Navigating the land of Trump-portunities
By Mike Panesis
Donald Trump is not my president. He is my country’s president, so we need to prepare for the next four years with him in charge. Most true entrepreneurs are constantly evaluating startup opportunities, especially during times of great change. President-elect Trump has issued an action plan for his first 100 days in office and beyond. It’s both audacious and maddening, surprisingly not all bad, and has the potential to change the country profoundly. There will be plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Heck, let’s even call them Trump-portunities. And, believe me, people say they will be seriously fantastic in a bigly way.
Here’s a sample. Some are serious and others border on ridiculous, but if I’ve learned anything during this election cycle, it’s hard to tell the difference.
• Renewable energy: The Trump plan’s cold shoulder toward climate change is short-sighted, but it really doesn’t mention renewable energy. Frankly, federal policy toward renewable energy has never been consistent and too often becomes a political football. Instead, raise funds to privatize the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Lab in Boulder, Colo., and push innovations through groups like the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to accelerate commercialization. The only way for renewable energy to permanently replace fossil fuels is to be cheaper. If President Trump is serious about eliminating special interests, it will reduce the influence of fossil fuel dependent industries and give renewable energy a level playing field. While we’re at it, let’s fix renewable energy’s identity problem among conservatives. Call it new nuclear energy instead. After all, the sun is just a big nuclear fusion reactor.
• Manufacturing: Trump the campaigner made it sound like there were no manufacturing jobs left in the country. Yes, China is the largest manufacturer in the world, but the USA is a strong second, way ahead of Japan in third. According to the MAPI Foundation, China owns 23.2 percent of world manufacturing vs. 17.2 percent for the USA, but with four times the population. Which country is better positioned to thrive in a high-tech world? I believe that President Trump will discover a budding manufacturing renaissance in the USA. There are plenty of new opportunities in 3-D printing and new manufacturing technologies. He’ll take credit for it, too, even though it began long before he took office.
• Tech: We like to add “tech” to the end of buzzwords. So many of them could benefit from President Trump’s plan. How can edtech serve an education system free of Common Core constraints? If Trump’s effect on monetary and trade policy destabilizes the dollar, fintech innovations like bitcoin might become more important. If there are no undocumented immigrants to work in the fields, what agtech innovations can fill the void? How can govtech make a shrinking federal government infrastructure more efficient?
• Health care: President-elect Trump already is backpedaling on the Affordable Care Act, so there still should be plenty of opportunities to provide affordable health care for all. As an angel investor, I was pleased to read that Trump will take aim at cutting red tape at the Food and Drug Administration. Whenever I hear a life science investor pitch, the specter of a long, arduous path to FDA approval immediately raises a yellow flag. The European Union’s CE Mark approval process is so efficient that it has been adopted around the world. Perhaps adopting the same standard could give American entrepreneurs a truly global advantage.
• Swamp juice: Trump’s plan takes steps to “drain the swamp,” reducing the influence of special interests in D.C. According to OpenSecrets.org, for the 10-year period ending in 2015, an astounding $32.18 billion, more than $3 billion per year, was spent on lobbying. Imagine if all that money went into a venture capital fund instead. What good could you do with that?
• Anger management: Trump’s campaign spoke directly to millions of disenfranchised Americans who are unhappy with the direction of the country. In entrepreneurial terms, he identified a huge problem. Trump’s plan calls for putting those people back to work, but I worry that it’s not enough of a solution. It does nothing to heal wounds infected by prejudice, fear and resentment that have plagued this country for generations.
• Mike Panesis is the executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at California Lutheran University.