Presenting a GPS for entrepreneurship policymaking at SXSW

Editor’s note: This post was republished with permission from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Policy Dialogue blog.

I was asked by a reporter last month whether I thought entrepreneurship was at risk in this election. My answer was no; entrepreneurship is not at risk because entrepreneurs will always pursue their dreams.

What matters for entrepreneurs in this and every election is what candidates will do once in office. Will they pursue policies that make it easier for Americans to start and grow businesses? Or will they advocate for laws that, purposefully or not, make entrepreneurship a more challenging pursuit?

At the Kauffman Foundation, we are developing a more in-depth understanding of entrepreneurship and sharing that knowledge with elected officials through our Entrepreneurship Policy Digests and events like the State of Entrepreneurship Address and the Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship.

We believe that informed policymakers can better support America’s entrepreneurs.

Sometimes, information comes from research studies, regression analyses and journal articles. Other times, it comes from entrepreneurs themselves, who share their personal stories and experiences. Both are valuable and serve to inform policymakers.

On Friday, I participated in a panel at SXSW Interactive with U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and Thomas Visco of Glasshouse Policy. During the panel, I introduced a new tool entrepreneurs and policymakers can use to identify specific public and private policies that matter most to different entrepreneurs. It’s called the Entrepreneurship Policy Map.


Entrepreneurs operate in an environment shaped by multiple factors. The Entrepreneurship Policy Map accordingly identifies four primary spheres of policy: federal, state, local and private.

It also differentiates among different stages of entrepreneurship. Starting a business presents different challenges than running a business or growing a business.

To both effectively measure entrepreneurship and target policies where they can have the greatest impact, it is important to differentiate between these various stages of entrepreneurship.

The Entrepreneurship Policy Map does this by listing three stages of entrepreneurship that align with the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurship Series: startup entrepreneurs, main street entrepreneurs and growth entrepreneurs.

With this framework in place, we’re ready to have conversations about how public and private policymakers can most effectively support each of the different types of entrepreneurs.

Importantly, these conversations will also shed new light on how different groups or places throughout the country perceive the challenges facing entrepreneurs and the policy opportunities that exist. These differences may provide valuable insights that lead to better policy.

To illustrate how the map can be used, the Kauffman Foundation identified broad areas of policy that our research has determined matter greatly to entrepreneurs in each of the three stages of business development.


This policy map may be used as a starting point for conversations, with the goal being to arrive at more specific policies within each of the broad categories we identified.

For example, our research shows that barriers to entrepreneurial entry are prominent for startup entrepreneurs. At the state level, these barriers can include policies like occupational licensing and non-compete agreements.

Using the Entrepreneurship Policy Map, entrepreneurs and policymakers may arrive at these or other barriers as most important for startup entrepreneurs. This information should then guide the actions of policymakers.

The reaction to the Entrepreneurship Policy Map at SXSW was positive. What do you think?

Complete your own policy map by downloading a PDF copy at Once you’ve identified policies at each intersection, share your map with us by sending it to I’ll share the results later this year.

Photo Credit: Keith Mays

Jason Wiens | Courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation
Jason Wiens | Courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation

Jason Wiens is the lead policy engagement manager in Research and Policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. His responsibilities include making federal, state, and local policymakers aware of the work done by the Kauffman Foundation in addition to writing policy briefs and developing policy engagement strategies.

Find Wiens on Twitter: @JWIENZ.

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