Since 2009, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Treasury Department have co-hosted two get-togethers for government officials, financiers, and entrepreneurs to exchange ideas on improving access to capital for small business owners. Those discussions became “the foundations” of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and “the core” of last year’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, said departing SBA chief Karen Mills in a phone interview on Monday. She and her government colleagues “felt it was critical to bring people together to see if we could unlock more access to capital for small businesses because they were getting crushed in the recession,” said Mills.
The third Capital Access Innovation Summit was held in Washington on Monday. The event, which was bookmarked by speeches from National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, focused on three topics: public and private capital markets, data analytics tools and other new technologies, and ways large companies can promote small business growth. Mills said capital access had “much improved” since the first summit in 2009, “but we still need to be filling gaps in the market.”
One important gap that she cites: “loans under $150,000—those are absolutely critical if we’re going to get the startup community back generating the kind of jobs that it needs to really fuel the economy.” Getting more equity capital to entrepreneurs outside California, New York, and Massachusetts—which account for nearly 70 percent of venture capital investments—could also be significant, she said. If startups outside investing hotspots could get funding, “how much more we would drive this recovery?”
For those inclined to tune in, the Treasury Dept. is posting the day-long event on its website.