Treasury hosts conference to help startups find capital

March 22, 2011

Continuing its push to provide small companies with resources necessary for growth, the Obama Administration on Tuesday is hosting an all-day conference in Washington designed to decode the difficult process of raising capital.

Replete with heavy hitters, the speakers include Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner; SBA Administrator Karen Mills; Scott Case, co-founder of Priceline and head of the government’s newly formed entrepreneurship advocacy group StartUp America Partnership; and Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric and chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

The conference — “Access to Capital: Fostering Growth and Innovation for Small Companies” — aims to explore methods of securing investment at each stage of expansion, from the early stages through IPO or buyout.

“It’s about how do we enable entrepreneurship freely in the United States among all people that want to do it and then support that with the talent that we actually educate in the United States,” said Ann Miura-Ko, a partner with Palo Alto, California-based Floodgate Capital. “It’s really a time in which entrepreneurs have a lot of the power.”

The event comes after the launch of the federal government’s StartUp America initiative in January, which includes visits by top officials to small business groups in eight cities across the country.

The conference, broadcast live on the Treasury Webcast Center, offers roundtables with influential VCs, bankers and veteran entrepreneurs. The panelist roster includes the likes of Paul Deninger, managing partner at Evercore Partners, Seth Goldman, founder of Honest Tea, Jessica Jackley, CEO of Profounder, and Greg Becker, president of Silicon Valley Bank, among others.

In a White House blog post written in anticipation of the event, Treasury Deputy Assistant Secretary for Small Business Don Graves, stressed that access to capital by small businesses was essential in fueling job creation.

“It is crucial that we understand new challenges and encourage the flow of capital to parts of the market – including regions – that may be underserved and through platforms that have been underutilized,” said Graves, who is also executive director of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Some, like small business lending expert Rohit Arora, remain skeptical of the government’s ability to get capital flowing again to startups and other small businesses.

“There’s a lot of talk, but the policy implementation is very poor right now,” said Arora, whose firm Biz2Credit helps small businesses get loans. He said after gaining some momentum in the second half of last year, the economy is again slowing for small firms. “The sales growth of the mainstreet businesses has slowed down. In the last month, as we have been looking at our internal data and statistics, more businesses have been coming to us that have seen their sales dip from mid-February onwards.”

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