The White House Blog

From Silicon Valley to Main Street Virginia

Last week, I joined the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness for a discussion in Silicon Valley on the importance of high growth companies to job creation in the US. On Friday, my travels to Blacksburg, VA, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, validated three key messages discussed earlier in the week with the Jobs Council:

1) Immigrant entrepreneurs create American jobs. AOL co-founder Steve Case spoke last week on the importance of attracting and retaining top talent in the US, especially those leaders poised to run high-growth companies. He reacted favorably to the recent actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security that clarified the fact that an immigrant founder can apply for a visa.

Here’s an example of why this matters: On Friday, I met Marek, a German graduate student at Virginia Tech. He joined the campus Entrepreneurship Club and, like nearly a dozen other students, he has ventured off campus to TechPad, a recently opened shared office space with rent as low as $60 a month for "nomads" (essentially entrepreneurs who want access to a couch with Wifi and access to conference rooms). I met his two employees (a local student and one from Ohio) working on an innovative new product connecting small businesses to customers via the mobile web, which will launch this summer.

The catch? Marek is currently in the United States on a student visa that expires in December. Thanks to our recent efforts, he can apply for a 17-month extension and, possibly, an EB-2 or H1B, so he can keep creating American jobs on Main Street in Blacksburg, VA.

2) Silicon Valley’s "Open Ecosystem" fosters more American Jobs. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg shared an interesting statistic: while Facebook employs roughly 2,600 people, mostly in Silicon Valley, a recent search on a jobs board found over 30,000 openings for "Facebook Developers." Like many other Silicon Valley growth firms, Facebook invites third-party application developers to build new products and services.

On Friday, I also met Bob Summers, the founder of a 3-FTE start-up built on the Facebook developer platform (among others) called "Friendeo." His company has yet to officially launch but has already generated hundreds of customers. In other words, Sheryl Sandberg's Silicon Valley platform is creating jobs on Main Street in Blacksburg, VA.

3) America's "So-Lo-Mo" (social-local-mobile) industry creates jobs. In Silicon Valley, iconic venture capitalist John Doerr shared his report card on the American economy. His top-ranked category - earning an "A" - is the market for social, local, and mobile apps.

On Friday, I met Aaron and David from Modea, a world-class ad agency that’s been growing 70+ percent a year for the past two years helping brands connect with their customers by harnessing the Internet, especially the mobile web. The 5-year-old firm employs 82 people in Blacksburg, and is preparing to move to an old school building capable of supporting the 200+ employees they project bringing on board in the near future.

Thanks to the leveling effect of the Internet, firms in the job-growing "So-Lo-Mo" market can create American jobs from anywhere, not just Silicon Valley. In fact, Modea fully intends to compete with the more traditional firms in its industry and has successfully relocated senior talent from New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and other metropolitan markets because the company has proven successful in Blacksburg, VA.

The President understands the importance of high-growth entrepreneurship as an important channel for job creation. Programs like Startup Americaand our "Open Innovation" work tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people to commercialize research and solve big challenges in health, energy, education and manufacturing.

Stay tuned for more ideas to spur job creation through high growth entrepreneurship.

Aneesh Chopra is the US Chief Technology Officer