TAIPEI (CNA) – Governments should do whatever they can to create an ecosystem supportive of small businesses and to help minorities access entrepreneurship opportunities, Eugene Cornelius, deputy associate administrator for the Office of International Trade with the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), said in Taipei on Friday.
The mission of the SBA is to create jobs, and the “best arsenal” to accomplish the mission is “to create entrepreneurs or to support entrepreneurs,” said Cornelius, who on Saturday concluded his eight-day visit to Taiwan to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week.
In a joint media interview on Friday, Cornelius said small businesses play an extremely important role in the U.S. as they account for 96-97 percent of U.S. businesses and four out of five jobs in the U.S. are created by small companies.
Given the importance of small businesses to job creation, Cornelius said that the SBA has undertaken a host of projects to “support major things that small businesses need,” ranging from providing counseling services, and creating access to capital and government contracts, to reducing bank loan interest rates, so that they can grow, thrive and scale.
Turning to the assistance SBA offers to women-led small businesses and small businesses owned by minorities, Cornelius said that helping people of underserved communities go into entrepreneurship or start their own business can reduce the unemployment rate of the groups.
“When we look at our employment and our underserved communities, we also know that people tend to hire people who look alike and have culturally related similarities,” he said.
Taking women-led enterprises as an example, Cornelius said: “If we empower women, we know that we would more likely reduce the unemployment in our female population and we will give access to opportunities (to people) who are coming out of the universities.” Cornelius said the society should be more open to underserved communities and women to make sure that they are producing their own products, becoming inventors, scientists, engineers and innovators, and growing and scaling their companies.
“And like I said, when they do that, they tend to hire people who look like and act like them. And that is role model for our younger generations of women and girls coming up. And that continues a life cycle and promotes a positive image and it helps advance all economies across the world,” Cornelius added.
Asked what he sees as barriers that Taiwan has to overcome for its startup ecosystem to thrive, Cornelius said what he would say is that: “Taiwan was a leader in hardware and in the industry, and as software became more prevalent, Taiwan took a step back.” It’s time for Taiwan to step forward, Cornelius said.
“There should be a resurgent of that what happened in the ’80s and ’90s with the hardware into the 2000s and 2017,” he said.
Asked about Taiwan’s catch-up strategies in the development of software industry, Cornelius said a suggestion that came up in the discussions he had in Taiwan was that the U.S. and Taiwan could continue to work together based on the great existing relationships and partnerships, to move the two countries forward.
In terms of the often-noted difficulties of getting funding and recruiting talent faced by Taiwan’s entrepreneurs, Cornelius said the problems are global issues.
When it comes to startups around the world, access to capital is a very strong and high barrier to entry, Cornelius said.
“We, at the SBA, work through our long programs to guarantee to help financial institutions and banks support small businesses, but yet, it’s still a very difficult hurdle to get over,” he said.
In terms of the talent shortage, Cornelius said that economies around the world have always been relying on the old industrial way of teaching and educating students that “we will graduate you to go find a job.” But he thinks that it’s necessary to go into schools and universities and talk about entrepreneurs and the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur.
“And not necessarily just giving our young educated minds to go work for larger, medium-sized companies, but to create and be an innovator in their own rights, to be entrepreneurs and create jobs,” he said.
By Shih Hsiu-chuan