and stay to contribute to our economy. For those that are here, we are increasing the regulatory hurdles associated with building successful businesses while increasing the taxes associated investments make in long term innovation.  Stock options – once the great wealth builder for employees in start-up companies – have had much of their value striped by regulatory changes.  When combined with the current political overtones that suggest people who have achieved wealth must have somehow “cheated”  – we have created an environment where the risk/reward associated with high risk entrepreneurial innovation is seriously out of balance.  At precisely the same time where we are more dependent than ever on an innovation-driven economy and our competitors have borrowed our historical playbook – we are effectively erecting barriers to innovation in America.”

How should we respond?  We need to attract and retain the talent and capital necessary to fuel the engine of innovation.  We need to attract capital and encourage focused, systematic innovation through modifications in our tax code.  Lower tax rates for long term innovation is an excellent place to start.  We need to rethink our approach to regulation with a more constructive understanding of the levels of risk associated with (and appropriate regulation) companies as they grow and prosper.  A successful start-up company and a multi-billion dollar global player should not be subjected to the same level of regulatory oversight – in most cases. Further, our immigration policies need to focus on encouraging the world’s best and brightest to come to the United States, benefit from our educational system and remain here to contribute to our economy.  Today, our policy in this area can almost be described as “Here’s your PhD. – now go home!”.  Rest assured – the capital will follow the talent.

In parallel with the above, we need to take concrete steps to encourage companies to grow in the U.S.  This is a combination of the steps I have previously mentioned while making it easier for young companies to go public – tapping the capital they need to continue growing and adding high paying jobs to our economy.  Regulatory reform can address some of these issues but the venture industry also needs to take responsibility for re-invigorating the investment banking environment upon which a vibrant IPO market is dependent. This is an area where experience will matter.  For example, venture professionals who have lived successfully through these challenges in the past – have an invaluable historical perspective that can contribute to this revitalization.  Unfortunately, many have left or are leaving the industry.  Why – it’s become harder and harder to be successful while the rewards are being diminished.  They either retire – or they follow the entrepreneurs who are voting with their feet and talent and moving to greener pastures – in other countries.

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