Millennials teach Congress about entrepreneurship

IMG_5444On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee invited several millennials to testify at a congressional hearing about the millennial entrepreneurial spirit.

One of the witnesses, Evan Baehr, was profiled by Opportunity Lives last fall. Baehr is the co-founder of Able, an Austin-based company that aims to rethink the way people receive loans for small businesses.

Rep. Tom Price, the chairman of the committee, spoke at the beginning of the hearing about the urgent need to reform entitlement programs. “By promoting innovative thinking, we are creating the willingness to deliver more choices and greater flexibility in these programs and encourage greater personal financial security and self-sufficiency in an economy that delivers more opportunity for more Americans to achieve their dreams.”

Baehr’s testimony particularly encouraged the congressmen to take a more receptive approach to entrepreneurship. “If our motto is ‘move fast, break things,’” he said, “Yours might as well be: ‘If you move too fast, we break you.’”

Baehr explained how the government uses unnecessary roadblocks and onerous regulations to hinder progress. He knows this from personal experience – the United States Postal Service shut down his startup that digitized mail delivery and eliminated junk mail.

The US is ranked a disappointing 46th (behind countries such as Afghanistan and Burundi) on a World Bank list of the best places to start a business.

Throughout his short testimony, Baehr provided example after example of successful entrepreneurs who had found new and better ways to solve large problems. “These millennial entrepreneurs seek to transform the world they live in through a for profit company that delights its customers, honors its employees and suppliers, and returns a profit to its investors,” said Baehr.

Attached to Baehr’s testimony and submitted to the congressional record were comments from more than a hundred millennials who wanted Congress to hear their thoughts.

One business owner, Joseph Malchow, offered a clear perspective on why Congress needed to encourage entrepreneurship – not regulation. “What’s the price of regulation? Take the cost and convenience of an Uber ride, and subtract it from the cost and inconvenience of a taxi ride,” he wrote.

Unfortunately, Baehr said in an e-mail to supporters after the hearing that reception by the representatives was disappointing. “Sadly, the hearing was meant to be a time for members to learn about the millennial perspective–after all, they are all old and nearly all had children our age; instead it was used for grandstanding around tired political themes of free markets versus the social safety net.”

Baehr livestreamed the hearing from his phone using an app called Periscope (the first time that’s ever been done). You can read his testimony here. The hearing was part of the “Restoring the Trust for All Generations” initiative launched in July.

Published on Opportunity Lives