Rebooting the American Dream: Challenge Grants for Emerging Innovation Ecosystems

Author: Scott Resnick


Rebooting the American Dream (RAD) is a proposed national challenge-grant program that funds “Regional Centers for Shared Prosperity” in emerging innovation ecosystems, with the intent of (1) accelerating startup creation, (2) developing the next-generation of talent, and (3) providing alternative capitalization models. It is expected that initially funding the program to award six regional challenge grants of $25 million each will yield at least a 3:1 return in private-dollar investments—for a total of $500 million—and create at least 21,000 jobs in underserved areas of the country. In light of the massive job losses induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, RAD grants will build momentum behind existing place-based initiatives and help surface the wealth of diverse human potential and innovation that exists across the United States.

The RAD proposal aims to revive entrepreneurship across America by helping give every American, regardless of geography, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, the opportunity to build a competitive company. Advancements in internet capabilities, communication tools, and information technology have made entrepreneurship accessible to more people in more places than ever before. Yet massive job losses related to COVID-19 and ever-growing global competition require the United States to discover new ways to create sustainable jobs. Over the past decade, initiatives led by the federal government in partnership with academics and nonprofits have given policymakers a markedly better understanding of the issues facing entrepreneurs. RAD is directly informed by this body of knowledge. By supporting bottom-up, place-based investment and building a network of new ideas through RAD, the Biden-Harris Administration can simultaneously foster American dynamism and strengthen American economic competitiveness.

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About the Author

Scott Resnick is a leader in the Wisconsin startup ecosystem. He is the former Executive Director, current Entrepreneur-in-Residence, and serves on the executive board of StartingBlock Madison, a 50,000-square-foot entrepreneurial hub that connects startups to capital clustered in healthcare, mobility, risk and insurance, and social impact. StartingBlock’s motto is “Think big. Fear less. Listen deeply.”

In 2008, Scott co-founded Hardin Design & Development. He currently serves as the company’s Chief Operations Officer. Headquartered in Madison, the company has grown to an eight-figure revenue by building enterprise GIS and web applications for Fortune 500 clients. Resnick oversees business development, partnerships, and company operations.

Scott is a former two-term member of the City of Madison Common Council. He entered the Council with a pledge to make Madison a platform for innovation, specifically targeting social mobility. Resnick led efforts to close the digital divide by piloting free internet access for students on free and reduced lunch, created the first-of-its-kind $1.5 million seed fund to spur women and minority entrepreneurship in the city, and legalized opportunities in the sharing economy. Scott strongly advocated for transit-oriented urban and sustainable development as a member of the Plan Commission and was instrumental in passing the City’s annual $300 million budget.