So, about two dozen high-profile and quasi-high-profile young business leaders were invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with senior Obama administration officials Friday to discuss the future of the ravaged U.S. economy. And I've got to respect the fact that the administration wants to hear from young, outside-the-box entrepreneurs. But, of course, the dial on the snark machine has been turned up to 11.
I don't have a complete list of attendees, but we've learned through various channels that the roster includes Kluster founder Ben Kaufman, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, Toms Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie, Threadless exec Jake Nickell, marketer Josh Spear, former Googler Chris Sacca, and the one everyone's making the jokes about--Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. The punch line, of course, is why the Obama administration would ever want to hear economic advice from the head of a company that has been fueled by buzz rather than profits thus far. (Side note: Were any women invited?)
As Hsieh Twittered, the purpose of the visit was to discuss "ways to help economy that administration may not have thought of yet." It's arguable that administration officials could learn more sage advice from, say, a bright young thing who's made a quick ascent at an existing corporation rather than founded a quirky start-up that's only a few years old.
But at the same time, the White House invitees have all had interesting ideas (with varying degrees of innovation) that they've gotten off the ground and turned into businesses, and it sounds like ideas are what are on the agenda here. I highly doubt that President Obama will suddenly decide that economic recovery isn't important simply because Twitter currently preaches a gospel of growth over profits.
One thing I hope is discussed: what these young business leaders, regardless of what you think about their companies' moneymaking prospects, have to say about getting many of their smart, well-educated peers back in the workforce. I'm in my mid-20s, and have seen scores of my high school and college classmates ravaged by layoffs, particularly in the finance sector. Many others who are in grad school are uncertain of their post-graduation opportunities. In the past week alone I've learned about two more of my acquaintances leaving town to seek employment somewhere where the cost of living is lower.
Some industry figureheads, like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself a veteran entrepreneur, have started making strides to put laid-off professionals back to work at start-ups and forward-thinking small businesses. That's a great idea, and obviously, the people who run existing start-ups both inside and outside the digital space are going to be the ones who have the most to say about it.
Josh Spear posted to Twitter on Friday that he believes the contents of the meeting will be public record. I'm looking forward to hearing what was talked about.