Please read Tom Friedman’s post on start ups.  Here’s the most important sentences:

Good-paying jobs don’t come from bailouts. They come from start-ups. And where do start-ups come from? They come from smart, creative, inspired risk-takers. How do we get more of those? There are only two ways: grow more by improving our schools or import more by recruiting talented immigrants.

The one area of the economy where we should be most focused on innovation is education, but it’s the one area where the federal government refuses to engage the private sector–it’s tradition, it’s bizarre, it’s dangerous.

I told an impact investor (e.g., seeking high social return and high market return) this week that I’m confident that a $65m learning fund of funds would create more impact, more jobs, and more leverage than the $650m i3 grant program that will be doled out primarily to school districts in the coming months.  I deeply respect the folks running the program, but they are saddled with bad legislation that does not allow private sector grants/investments the way Energy, Transportation, Health, and Defense do on a regular basis.

A fund of funds could include six $10m investments in funds focused on innovations in learning.  Alternatively, an updated SBIC approach using debt instruments could serve the same purpose.

This all may sound self-serving given my interest in Revolution Learning, the only dedicated early state learning venture fund, but it’s really about the most important sector of the economy that spends next to nothing on R&D.  We need to quickly and dramatically increase public and private investment in learning innovation or we will give up our leadership in the innovation economy.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is author of Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation, Charter Board Partners and Bloomboard. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.

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