The tech world has changed a lot in recent years - instead of looking toward Silicon Valley, we're seeing innovations happening closer to home. From Silicon Alley in lower Manhattan, to the Silicon Swamp in Florida, across the Silicon Prairie, and down on the Silicon Bayou in New Orleans, wireless broadband is driving entrepreneurship and empowering innovators in every corner of our nation.
One hundred years ago, a thriving community likely had fertile land, extractable resources or a railroad. Today, thriving communities of all sizes and locations need entrepreneurs. They need their dynamism, their vitality, their sense of risk and possibility. To get off the ground, these entrepreneurs need money, brains, and broadband.
Money is the lifeblood of entrepreneurship for obvious reasons - investment is critical for business creation and growth. Mobile entrepreneurs will often seek the financial resources and mentorship offered by venture capital or angel investors. The process of crafting the right pitch and meeting willing investors can be harrowing; oftentimes more than the operational challenges of running a business. As an entrepreneur, I've experienced firsthand how imperative it is to prioritize fundraising, no matter how much I might prefer being elbow-deep in my "real" business. But, I recognize how important money can be to innovation.
Knowing the critical role of capital investment in an entrepreneurial effort, I'm excited to speak with entrepreneurs and investors during a November 12th webinar The Reverse Pitch: What You Need to Know before Pitching Investors. Participants will discuss how they determine which startups they will fund, and what they see as the high-growth areas in today's economy. I know I'll have lots of questions for my guests, but we'll be opening it up and taking questions directly from the audience so that innovators can pose their own questions.
But, money isn't everything. Investment and mentorship are just the beginning. A startup also needs brains and broadband connectivity to truly succeed. Brains (or intellectual capital, as the money-folks like to call it) combined with financing allow an entrepreneur to go beyond her own area of expertise to build the teams that make great commercial innovation happen. Broadband makes all of this possible - these days from just about anywhere. Fully 98% of U.S. counties had at least one high-tech business establishment in 2011; proving that broadband is as vital a tool for entrepreneurs as money and brains.
Thanks to broadband and mobile connectivity: we've moved from a Silicon Valley economy to a Silicon Everywhere economy. That's exciting for our Nation and our entrepreneurs. When I founded a ground-breaking tech company in northwest Montana, I was asked repeatedly, "How will you ever be able to grow a tech business from a small town in a flyover state?" The answer was easy: technology would make it possible. And it did. My background was in telecom so I had seen firsthand the kinds of opportunities for business, healthcare, and education that the Internet, particularly wireless, was making possible. I believed that I could create a small business and help support my family just about anywhere that had fast, reliable communications connectivity.
Consumer demand for wireless data is exploding. With that growing demand comes great opportunity for every passionate rural entrepreneur brimming with an idea. But, a timed out app, that "spinning wheel of death", is bad for business. We are dangerously close to a "spectrum crunch" when an unstoppable force - demand for mobile data - meets an immovable object: today's limited spectrum resources. To avert that crunch, and to ensure that entrepreneurs in throughout Silicon Everywhere can bring their innovations to the mobile market, policymakers in Washington, D.C. must act now to reallocate additional spectrum for commercial wireless use.
Entrepreneurs with courageous vision and the right tools - money, brains and broadband - represent our nation's strongest arsenal to innovate, create jobs, and build a prosperous future. With the right policies in place, these groundbreaking pioneers will unleash the power of Silicon Everywhere. High-tech to low-tech, America needs these innovators more than ever. Supported by 21st century communications capabilities, they can improve America's opportunity equation in ways most of us haven't even yet imagined.
# # #
Diane Smith is a former telecom executive, CEO of American Rural and serves on the board of Mobile Future. She was a co-founder and chief executive officer of a ground-breaking IPTV and advanced media services company in Kalispell, Montana.