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Americans lead entrepreneurial pack

Steve Tripoli Aug 10, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: We don’t really know yet what the economic fallout of today’s news will be. Whether companies might cut back on business travel or if American firms will suffer more than European or Asian ones. But there is some new research out today that says US businesses usually do come out on top, in part because they plow ahead during crises like today’s that make others turn back. Steve Tripoli at the Marketplace Entrepreneurship Desk has more.

STEVE TRIPOLI: Report co-author Erlend Bullvaag says that after 9/11 Europe’s rate of new business formation went way down and stayed there. But Americans are already back to starting businesses at pre-9/11 rates.

ERLAND BULLVAAG:“It means that, this culture of entrepreneurship is much stronger, to withstand fluctuations so there is a mechanism of entrepreneurship is so strong that it just shifted focus to other areas of activity.”

Bullvaag, who’s a business professor in Norway, says the dot-com crash left American entrepreneurs similarly unfazed.

He says these quick rebounds show that adversity just gets Americans looking elsewhere for opportunity

BULLVAAG:“You keep looking. And you keep trying.”

Americans start far more new businesses per capita than most major industrial countries, and the GEM report says more of these startups force business in new directions. That pressures established businesses to change or be flattened.

American entrepreneur Jim Poss makes streetside waste containers that feature solar-powered trash compactors. They crush the trash so more fits in. His Seahorse Power Company claims the containers cut costs because they need less emptying.

Poss worked for companies that do business abroad. He says America’s abundance of entrepreneurs and venture funders who don’t flinch at failing is unbeatable.

JIM POSS:“The difference is that people are really willing to go out and take a risk, and that other people are willing to bet on that.”

German émigré Gina Maschek runs the internet florist Beyond Blossoms. She says launching her business here was far easier than it would have been in Germany.

GINA MASCHEK:“Entrepreneurs are much more supported here, with support I mean you know the whole system like the tax law. Another thing is that there aren’t as many schools over there that really teach business. This society appreciates people starting from scratch and becoming successful, versus in Germany it’s not regarded positively.”

America’s future atop the entrepreneurial pile is no sure thing. Countries from Ireland to India are learning to copy the US model.

Then there are the social risks. The GEM report says US policymakers need to help workers cope with the job losses that flow from our business model.

Candida Brush of Babson College says health care is another risk. She says paying for it is a big worry even for entrepreneurs who find it easy to start a business here.

CANDIDA BRUSH: “But it’s not as easy to grow, and this is where the health care issue kicks in. For a growing business in the US it is a cost, it’s an additional cost that would inhibit their ability to compete in the global marketplace.”

If those problems languish and workers get fed up the report warns that they might push policies that slow America’s business-launching juggernaut.

And today’s news is a reminder that political risks like new terrorism remain a wild card.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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