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Cred, Connections, Cash — The Workings of a Business Accelerator

Cred, Connections, Cash — The Workings of a Business Accelerator

Entrepreneurs tend to be stereotyped as headstrong individualists who think they know the best way to do everything. While confidence and determination may be necessary when launching a business, sometimes the most important thing an entrepreneur can do is to talk with others founders and get some advice from experienced CEOs. That’s where a business accelerator can come in.

A business accelerator is an intensive, immersion experience in which an entrepreneur moves into a shared office space with other new founders for a period of time to work under the tutelage of advisors and experts to grow their business rapidly. In exchange for the expert mentoring, exposure to investors and cash investment that entrepreneurs get from the accelerator, the entrepreneur gives a portion of his or her company’s equity to the partners of the program and for this reason is often called a “seed” or “venture” accelerator.

Accelerators are similar to business incubators, but the latter typically don’t take equity in the companies, according to the National Business Incubation Association in Athens, Ohio. Accelerator investors often offers between $18,000 and $25,000 in funding in exchange for between 4 percent and 8 percent of each company.

Giving away a piece of your company to accelerate growth can be a big decision. What can make this trade-off so attractive? To help answer that question, we spoke with several recent participants in the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York City. Here are five of the program’s biggest benefits they described.

1. Networking. An accelerator can help you meet the kind of investors, advisors and other entrepreneurs who are interested in helping nurture startups. Consider Derek Webster, the CEO and founder of LocalBonus, a “shop local” credit-card rewards program. Webster had “big company” experience in the credit-card industry, but he didn’t know the players in the NYC startup scene before participating in the accelerator, which takes an 8 percent equity stake in each founder’s company.

At the end of the program’s three months, says Webster, “I had a massive number of those one-one-one meetings, so that now I could turn to any one of those people and ask for help.”

2. Decision-making practice. One common reason for failure as an entrepreneur is “death by indecision.” Being in the accelerator really forces you to make decisions, because you are always meeting with program directors, mentors and investors, says Jonathon Ende, founder and CEO of Bizodo, an online-document builder and management system. At 29, Ende is already on his 15th startup, so he knows a bit about the momentum of getting a company off the ground. “Every week you are checking in with someone. You want to make progress,” says Ende.

3. Founder camaraderie. Being around other founders all day every day is often comforting and educational. At the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, the CEOs had weekly meetings together, as did the chief technology officers. “When you are a new startup, there are all sorts of challenges that you face that are relatively common,” Webster says and having an opportunity to talk through those problems was helpful.

For example, LocalBonus CTO Tim Saunders has 14 years’ experience as a developer and so when fellow company founders were hiring technology developers, Saunders helped them interview and choose the most qualified candidates. “The day we all moved in felt like the first day of high school,” says Webster. But “very quickly we realized there was more to be gained by helping each other out than anything else.”

4. Testing assumptions. “It is very easy to drink your own Kool Aid, if you will. You believe you have the best idea and the way you have to do it is the best way,” says Ende. But when you are constantly being forced to explain yourself, you end up re-evaluating your business on a regular basis. “Being able to question the assumptions that you have made, what people want, what you are building,” says Ende, results in your business changing for the better.

5. Street cred. “The fact that you have already been through a filtering process” can give you — and your business — a leg up, says Webster. At ERA’s demo day, LocalBonus founders met investors they otherwise don’t think they would have had the opportunity to meet. Just to be in the program can be a mark of validation to the community of fellow entrepreneurs and investors.

Have an Idea for the Next Kale Chip? 3 Tips for Success in the Natural and Organic Industry (Infographic)

Have an Idea for the Next Kale Chip? 3 Tips for Success in the Natural and Organic Industry (Infographic)

The kale chip is just one of the more recent success stories in the fast-growing business niche of natural and organic foods and products. Entrepreneurs with new business ideas can still get their slice of the pie.

The natural and organic world has been growing for almost two decades as consumers become increasingly aware of what they are putting into and on their bodies, says Tony Olson, the owner and CEO of SPINS, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based company that tracks the industry.

From granola to coffee, U.S. consumers spent more than $36 billion last year on natural and organic foods and products. “What you are seeing is kind of a revolution in consumer interest in the product they are putting into their bodies and the quality of the ingredients, growing practices, all the things that our industry stands for,” says Olson.

For example, in 2012 they spent more than $2.3 billion on natural and organic vitamins and minerals and another $2.3 billion on packaged, fresh produce, SPINS reports. The fastest-growing category was coffee, coffee substitute products and cocoa, which shot up 40 percent in 2012 to more than $1 billion. The infographic produced by SPINS (below) has more details on segments of the industry.

Natural products have no artificial flavors, colorings and preservatives. Organic products are a subset of the category and adhere to strict growing standards that are healthy for the consumer and sustainable for the environment. If you’re chewing on a business idea in the niche, keep the following three tips in mind.

  1. Be clear with your consumers. Buyers of natural and organic products want to know where the ingredients came from, whether the manufacturing process was environmentally sustainable and how employees that make the product are treated. Be sure you are authentic and transparent, says Olson.
  2. Put a fresh spin on a popular classic. Differentiate yourself, says Olson. The “pretzels, chips and snacks” category is one of the most popular in the niche, but the recent explosion of kale chips is an example of how to find space in an already-crowded area, says Olson.
  1. Get an independent vote of confidence. The surge in popularity of natural and organic products has left some consumers feeling overwhelmed with choices. As a startup, one of your most challenging barriers will be earning customers’ trust in your product and your brand.

    One way to do that is to apply for an independent, third-party audit of your product and your company, says Olson. There are several types of these certification programs, including Fair Trade, which certifies those products that have been produced at farms where the workers are treated fairly, and Certified Gluten-Free, which approves those brands which it determines meet rigorous gluten-free standards. Third-party certifications can be worth the extra time and money needed to secure them, says Olson.

Google Hangout with SBA Chief Karen Mills

Google Hangout with SBA Chief Karen Mills

For small-business owners, pats on the back can be few and far between. Many of them would settle for a vigorous holiday season or perhaps an occasional day off or, better still, a vacation.

So it’s only fitting that we take a moment to highlight the creative, inventive and downright entertaining videos that won the Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Week video contest. In no particular order, the winners include KissTixx founders Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo, Brad Sterl of Pittsfield, N.H.’s Rustic Crust, Zalmi Duchman, the CEO of the Fresh Diet and Reggie Rodgers, the founder of Rodgers’ Banana Pudding Sauce.

Their two-minute video submissions were judged by top-level SBA representatives and were selected among more than 100 submissions. Each entrant was required to have received SBA assistance, and the winning submissions were chosen based on criteria including creativity, inspiration and video quality.

The four winners headlined a Google+ Hangout session with the SBA Chief Karen Mills and me. They also get lifetime bragging rights of course.

Push for Entrepreneur Immigration Reform Grows on Capitol Hill

Push for Entrepreneur Immigration Reform Grows on Capitol Hill

As the drumbeat for immigration reform grows louder, several bipartisan groups of Senators are putting their weight behind individual components of the reform that explicitly benefit entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, Senators Mark Udall (D, Colo.) and Jeff Flake (R, Ariz.) said that they plan to reintroduce the Startup Visa Act. The Act, which was first introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.) in 2010 and then reintroduced by a bipartisan group in 2011, gives foreign-born entrepreneurs who either gain financing from U.S. investors or earn revenue from U.S. customers a visa to launch and grow their business. If those entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. employees, they would have the option to stay in the U.S. permanently.

On Tuesday, another group of bipartisan Senators put forth the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, which increases the ability of highly-educated and trained immigrants to stay in the U.S. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R, Fla.), Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.), and Chris Coons (D, Del.) and proposes increasing the cap on H-1B visas, those made available to highly-skilled professionals, to 115,000 from 65,000. Also, the legislation would create a sliding scale of the number of H-1B visas made available depending on demand.

Rubio, favored to be a Presidential candidate in 2016, has taken some heat from conservatives for getting behind immigration reform, a political hot-button issue. In an article Rubio penned for the conservative political blog Red State, he laid out the economic necessity of encouraging highly-skilled immigrants to stay in the U.S. While the U.S. technology industry creates 120,000 computer engineering jobs per year, the U.S. higher education system only graduates about 40,000 students per year, he says. To fill the talent gap, the young Republican party leader says more visas and green cards are necessary.

The Immigration Innovation Act of 2013 would also exempt graduates of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the green-card cap to encourage more of the foreign-born students who study in the U.S. to remain in the U.S. “Persons with extraordinary ability” and “outstanding professors and researchers” would also be exempt from the green-card cap. And among other proposals, the Immigration Innovation Act would reform the fee structure for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards and create a grant program for promoting STEM grads.

The flurry of bipartisan support for entrepreneur immigration issues comes in the same week when a group of eight Senators released a legislative framework for comprehensive reform and the White House released its blueprint for comprehensive reform. Despite the bipartisan support for both the Startup Visa Act and the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, the President and his administration have made it clear that they are not interested in a piecemeal effort toward immigration reform.

Entrepreneurs Could Benefit from New Research and Development Tax Credit

Entrepreneurs Could Benefit from New Research and Development Tax Credit

Entrepreneurs could benefit from a new research and development tax credit that has been proposed by bipartisan lawmakers in Congress. If it passes, the tax credit would bring serious savings to startups that spend money on innovation before they have turned a profit.

Dubbed the Startup Innovation Credit Act of 2013, the bill would allow qualifying companies to claim the Research and Development Tax Credit against their employment taxes. Typically, a business deducts its research and development expenses from its taxable profits, which means the current R&D tax credit is useless for any startup that has not yet started making a profit. Under the proposed bill, if a startup is not yet making profit, it will still be able to reap a reward for investing in innovation by deducting its R&D spending from its employment spending.

To qualify for the tax credit, a startup must be fewer than 5 years old and have less than $5 million in total revenues. The startup would be able to deduct the total amount it spent on R&D up to $250,000 frm its employment taxes the following year.

Representatives Jim Gerlach (R, Pa.) and Ron Kind (D, Wi.) are expected to introduce the bill in the House of Representatives later this week that would mirror the Senate’s version, according to a release from Senator Chris Coons’ (D, Del.) office. Gerlach’s office said it was still working with the House Committee on Ways and Means to determine a specific date for introducing its version of the bill. The Senate introduced its version last Thursday.

In the Senate, Coons and Mike Enzi (R, Wyo.) teamed up with Senators Chuck Schumer (D, N.Y.), Marco Rubio (R, Fla.), Roy Blunt (R, Mo.), Debbie Stabenow (D, Mich.), and Jerry Moran (R, Kan.) in re-introducing the bill which was initially brought to the Senate floor in the summer of 2012.

Steve Case on Fixing the Visa System (Opinion)

Steve Case on Fixing the Visa System (Opinion)

Last month, while having breakfast with a group of entrepreneurs in Chapel Hill, N.C., I met Deepak — a young, up-and-coming star in the Research Triangle’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Deepak hopes to grow his health-care startup, create good-paying jobs and enable people from around the world to live longer, healthier lives by personalizing the delivery of medical advice. Except for one challenge: The visa system of the U.S.

Deepak was born in India. Despite holding a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of North Carolina and watching his company increase revenue by 40% month-over-month, Deepak’s green-card status remains uncertain. As a result, he told me, Deepak is having a difficult time convincing investors to fund his expansion — thus with capital on the sideline, seven workers in Raleigh have not been hired and an innovative idea has not yet scaled.

As the election season enters its final phase, President Obama and Governor Romney have legitimate disagreements over which policies will most effectively jumpstart America’s economic recovery. But not when it comes to winning the global battle for the world’s most talented immigrants like Deepak. Both the President and Governor Romney support stapling green cards to America-educated immigrants who have advanced diplomas in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Both the Democratic and Republican party platforms call for this type of visa reform as well.

The bipartisan support makes sense when you consider that the U.S. once prided itself on attracting and keeping the most highly-skilled immigrants from around the world. Iconic American companies like IBM, AT&T and Goldman Sachs were founded or co-founded by immigrants. So, too, were Google, Intel and eBay. In Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005, half of startups had an immigrant founder. In 2005 alone, American companies with immigrant founders in the technology and engineering industries did $52 billion in sales.

For our economy, high-skilled immigrants are net-creators of jobs and net-drivers of innovation.

Today, arbitrary visa caps force 20,000 American-educated degree holders to leave our shores every year and contribute to the economies of competitor nations like China, Canada, South Korea and Singapore. We are subsidizing the entrepreneurial ecosystems of those countries every time we make it harder for people like Deepak to stay here and innovate. In fact, the percentage of immigrant-founded startups in Silicon Valley has fallen to 43.9 percent from 52.4 percent in the last seven years. Imagine if our national defense strategy were carried out in the same manner as our economic policy? Men and women would be trained and equipped with world-class battlefield skills at the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and West Point before our government sent them off to fight for the militaries of other nations.

These challenges are not news to the ambitious entrepreneurs I’ve met recently in Raleigh, Denver, New York, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas and beyond who are working day in and day out to build solid companies. They understand that it’s harder to raise capital when a co-founder’s immigration status is pending or when they lack the flexibility to hire that talented engineer due to a visa issue. These folks don’t have the time or ability to sit down with policymakers and explain why our immigration system is slowing their business. All that they ask for is that some in Washington, D.C., are listening.

Indeed, some are listening these days — on both sides of the aisle. As a member of President Obama’s Jobs and Competitiveness Council, I’ve had the privilege of co-leading the effort to improve the environment for entrepreneurship in the U.S. While 2012 has been a politically charged election year, there has been legislative progress, including the bipartisan JOBS act which was signed into law in April. The bill permits crowdfunding so that startups have expanded access to capital and makes it easier for fast-growing businesses to go public.

When it comes to reforming America’s high-skilled immigration system, Democrats and Republicans are starting to show collective urgency. The bipartisan Startup Act 2.0 introduced earlier this year would eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based visas; create a new STEM visa category that puts graduate-degree holders on a path for a green card; and create an entrepreneur’s visa for legal immigrants who start a business. And last month, four bills were introduced — two by Democrats and two by Republicans — which would award green cards to the top foreign-born STEM graduates of U.S. schools. This is a positive sign for entrepreneurs.

The history of America’s ascension is the history of entrepreneurs churning out new products and services that change the world. In the last three decades, about 40 million American jobs were created by startups, all the net-new jobs our economy produced during that period. With consensus building that we need to fix our high-skilled immigration system to strengthen our competitiveness, it’s time for our elected leaders to do what our entrepreneurs do best: Figure out a way to get it done.

Expand the Startup Visa Act (Opinion)

Expand the Startup Visa Act (Opinion)

The Startup Visa Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Richard Lugar (R., Indiana), would “allow an immigrant entrepreneur to receive a two-year visa if he or she can show that a qualified U.S. investor is willing to invest in the immigrant’s startup venture.” Some oppose the legislation, now winding its way through committee, arguing that it gives investors too much power or could be open to abuse. Those problems are readily fixed. The real problem with the legislation is that it won’t significantly spur job creation or increase GDP.

The Startup Visa Act has a basic, solid premise: If entrepreneurs can establish their businesses in Seattle and Boston instead of Shanghai and Bangalore, they will generate U.S. jobs and U.S. economic growth. Unfortunately, the Act is too narrowly written to accomplish much.

Because its sponsors were more worried about getting political agreement than about having economic impact, they limited visa eligibility to a small group of people. To qualify for the new startup EB-6 visa, would-be entrepreneurs residing outside the U.S. must get a $100,000 investment from an accredited super angel (defined as an American citizen who made two $50,000 or larger equity investments in young companies in each of the prior three years), venture capitalist or government entity.

Prospective entrepreneurs with an H-1B visa or U.S. graduate degree in a science, technology or engineering field also would be eligible; they must earn at least $30,000, have assets of at least $60,000, and obtain $20,000 from one of those three types of investors. Finally, existing entrepreneurs abroad would be eligible if their business generates U.S. sales of at least $100,000 a year.

These narrow qualifications mean that very few visas would be given out. The Act also limits the number of the EB-6 visas by not authorizing new ones, but instead reallocating a portion of the EB-5 visas that foreigners can receive if they invest at least $1 million in the U.S. and create at least 10 jobs. In 2009, 5,799 of the 9,940 authorized EB-5 visas were never used, suggesting that the Act would provide startup visas to about 5,800 entrepreneurs. That’s a drop in the bucket in a country with over a million new permanent residents every year.

I strongly doubt that even 5,800 visas would be claimed. Very few new entrepreneurs could secure the required investment from venture capitalists, super angels or government entities. The National Venture Capital Association reports that 1,001 companies received venture capital funding for the first time in 2010. Because super angels are savvy investors, virtually all of them co-invest with venture capitalists. That fact suggests that only slightly more than 1,000 companies receive the kind of funding each year that would be needed for a startup visa.

What’s more, most of those companies are not founded by immigrants. Vivek Wadhwa estimates that one quarter of technology and engineering companies started in the U.S. between 1995 and 2005 had an immigrant founder. Therefore, of the roughly 1,000 businesses with venture capital every year, it’s likely that as few as 250 are founded by immigrants. Some of those immigrants would not even need the new EB-6 visa because they already have a green card.

It’s true that entrepreneurs who already have companies elsewhere but want to relocate to the U.S. wouldn’t need to raise money to get a visa. But that provision will do little to help foreign scientists and engineers trained in the U.S. start their companies here. If we make the entrepreneurs go home and create $100,000 in U.S. sales before we give them a visa, then we will lose most of them. Once people start a business in one country, it is very hard to get them to relocate it.

If Senators Kerry and Lugar really want to pass legislation that helps keep immigrant entrepreneurs in the U.S., they should amend the Act in two ways. First, they should allow entrepreneurs to obtain funding from anyone, not just venture capitalists, super angels and government entities. Second, they shouldn’t limit the number of visas to a portion of the existing EB-5 visa allotment, but instead, should create a new—and larger—pool of EB-6 visas.

Senators, the marketplace doesn’t work like your world. Taking a little from each side to get buy-in works well in politics; in economics, it merely washes out the effect you are hoping for and leaves you with little or nothing.

Republicans Spotlight Entrepreneurs at Convention

Republicans Spotlight Entrepreneurs at Convention

Entrepreneurs are usually the ones doing the pitching, talking with investors and customers. But this week, the speakers of the Republican National Convention have been appealing to and promoting entrepreneurs with enthusiasm.

Even as Governor Mitt Romney formally accepted the Republican presidential nomination, introducing himself and criticizing President Barack Obama’s record, he spotlighted entrepreneurs in a few key moments.

First, to illustrate the risks and struggles involved in business, Romney highlighted the fact that legendary entrepreneur Steve Jobs had been once fired at Apple Inc. before he came back to the company “and changed the world.”

In addition, Romney made small business a key part of a five-step plan to add 12 million jobs. Calling small businesses “America’s engine of job growth,” he said he would champion small businesses by reducing taxes, simplifying regulations and repealing the health-care overhaul that Obama has put in place.

Romney capped off a week chock full of small-business talk. The catchphrase “Yes, you did build that” became a theme of the convention, in a response to a comment that President Obama made last month in Virginia:

“. . . If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together…”

But this theme hit a snag Tuesday. The party had a Delaware small-business owner, Sher Valenzuela, speak to the convention about her struggles and sacrifices in growing her company. Her story became a controversy when it came out that her business had received government support in numerous cases along the way and also, her soft-manufacturing firm gets a lot of revenue from work it does for Uncle Sam.

On Wednesday, the Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) talked about how his hero was a small-business owner — his mother. His mother started her own business at the age of 50 after his father passed away when Ryan was just 16.

“She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn’t just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small-business woman whose happiness wasn’t just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud,” said Ryan. “And to this day, my Mom is my role model.”

Other small-business owners were invited to speak throughout the convention. For example, Steve Cohen, president of family-owned construction and mining equipment manufacturer Screen Machine Industries Inc., traveled from his home state of Ohio to Florida.

“It was a tremendous experience,” says Cohen, whose business has fewer than 100 employees. Romney spent three hours at Screen Machine Industries about a year ago on a campaign stop, he says. About two and a half weeks before the convention, Cohen was invited to speak there. It was 17 days to be exact — he says he counted down the days. During his time in the spotlight, Cohen talked about the need to protect intellectual property and limit regulatory burdens, critical issues for his Etna, Ohio-based small business.

Another small-business owner, Bev Grey, spoke at the convention Tuesday night. Her trade-show marketing business, Exhibit Edge, employs 20 people and is headquartered in Chantilly, Va. She talked about the struggles and sacrifices involved in starting a business. “We risked everything and succeeded because of our hard work and commitment. What President Obama doesn’t understand is that when businesses grow, unemployment goes down and people thrive,” said Grey.

Entrepreneur Becomes Lightning Rod in ‘We Built It’ Debate

Entrepreneur Becomes Lightning Rod in ‘We Built It’ Debate

This week, Delaware entrepreneur Sher Valenzuela landed squarely in the crosshairs of a fierce political argument over how much government is responsible for the growth of small businesses.

Valenzuela, along with a handful of other small-business owners, was picked to speak Tuesday at the Republican National Convention on a day where the theme was “We Built It” — a direct dig at President Barack Obama’s now famous “You didn’t build that” comment. But Valenzuela quickly came under fire by a number of media outlets, including Huffington Post and New York Times, for her use of government loans and contracts to grow her soft-material manufacturing business, First State Manufacturing.

In her speech last night, Valenzuela didn’t address the controversy swirling around her. Instead, Valenzuela, who is also currently running for lieutenant governor in Delaware, talked about raising an autistic son, the risks she and her husband took to start their business, which now employs 70 people, and the “all-out assault on free enterprise” that the Obama administration is making.

But the fall-out still continued, including on Twitter, where a number of commenters noted her perceived reliance on government help. ‏@utaustinliberal, a self-desribed political junkie, tweeted: “Ummm….Sher Valenzuela, you didn’t build your small business on your own. Govt. provided loans and tax credits. Stop your BS.” Others disagreed, however. Bethany Mandel tweeted: “Dear @MittRomney: Please consider Sher Valenzuela for a position in your administration. Shockingly effective speech.”

If anything, Valenzuela’s story seems to have renewed the debate over the President’s “You didn’t build that” phrase.

Obama made the comment last month in Roanoke, Va., after noting that public investments in roads and bridges allows businesses to thrive. “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that,” he said.

Republicans almost immediately jumped on the idea that the President doesn’t understand the individual sacrifices that entrepreneurs make to pursue their dream. Meanwhile, Democrats rebuffed the attacks, saying that the phrase was entirely taken out of context.

In a move to champion their rallying cry — “We Built it” — GOP leaders asked Valenzuela to speak at the convention in Tampa to demonstrate the hard work, sacrifice and risk that are involved in creating a small business. Valenzuela and her husband started their First State Manufacturing in their garage with a single sewing machine in order to make enough income to pay for their son’s care — all of which she talked about in last night’s speech.

Meanwhile, an individual who calls himself “First State Man,” set up a parody website at www.firststatemanufacturing.com, calling attention to the governmental assistance that Valenzuela and her husband have received. He declined to reveal his identity but said in an email exchange with Entrepreneur.com: “Ms. Valenzuela knows full well that the President was referring to the exact types of government services that she has utilized time-and-time again over the years as a socially disadvantaged business.”

The Small Business Administration confirmed that First State Manufacturing has indeed received support from the government on several occasions. And the company’s website itself promotes its federal contracting success.

For Valenzuela, becoming a target for a larger, national debate has taken its emotional toll. “She is human,” said Kim Hoey Stevenson, the communications director for Valenzuela’s campaign for Lieutenant Governor.

Valenzuela doesn’t dispute that she received government assistance. “Yes, she took whatever help she could — took help from the government,” Stevenson added. “But in the end, it was a resource. It didn’t build her business.”

Obama Regrets Syntax of ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Comment

Obama Regrets Syntax of ‘You Didn’t Build That’ Comment

President Barack Obama says that he regrets the syntax — but not the meaning — of his now controversial “You didn’t build that” comment.

In an interview with a local NBC TV station in Virginia this week, Obama said that Republicans have misinterpreted and misused his comment for political gain.

The GOP has pointed to Obama’s remark, made at a Roanoke campaign event in July — “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that” — as evidence that he doesn’t understand the realities of running a business and doesn’t respect the struggles and sacrifices. “We built it” became a theme at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., last week in a direct dig at the President.

“Everybody who was there watching knows exactly what I was saying. I had talked about how we all have to invest in schools and roads and bridges for businesses to grow, for small businesses to be successful, that there is a part of our economy that is dependent on all of us making common cause,” said Obama (see below). “This is an example, I think, of the tendency of the other side to shade the truth a little bit to try to win political points.”

Here’s what Obama said in context:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

In this week’s TV interview, Obama refuted that he isn’t supportive of small business, claiming that any small-business owners who think he hasn’t helped them have been listening to Republican political rhetoric without considering his record. He added that his administration has passed 18 tax cuts for small businesses and that government programs have helped small businesses get access to loans when banks were not lending.

“Every policy that we have put into place has been designed to try to strengthen the middle class and small businesses and we are going to keep on trying to do that,” said Obama. Tonight Obama will address the nation during the prime-time broadcasting of the Democratic National Convention from Charlotte, N.C.

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