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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Entrepreneurship and the Economy

Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, Co-Founder, Entrepreneurs for Hillary, and Shelly Porges, Co-Founder, Entrepreneurs for Hillary
Philadelphia, PA
July 25, 2016

Date: 07/25/2016 Location: Philadelphia, PA Description: Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux and Shelly Porges, co-founders of the volunteer group Entrepreneurs for Hillary, discuss the role of entrepreneurship in the U.S. economy at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. - State Dept Image

12:30 P.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Thank you on behalf of the Foreign Press Center of the Department of State. My name is Miriam Magdieli and I’m very happy to welcome you all here this afternoon. We are kicking off an amazing slate of briefings.

I’m excited to welcome our first briefers who will be speaking on the economy and entrepreneurship and its effect on the economy and its role in this election cycle.

Before we begin I’d like to remind everybody to please put their electronic devices on vibrate mode. And I also want to point out that as is the case with all of our briefers, their views are their own. All of their remarks reflect their own personal opinions and do not reflect those of the U.S. government. They’ll speak for a few minutes and then we’ll open it up to questions and answers.

First I’d like to introduce Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux. She’s an entrepreneur and a foreign affairs expert. She’s the co-founder of space technology company Escape Dynamics. Previously she worked at Goldman Sachs in London and held senior investment roles in the U.S. and Asia leading global firms TPG-Axon and Renaissance Technologies before founding her own investment firm. Garriott is a Truman National Security Fellow and member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Economic Club of New York. She’s a co-founder of Entrepreneurs for Hillary, a Board Member of the National Museum of Mathematics, and she holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

After Ms. Garriott speaks we’ll hear from Shelly Porges, a global strategy and marketing expert focused on entrepreneurship, partnerships and business development for several non-profit and for-profit organizations. She serves as the National Finance Co-Chair for the Ready for Hillary Political Action Committee. As President of the North American Jury for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, and is on the Advisory Board for Global Entrepreneurship Week. She’s an Entrepreneur in Residence at Georgetown University and sits on several early-stage company boards, and is also a co-founder of Entrepreneurs for Hillary.

So please join me in welcoming Ms. Garriott and Ms. Porges, and I’ll turn it over to you. Thank you very much.

MS GARRIOTT: Thank you, Miriam, and thank you everyone for being here today for this briefing on the Entrepreneurship and the Economy, which is an important theme in this election cycle.

I am Laetitia Garriott. I am an American by choice, an entrepreneur and also a mother. When I started my career in the late 1990s there was only one country in the world that allowed people to dream big -- the United States. So I fought hard to come here and to stay. When I received my letter of acceptance to a U.S. graduate program, I knew it would mean I would have to take on about $100,000 of debt, and I did. And I’ve now after many years been a proud contributor to this country, a country that I love and that I am proud to call my country.

This country has been through a lot, and we’ve come a long way since the great recession and the Republican policies that triggered it. We have seen 75 months of private sector job growth. However, vast segments of hard-working Americans have been left out and we’ve witnessed growth of inequality to unbounded levels, and this must be fixed.

Today I will address entrepreneurship and the economy as it relates to three pressing imperatives for America. First, the new priority to make the economy work for all. Second, the need to invest in our domestic economy. And third, the need for fiscal discipline to properly fund these actions without continued explosion of our national debt as happened under Republicans.

And let me add, that I’m very excited that the economic vision that is being laid out by the Democratic Party for this presidential cycle is the most progressive our country has ever had and works for all Americans. Because that is the first imperative -- making it work for all Americans. Create a level playing field and a chance at opportunities and economic mobility for all, no matter where they come from, how much money they have, what they look like, what accent they have, or who they love, as Senator Tim Kaine put it so well a few days ago.

We’re talking about addressing the racial wealth gap which is significant in America today, and securing equal pay for women. We’re also talking about paid family leave which is critical to economic mobility so Americans can take care of their newborn or their elderly parents without renouncing advancement opportunities, or worse, losing their job.

Contrast this with the modern wave of dense and ultra-self-reliance Republicans who presume that racism does not exist, and that equal opportunity is already a fact. Sadly, this has proven over and over again to be untrue in America. As soon as the Supreme Court struck down the Voting Rights Act which prevented states with a demonstrated history of racist policies that purposefully disenfranchised minorities and the poor from changing voting laws unless these were pre-cleared by Congress, (inaudible) state passed a wave of similar legislation which is now being struck down post fact as racist by the courts, thus proving that Republicans cannot be trusted to address equal opportunities for all.

But economic opportunities are irrelevant if we cannot restore economic security for the middle class, which is why it is so important to ensure income rises and cost are kept in check for all hard-working American families and to also prevent devastating events like the Great Recession that has wiped out jobs and savings for so many families. That means making the minimum wage a living wage by increasing it to $15 and the right to form or join a union; unlike Donald Trump who has stated that he thinks the minimum wage is too high and has fought against unions. Does Donald Trump not know that the decline of the middle class is due in large part to the fact that collective bargaining rights have been under attack?

That also means a new basic bargain when necessary goods are affordable, in particular what people spend on housing and health care. And that means defending Wall Street reforms and push for new measures to ensure that Wall Street never threatens Main Street again.

On the other hand, Donald Trump proposes to dismantle Dodd Frank and to strike down most reforms and safety nets put in place to protect America and global financial stability.

The second imperative is to invest in our domestic economy by investing in good paying jobs and in education so that all are given a chance to contribute and be rewarded to the best of their abilities.

How do we invest in good paying jobs in America? By making the largest investment in good paying jobs since the 2nd World War, thanks to the most ambitious investment in America’s infrastructure since President Eisenhower created America’s highway infrastructure. By helping small businesses, which are the drivers of job creation and economic growth in this country, helping them grow, thrive, in particular to expanded access to capital so that they can hire more. Finally, by pursuing trade agreements only if they support American jobs and raise wages.

How do we invest in education? By making debt-free college available to all Americans and allowing student debt to be refinanced so that it can become affordable. By ensuring that every four-year-old in America has access to high quality pre-school in the next ten years, and making world class K-12 education a reality in every zip code. And by investing in work force training.

And the third imperative is to do all this with responsible fiscal stewardship. It used to be that fiscal conservatives often looked to the Republican Party for fiscal responsibility. Today they need to look away from the Republican Party. Donald Trump has offered plans that could add more than $30 trillion to America’s debt, and he casually suggests that defaulting on our national debt, in fact he’s even warned (inaudible) of being named by The Economist as one of top ten threats not just to the U.S. economy, but to the global economy if he were to be elected president.

Conversely, the Democratic plan to make it work for all Americans and to invest in America can all be spoken for by a series of proposed initiatives to raise our government’s revenues, which includes a reform of our tax system to make it more fair, that envisions closing corporate tax loopholes targeting in particular companies that are shipping jobs overseas, and in which those at the top which Donald Trump and the Republicans want to provide tax cuts to, are being asked to contribute to our country’s future.

Let me conclude by saying that opportunity is the reason why I came to America 14 years ago. That and the belief anyone can rise. Anyone who works hard. That’s what I believed in my mid-20s and that’s what I know and I believe Americans know deep in their heart needs to be our priority today -- advancing opportunities for everybody, making American work for all.

Hillary Clinton has put families first throughout her entire career.

And I’ll say a little more about Senator Tim Kaine, because his track record is perhaps not as well known. I had a chance to spend an evening with him in May this year, and his passion and his commitment to fight for rights is undeniable. In 1998 he won a historic verdict against a national insurance company that had been redlining minority neighborhoods in the issuance of homeowner insurance. And when he was Governor of Virginia, Virginia boasted not just one of the lowest unemployment rates, but also one of the highest bond ratings and one of the highest family incomes. He made it work for Americans. He made it work for all Americans.

My vote goes to Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine because this team and this team only has the courage, imagination, determination and let me add to that, a fiscally responsible strategy to give all Americans the economic safety and economic opportunities to do well for their families, their communities and our country.

Thank you.

MS PORGES: Good afternoon, and thank you everyone for being here and caring about entrepreneurship.

Imagine if Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or Steve Jobs had been born in Africa or Asia or Latin America? Do you think they would have realized their potential? And imagine if each of these great innovators had a sister who was equally innovative, equally compelling, equally determined. Do you think she would have had such an opportunity?

Secretary Clinton always says, “Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.” And when we’re talking about entrepreneurship, whether it’s entrepreneurship in America or entrepreneurship globally, we’re talking about unleashing the potential of not just tens of millions but literally hundreds of millions of entrepreneurs, people who either by necessity or by opportunity are looking to fulfill their own potential as well as drive their economies. The economies of their families, their communities and their countries.

As Miriam said, thank you Miriam for inviting us here today, I’m Shelly Porges. I’m co-founder with Laetitia and three other co-founders of Entrepreneurs for Hillary. Hillary is one leader who gets it. She’s one leader who understands that entrepreneurs and small businesses are the backbone of our economy here in the United States as well as elsewhere.

I worked with her as her Senior Advisor for Global Entrepreneurship at the State Department, working all over the world, growing a program we call the Global Entrepreneurship Program, to unleash this kind of potential and advance economies everywhere, and we grew it to almost 150 countries.

But I want to come back something a little more personable and a little more perhaps powerful. Like Laetitia who as young woman recognized the opportunity here in the United States was maybe defined a little differently than opportunity elsewhere in the world, when I was five years old my father, who was a refugee from Nazi Europe to Israel -- actually originally to Brazil, Palestine and then to Israel, and my mother similarly a refugee from Nazi Europe, decided to migrate from Israel to the United States. And we actually, I want to tell you, last week was my birthday and it was actually the anniversary of our coming to this country. And like Laetitia, my father and mother wanted to come here because of the opportunity they saw, not just specifically to build a business, but just in general to advance themselves economically and advance their family.

My father became a small business person like Hillary Clinton’s own father who ran a small printing business in Chicago, a little outside of Chicago. He became a small business person. He had a gas station. He had a dry cleaning business. He had a restaurant, and he assembled these local community businesses, and it was his way of breaking into the U.S. economy. And the amazing thing was that with virtually no credentials and little standing here in America, he too could make it. My mother also. My mother was an apparel designer and began a custom sewing business.

So the two of them also represent, as many here do, the actual profile of our best and hardest-working entrepreneurs in America and that is the small business people who come here for an opportunity and identify and build on their own skills and their own determination.

Now every entrepreneur needs to have some conditions to really thrive and grow. And one of the things that Hillary is committed to and one of the reasons we began Entrepreneurs for Hillary, is that we recognized that from day one she identified herself, as Laetitia said, as the small business president. She, from day one, committed herself to doing a number of things to promote small business entrepreneurs as drivers of our economy.

One of those things is eliminating some of the barriers that entrepreneurs face, whether it’s licensing for you know, food businesses; whether it’s access to capital. So many of the different barriers that entrepreneurs face.

So removing some of those barriers was one of the things.

A second thing that Hillary is committed to is providing expanded access to capital.

Now we often talk about venture capital, and we know that in this country only 11 percent, even in the United States, ever get access to venture capital, and they’re usually the fast, scalable enterprises -- the Googles of the world, the Facebooks of the world, the ones that you read about. The unicorns as we like to call them. But the vast majority of small businesses and entrepreneurs never get close to that.

But that’s okay. Because we have other opportunities, there’s a whole range, there’s a whole spectrum of funding the entrepreneurs can tap. And one of Hillary’s commitments is to ensure that all entrepreneurs know where they can turn to, so whether it’s an SBA loan, a bank loan, friends and family. That they understand that spectrum and that it’s made readily available to them on one side, and as importantly, that there are incentives and projections for investors on the other side.

Now one of the great accomplishments of President Obama’s administration is that the Jobs Act was passed. The Jobs Act, among other things, includes a provision for crowd funding. That means that even the smallest of businesses can access a community of people who believe in them, who are persuaded by their business story, if you will, or pitch, and who will provide them with small amounts of capital that in aggregate are enough for that small business to advance.

So there’s such a wide array of options, and Hillary is very committed to ensuring that all entrepreneurs understand what those options are and have access to them.

Now we, I’m on the Small Business Policy, Small Business Entrepreneurship Policy Group, and one of our key focus areas also is communities of color and women entrepreneurs. Because we know that communities of color, minority communities and women entrepreneurs often face additional barriers above and beyond what every entrepreneur faces, and Hillary has already identified that as an area for focus and for policy.

And I’ll just mention the last thing because I know we’re expecting perhaps to take a few questions from you all.

Another one of the really important initiatives that Hilary’s committed to is ensuring that the networks that help entrepreneurs advance, have opportunities to connect where we build public/private partnerships to connect, convene and catalyze those private sector initiatives. That was our focus and our charge when I ran the Global Entrepreneurship program at the State Department and it will be our focus and our charge as we work with the private sector to advance entrepreneurs and small businesses.

So with that, why don’t I turn I back over to Miriam, or maybe just Laetitia and I can stand up here and answer any questions you might have.

Any questions? We can repeat the question.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

MS GARRIOTT: The question was whether we posted a list of entrepreneurs supporting Hillary. It is a list that is obviously not complete. There are many great entrepreneurs in America that support Hillary across a wide range of sectors, and all types of companies. So on the website, if you go to the wall you can see a number of great entrepreneurs supporting Hillary Clinton and why they support Hillary.

MS PORGES: Maybe I could also add just a couple of words about Entrepreneurs for Hillary and what we are and what we’re doing.

We started this organization entirely as volunteers, Laetitia and I and our three co-founders were all supporting Hillary in many ways -- fundraising, outreach, policy input and so forth. And we felt like there was a huge community of entrepreneurs who would do the same if we, as I like to call it, you know, raised the flag. So as volunteers we set up this organization. We have a five-person volunteer digital team. Everything we do is volunteer. And any of the donations that come through Entrepreneurs for Hillary goes directly to campaign links. So we don’t take a penny of anything. It just goes directly to the campaign.

But we’re excited that overall we’ve mobilized thousands of entrepreneurs around the country, raised quite a bit of money. Much of it is new money to the campaign which is always a challenge for any campaign, and the wall that Laetitia was talking about, we launched today, it’s an exemplary wall of some really high profile, very accomplished entrepreneurs who have chosen to back Hillary.

MS GARRIOTT: If there isn’t any other question, we’ll close.

MODERATOR: Thank you all very much for coming.

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