The Decade Project

Catalyzing American entrepreneurship to look like America

Students sitting at tables in an entrepreneurship class. Above them is a message on the wall reading Question the Status Quo.Even though professional faculty member Maura O’Neill, BCEMBA 04, started her first company 40 years ago, the hurdles she faced as a female entrepreneur are largely the same ones currently faced by her students who are women and/or students of color. “These Berkeley students are super smart, have great ideas with grit oozing out of their DNA,” says O’Neill. What are we missing as a community and as a nation, she wondered, by leaving this talent on the sidelines, particularly when both the problems and the opportunities are huge?

O’Neill analyzed big data sets and found that if American business ownership reflected the race, ethnicity, and gender of the nation’s population, the country could have 2.4 million more businesses, 20 million more jobs, and a $4 trillion increase in annual GDP. At the state level, those whose business ownership more closely reflects their population have 2.5 times higher GDP than states lagging further behind. “Everyone wins when this happens,” O’Neill says.

At current rates, it will take over 700 years for American entrepreneurship to look like America. But O’Neill launched The Decade Project to accelerate the path to parity in 10 years. “If we can put a man on the moon in a decade and bring him back safely without first knowing the technology,” she says, “we can do this.”

TDP’s research shows that four areas are key to success: role models, financial capital, knowledge, and connections. In addition to mobilizing a national ecosystem of partners in each of the areas, TDP is identifying ways to leverage the flood of federal and private investment dollars (estimated to be $8 trillion) associated with the transition to a sustainable economy to seize this opportunity and catalyze local leaders across the nation.

What’s in it for Your State?

The Decade Project data indicates that if American business ownership reflected the local population, the country could have over 2 million more employer firms. How many would your state gain?

Illustration showing Decade Project data by state.

How Long to Reach Equality?

At current rates, if nothing changes, it will take over 700 years for American business ownership to look like America.*

Circle chart demonstrating the length of time required for different ethnicities to reach equality in business ownership. The outer ring is for indigenous Americans followed in order by Black Americans, all women an the Latinx community, and Asian Americans. For the latter, they are at parity but only in a few states for Asian women business owners.

*Trends based on 2019 Census Data.

**As a whole, Asian Americans are at parity, but it is not true for every Asian subgroup.