When they write about business, my peers in the mainstream media very often get the story partly right and exactly wrong. Such was the case this morning when the New York Times put in a plug for big businesses to get more government funding for innovation. “The lesson of Covid capitalism is that big business needs big government, and vice versa.”

On one hand, yes: government funding is necessary to bear the early risk of innovation. On the other hand, no. We know from common sense and Clay Christensen’s work on innovation that most breakthrough innovations come from small companies. Big companies typically pursue incremental innovations that build on the value of what they already own (there are exceptions, of course).

We can and should celebrate the delivery of the vaccine, and the efforts of the big companies that made it possible (Moderna has a model that looks more like an in-house venture fund, however). The bigger question is what kinds of innovation we didn’t have. If we were funding startup innovation as the nation did in the middle of the 20th century, when more than 10% of the U.S. government budget was going to R&D.

As the economics and finance system of the United States have shifted to favor big businesses (including software based startups on their way to becoming big businesses, we’ve lost ground).

A friend of mine, Nagesh Rao, sent me a chart that illustrates how government programs support innovations in small companies. One almost universal recommendation to restart innovation in the United States is to increase funding to SBIR/STTR, which funds promising science-based companies, as well as to universities that turn out startups.

Here’s an interesting chart he worked during his tenure at the SBA that illustrates why the government is needed for innovation where it happens – at startups and small companies.

Times of Entrepreneurship Stories of the Week

Women Entrepreneurs Spurred The Last Economic Recovery. Will They Do It Again?

They’ve been leading startup growth for the past decade or more but access to capital has shrunk.

Read the Story »

Unshackled Ventures Offers A Sheltering Space For Immigrant Entrepreneurs

The number of international students, an important source of startups, has fallen by nearly half.

Read the Story »

A Fintech Pioneer Emerges In Mexico

Play Business has already facilitated $20 billion in investments with more than 100,000 users. 

Read the Story »

An AI-Powered Pet Tackles Childhood Obesity

The lifestyle choices young people make can affect their health for a lifetime. LittleMoochi, which has won several startup competitions, aims to help them develop healthier eating habits.  

Read the Story »

Important Stories from Elsewhere

Hill Leaders Eye New Round Of Stimulus Checks As Part Of $900 Billion Covid Relief Deal
The price tag for the package could be close to $900 billion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program is needed to preserve jobs. 

The EU Could Break Up Big Tech Companies That Violate Stricter Rules
The UK also plans to clamp down on harmful content on social media.

MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’s former wife, donates nearly $4.2 billion to 384 organizations
The philanthropist, the world’s 18th richest person, saw her fortune grow by more than $23 billion in the same time frame. Oh, and entrepreneurship organizations are on her list.

Hackers At Center Of Sprawling Spy Campaign Turned SolarWinds’ Dominance Against It
Criminals misused the Austin, Texas company’s flagship network management software in breach of the U.S. Treasury and Department of Commerce.

Some Cities In The Heartland Offer To Pay Remote Workers For Moving There (audio)
Interest in these programs has picked up in the pandemic.

The American Heartland Needs Jobs
Could bitcoin mining be the region’s savior?

21 Chicago Startups To Watch in 2021
From Anthill, which matches employees with personal coaches, to Zing Health, which offers a health insurance product aimed at minorities over age 65, these startups are poised to make big moves next year.

Greater Cincinnati Startup Backed By Mark Cuban Granted Key FDA Designation
CincyTech gets “breakthrough device” designation, which could pave the way for fast-track availability of its product for people with heart problems.

Startup Company Acclinate Relocates To Birmingham This December
Acclinate Genetics won $150,000 in prize money in the 2020 Alabama Launchpad competition for its work helping pharma companies increase the diversity of their clinical trials.

Gorillas, The On-Demand Grocery Delivery Startup Taking Berlin By Storm, Has Raised $44 Million Series A
Hedge fund Coatue led the round, with participation from unnamed European investors. Gorillas, which opted to employ riders directly instead of using gig economy models, delivers groceries in an average of 10 minutes.

You May Have Missed

The Top 20 University Entrepreneurship Competitions
A joint project of George Washington University Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Times of Entrepreneurship.

Insight Into The Top University Entrepreneurship Competitions
The largest collegiate competitions offer student innovators and entrepreneurs cash, in-kind contributions and networks—and help launch companies.

Is The Capital Gap For Women A Pipeline Problem? These University Pitch Stats Say Different
After university programs made slight changes to messaging, women’s’ representation surged. Part of the answer seems to be “de-risking” the idea of pitching or entrepreneurship.


AWS: Re: Invent
Dates: Nov. 30-December 18
Location: Virtual
Information here.
This cloud-learning event will feature sessions focused on how organizations are using the cloud to serve students.

Cannabis in the U.S. and E.U.
Date: December 17, 11:30 am ET
Information available here

Harris Bricken, in partnership with German-based law firm KFN and Swiss-based law firm Froriep are offering this free webinar on the status of cannabis and hemp CBD abroad.

The Last Fuckup Night Of The Year
Date: December 17, 2020, 4 am ET
Information available here

This international edition is co-organized with cities around the world. Speakers include fashion designer Evan Biddell, “mental mentor for changemakers” Ines Gaston and writer Madeleine Duxbury.

Annual Ballard Award Competition
Deadline: Applications will be available starting in January 2021; other details forthcoming.
Location: Details forthcoming
Information available here.

Emerging companies in the East Tennessee area can compete for a $50,000 investment of capital and in-kind services to support their innovative ideas in this contest, sponsored by the accounting firm PYA. Applicants must submit a business plan.

Luminate Accelerator
Deadline: January 7
Information available here

This startup accelerator focuses on advancing next-generation optics, photonics and imaging-enabled companies. It is taking applications from startup teams for its next cohort. There is an informational webinar on December 16, 1 pm EST.

Real Change Opportunity Fund and Ideas Pitch Competition
Deadline: January 15 for first round
Location: Virtual
Information available here.

MTN DEW has partnered with Howard University, Hampton University and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities on this program, which will award $1 million in prizes annually over five years.

Invest NY: Health & Wellbeing
Date: January 28
Information available here

Apply to pitch at this startup showcase, run by NYSTAR and Upstate Capital, for up to 20 companies, which will each give a 2-3 minute pre-recorded video introduction. The competition is aimed at tech-enabled startups that have raised some outside capital.

Baylor New Venture Competition
Date: March 25-27, 2021; Applications open September 1, 2020
Location: Baylor University; Waco, Texas
Information available here.

Baylor New Venture Competition offers applicants business plan feedback, mentorship, and a chance to compete for more than $250,000 in prizes. Collegiate entrepreneurs from around the globe are eligible to participate in the competition, hosted by Baylor University.

US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency Cares Act Grant Technical Assistance Program
End date: May 31, 2021
Information available here.

This program, facilitated through eight COVID-19 Technical Assistance Centers in major cities with large Hispanic and minority populations, will provide ongoing readiness and support to help the minority business community navigate the pandemic.


MassCEC’s InnovateMass Program
Deadline: Rolling
Information available here.

This program offers up to $250,000 in grant funding and technical support to applicant teams deploying new clean energy technologies or innovative combinations of existing technologies with a strong potential for commercialization. Applicants must run Massachusetts-based companies or have a location in the state and have a technology that fits specific guidelines.

Chandler Innovations
Deadline: Rolling
Location: Chandler, Arizona
Information available here.

Entrepreneurs who live or work in Chandler, Arizona, are eligible to apply for this business incubator. Business ideas must be tech-based.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.