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Blog Entries from 2014

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Daphne Koller

Daphne Koller began her career in education when she joined the Computer Science Department at Stanford University in September 1995. While she enjoyed teaching and leading research on probability theory and artificial intelligence, Koller thought about new ways that could engage more people in education – she wanted to share it with everyone, not just her students. 

In 2012, Koller and a fellow professor, Andrew Ng, started Coursera, a leading platform of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), to change education globally. Their vision was to provide universal access to the world’s best education.

As the co-founder and president of Coursera Inc., Koller has made all of her company’s online courses accessible for free. It gives both students and universities the opportunity to experiment with online education pedagogy and combine online course materials with on-campus learning experience.

“Education is the great motivator of people to achieve access to a better life,” she said. 

Koller is ranked among the CNBC’s NEXT List, which includes entrepreneurs and executives who are working on innovative solutions to global challenges. Time Magazine has recognized her as one of the “100 Most Influential People for 2012,” and Fast Company has named her a “creative leader” in the Most Creative People in Business 1000 list. 

With the advancement of technology, Koller is able to promote higher education to a new level. The company now offers over 800 online courses instructed by professors at 115 colleges and other institutions, including some of the Ivy Leagues schools – Yale University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, and Princeton University. Coursera now attracts more than 10 million users from every corner of the world. 

After two years of being a professor and running her company, Koller chose to devote all her time to Coursera. She considers entrepreneurship as the basis for prosperity and stability, and sees the PAGE initiative as a way to make this area available to everyone in the United States and other countries.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has expressed her admiration for Koller’s bold entrepreneurial decision to bring change to the world.  During the armchair discussion to mark the one-year anniversary of the “Open for Business Agenda,” a policy priorities framework that she laid out last year, Secretary Pritzker said, “A good idea is a good idea. It doesn’t matter if it comes from a 50 year-old, or 22 year-old or a 19 year-old.”

This week, Koller joined Secretary Pritzker at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco. She gave a presentation on innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, and discussed ways to empower entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into successful businesses, grow their ventures, and ultimately create jobs.

Secretary Pritzker Answers Questions about Entrepreneurship During Twitter Chat

While attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Marrakech, Morocco Secretary Penny Pritzker took questions about entrepreneurship and innovation from Twitter users. As the Administration’s point person on entrepreneurship, Secretary Pritzker led a U.S. delegation to the Summit, demonstrating the U.S. government’s continued commitment to fostering a culture of innovation around the world.

Below is a transcript of the Twitter chat.

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Rich Barton

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words – Rich Barton

Has Expedia helped you find the best deal for your vacation? Ever used Glassdoor to compare the salaries of different jobs or help you negotiate your next raise? Or have you looked up a Zestimate on Zillow to discover your next home? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the man behind these revolutionary companies is someone you should know. 

As a founder of these three major businesses, Rich Barton believes bringing the power of information and transparency to the people.
 
“All of my companies are about what I call ‘power to the people,’ bringing the power of information and transparency to regular folks so that they can take control of big decisions in their lives,” Barton said.
 
While working at Microsoft as a product manager in the 1990s, Barton felt frustrated every time he had to talk to somebody on the phone to book a flight or plan a business trip. He wanted to jump through the phone, grab the computer screen, and make the decisions himself. That’s when he decided to channel his frustration into a solution.
 
Barton directly pitched his bosses at the time – Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates – on the idea that Expedia could become the largest seller of travel in the world. They bit. He assembled a great team from across Microsoft and began to build Expedia inside the company. Expedia grew quickly and in 1999, Barton persuaded Microsoft’s leadership to spin out Expedia into an independent company.

New Search Tool Driven by API Helps U.S. Companies Comply with Export Laws

New Search Tool Driven by API Helps U.S. Companies Comply with Export Laws

Starting today, U.S. companies can use a simple tool to search the federal government’s Consolidated Screening List (CSL). The CSL is a streamlined collection of nine different “screening lists” from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, and the Treasury that contains names of individuals and companies with whom a U.S. company may not be allowed to do business due to U.S. export regulations, sanctions, or other restrictions. If a company or individual appears on the list, U.S. firms must do further research into the individual or company in accordance with the administering agency’s rules before doing business with them.

It is extremely important for U.S. businesses to consult the CSL before doing business with a foreign entity to ensure it is not flagged on any of the agency lists. The U.S. agencies that maintain these lists have targeted these entities for various national security and foreign policy reasons, including illegally exporting arms, violating U.S. sanctions, and trafficking narcotics. By consolidating these lists into one collection, the CSL helps support President Obama’s Export Control Reform (ECR) initiative, which is designed to enhance U.S. national security.

In addition to using the simple search tool, the CSL is now available to developers through the International Trade Administration (ITA) Developer Portal (http://developer.trade.gov). The Consolidated Screening List API (Application Programming Interface) enables computers to freely access the CSL in an open, machine-readable format.

By making the CSL available as an API, developers and designers can create new tools, websites or mobile apps to access the CSL and display the results, allowing private sector innovation to help disseminate this critical information in ways most helpful to business users. For example, a freight forwarder could integrate this API into its processes and it could automatically check to see if any recipients are on any of these lists, thereby strengthening national security.

During the process of creating the API, the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration and Bureau of Industry and Security worked with the Departments of the Treasury and State to form an authoritative, up to date, and easily searchable list with over 8,000 company and individual names and their aliases. These improvements provide options to the downloadable CSL files currently on export.gov/ecr.

In early January, ITA also will release a more comprehensive search tool.

This new API, along with Monday’s announcement of a new Deputy Chief Data Officer and Data Advisory Council, is another step in fulfilling Commerce’s “Open for Business Agenda” data priority to open up datasets that keep businesses more competitive, inform decisions that help make government smarter, and better inform citizens about their own communities.

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews Addresses Global Opportunities for U.S. Businesses in Minneapolis

Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews Addresses Global Opportunities for U.S. Businesses in Minneapolis

 

Earlier this week, Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews traveled to Minneapolis and provided the keynote address on the Administration’s trade agenda and global opportunities for U.S. businesses in the healthcare and life sciences sectors at the Discover Global Markets Healthcare and Life Sciences Conference. The event was part of the Discover Global Markets series, which is sponsored by the International Trade Administration’s U.S. Commercial Service. 
 
During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews discussed his recent trip to China for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, stressing the fact that with the world’s largest population, continued prospects for robust growth, and an aging middle class population demanding more health care, China is clearly a market worth a lot of attention from U.S. companies. U.S. businesses generally are well-positioned to provide innovative health care solutions. Deputy Secretary Andrews pointed out success by U.S. companies in healthcare during Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s recent healthcare and energy business development mission to Japan and South Korea. He also announced that the Commerce Department is planning three upcoming missions to areas where there are growing needs for U.S. medical products and services: the Philippines and Indonesia; Kenya, South Africa, and Mozambique; and Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.
 
Because of the increasing recognition of U.S. leadership in medical technologies in the region, Deputy Secretary Andrews also stressed the importance of the need to move forward on broad-based regional agreements like the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will expand exports, grow our economy, and create good jobs. 
 
More broadly, Deputy Secretary Andrews addressed the Administration’s commitment to helping American businesses take advantage of new export opportunities. He specifically outlined the five goals of the revamped NEI NEXT strategy: to help businesses find their NEXT customer abroad; to increase the efficiency of a company’s first and NEXT shipment; to help firms finance their NEXT order; to help communities integrate trade and investment into their NEXT growth plans; and to open up the NEXT big markets around the world while ensuring a level playing field.
 
While in Minneapolis, Deputy Secretary Andrews also had the opportunity to meet with members of the U.S. Commercial Service and District Export Council, both of whom are valuable partners in Commerce’s efforts to support the U.S. export community.

Fostering Economic Development in Tribal Communities and Among Native-owned Enterprises

Today, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and the Economic Development Administration teamed up to launch the Tribal Economic Development Webinar Series. Beginning on November 19, 2014, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), the Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) will host five webinars over the course of one year. This series is designed to help tribal leaders, tribal administrators, Native American-owned enterprises, and tribal advocacy organizations understand federal resources available for tribal economic development. 

The Department of Commerce is focused on bolstering its working relationships with tribal communities. Through the work of its diverse set of bureaus, the Department is committed to fostering a more innovative economy – one that is better at addressing the needs of Indian Country by improving and creating the conditions for economic success, higher productivity and competitiveness.

Paving the Way for a New Legion of Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Paving the Way for a New Legion of Entrepreneurs and Innovators

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews last week spoke at the National Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (ACE) Conference and reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to strengthening AAPI businesses in the U.S. and around the globe. He showcased the Department’s wide array of programs available to help the AAPI community successfully grow their businesses and knock down barriers in the process.  

With more than two million thriving AAPI businesses, the Commerce Department is focused on providing the necessary tools to help AAPI entrepreneurs stay viable and competitive in the global marketplace through partnering with the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), International Trade Administration (ITA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, and the SelectUSA program just to name a few.

During his remarks, Deputy Secretary Andrews emphasized the important role the Department’s agencies play in assisting AAPI entrepreneurs and innovators in everything from providing business counseling and other federal government resources to protecting intellectual property rights more expediently to disseminating data that spawn new businesses and promote better decision-making in existing businesses. Today, there are more than 1.5 million AAPI-owned firms that generate more than $500 billion in revenue. They employ more than 50 percent of all workers in minority firms nationwide.

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo also spoke to the chamber about the importance of leveraging strategic partnerships and export opportunities. MBDA currently has 44 business centers designed to assist businesses gain more access to contracts, working capital and global markets. They also opened the first ever MBDA Federal Procurement Center designed solely to help minority-owned firms with annual revenues of more than $1 million, such as AAPI businesses, overcome some of the challenges it has faced in the past when accessing federal programs.

Through a myriad of services, MBDA has also helped AAPI entrepreneurs successfully gain contracts and enter into new markets around the world, including Vietnam, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

ITA is also helping small- and medium sized businesses sell their products and services around the world, with more than 100 Export Assistance Centers across the U.S. that offer hands on marketing and trade and finance support.

The Commerce Department remains steadfast in its efforts to continue helping AAPI businesses grow. 

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

PAGE Entrepreneurs in Their Own Words -- Nina Vaca

The daughter of entrepreneurs, Nina Vaca grew up believing that entrepreneurship and civic leadership went hand-in-hand.  

She likes to say that she “had a front row seat to what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” working in the family travel agency business by day and attending chamber and civic events at night. 

Since starting her award-winning IT services firm in 1996, Vaca has continued that legacy both as an entrepreneur and a visible leader and advocate in the business community. 

Goldman Sachs has called her one of its “Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs,” Ernst & Young has inducted her into its prestigious Hall of Fame for entrepreneurs, and NBC has called her an “Innovator.” 

Today, Vaca owns and operates The Pinnacle Group, which includes several companies founded by Vaca, including its flagship, Pinnacle Technical Resources, Inc., an award-winning information technology services provider to the Fortune 500 founded in 1996, and Provade, Inc., a global provider of vendor management software that Pinnacle acquired in 2011. Pinnacle is also a partner in My Plates, which is the sole provider of specialty license plates in the state of Texas, contributing millions of dollars in revenues to the state each year. 

Vaca sits on the corporate board of Comerica Bank, Kohl’s Coporation and was elected to the board of Cinemark, Inc. Nov. 13, 2014. 

She is strongly committed to philanthropic efforts and is a passionate advocate of issues impacting women and Hispanics in business. Through the USHCC Foundation, Vaca founded At the Table, an initiative supporting women entrepreneurs and business professionals, propelling them to higher levels of success and influence. Vaca was named Chairman of the USHCC Foundation in June 2014. 

In May, Vaca embarked on a trade mission to Ghana, along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and 20 American business delegates. Vaca met with local African business leaders at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) and Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies (SEED), where she shared her story of both success and failure to encourage others to become problem solvers with a perseverant attitude. 

What excites Nina Vaca the most about PAGE is “the opportunity to inspire other entrepreneurs to do exactly what I’ve had the opportunity to do – start a business with a vision and a dream and have access to all the right networks that can help you succeed.”

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

Entrepreneurs: Driving the Innovation Economy in Pennsylvania

This week marks Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators, who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It’s a great opportunity to really look at the ways in which entrepreneurs shape our current world while looking forward toward the next big thing. 

This year, I celebrated GEW by visiting flourishing centers of innovation in Pennsylvania. Along with Julie Kirk, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, we met with local entrepreneurs at Philadelphia’s University City Science Center and in Doylestown at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Bucks County

It was only fitting that we kicked off GEW at the Science Center, the recipient of a $1 million EDA grant in October 2014 to help grow and launch new technology companies and an organization that has helped to create more than 15,000 jobs that contribute more than $9 billion to the Philadelphia region’s economy. 

We were joined by president & CEO of the University City Science Center Dr. Stephen Tang, who is also a newly announced member of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE). It was refreshing to have the opportunity for an open dialogue with some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs on how to the United States can foster innovation and entrepreneurship in every community. 

Later in the day, Julie and I traveled to Bucks County, where EDA recently invested $4.6 million to help the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center expand its facility and offer assistance to entrepreneurs in the area. Julie and I had the opportunity to tour the Center’s facilities as well as engage in a roundtable discussion with a number of incubator tenants about their experiences getting their start-ups off the ground.

EDA is strongly committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, over the past five years, EDA has invested more than $200 million in more than 170 incubators and entrepreneurship centers across the nation. 

This week in many communities across the nation and the world, roundtables like those I participated in are taking place to help foster greater innovation and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs play a tremendous role in our economy and many of their products and services have come to play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate their contributions, so while GEW may end on the 21st, let’s keep up the conversation going all year round.

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

Young Entrepreneurs Showcase Ideas at Collegiate Inventors Competition

On November 17, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Michelle K. Lee welcomed 35 young inventors to the USPTO headquarters for the 2014 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC). Introduced in 1990 and co-sponsored by the USPTO, Invent Now, and the AbbVie Foundation, the CIC recognizes the nation’s most innovative undergraduate and graduate students working on cutting-edge inventions at their colleges and universities. 

Competition finalists showcased their inventions and interacted with thousands of USPTO patent and trademark examiners, sponsors, media, and the public at the Competition Expo, bringing together innovative minds from across the country. The finalists received feedback from a judging panel of influential inventors and experts, comprised of eleven National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees, representatives from the USPTO, and AbbVie scientists. 

The top three entries in each division were awarded cash prizes including $15,000 for the graduate first place invention and $12,500 for the undergraduate first place invention. The winner in the graduate category was Katarzyna M. Sawicka from SUNA Stony Brook University for the Immuno-Matrix, a skin patch that delivers a vaccine as easily and painlessly as putting on a Band-Aid®. The winners in the undergraduate category were Taylor Fahey, Charles Haider, and Cedric Kovacs-Johnson from University of Wisconsin – Madison for Spectrom, a device that prints low-cost, high-precision, on-demand full color 3D printing.  Read more about the winners

“CIC is unique in how it connects experienced inventors and scientists with the new generation of innovators,” said Invent Now CEO Michael J. Oister. “These upcoming inventors can interact directly with their role models, while at the same time learning the importance of strong intellectual property and innovation through the patent system.” 

With an eye toward the future and a focus on protecting their groundbreaking work, more than half of the 35 young inventors have filed provisional patent applications. In fact, five of the finalists have already launched startups in an effort to bring their inventions to market. Read more about the 2014 CIC finalists and winners.