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MSNBC rolls into DU

More than 200 joined in a spirited town hall-style give and take for MSNBC television host Dylan Ratigan’s Steel on Wheels tour, discussing job creation and technology and innovation at the University of Denver.

More than 200 University of Denver students and community members grilled a panel of experts on technology and innovation Jan. 28 as MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan rolled into Denver on his national Steel on Wheels tour.

Ratigan took the stage at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts calling for entrepreneurs and new technologies to lead the country out of its unemployment troubles.

“The vast majority of work is created by recently formed companies,” he said. “Legacy businesses — older businesses — are less likely to create new jobs.”

The panel included Corrine Lengsfeld, a DU associate professor of engineering; Andrew Jenks, host of MTV’s World of Jenks show; Nicole Glaros, managing director of TechStars Boulder; and Matt Miller of The Washington Post and host of the radio show Left, Right & Center.

The town-hall-style discussion broadcast live on the Internet invited attendees to ask questions and sought questions via Twitter and Skype. Topics veered from the government’s role in job creation to startup financing to health care.

Responding to one DU student’s question about how to get started, the experienced panel was encouraging and realistic when it came to taking a chance on entrepreneurship.

“Do it when you’re young,” Miller advised. “You don’t have family, children, and a whole lot of other complications that make it difficult to take risks.”

“When you don’t have anything to lose, you have everything to gain,” Glaros added.

But, Lengsfeld advised, entrepreneurs also should be patient and remember that it’s the project that counts in the early days, not the financial rewards.

“I was poor for a long time,” she said.

While other of her engineering friends enjoyed financial success earlier, Lengsfeld said she took the slow road to her position at the University and found something more important in a fulfilling, creative career with the freedom to explore.

With very few opening remarks or a framework to work from, participants were encouraged to delve into issues that mattered to them. Panelists found themselves discussing immigration one moment and the national debt the next.

However, one theme did emerge: Government is playing a role in the employment and economic development picture, but the system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.

Instead of freeing entrepreneurs to nurture new industries and advancements, government regulations influenced by big business are instead making it harder to get going.

“It’s like playing football with a greased ball and being told you have bad hands,” Ratigan said.

And when it comes to entrepreneurship, Lengsfeld said, government can’t create new startups but it can get out of the way.

“Top down doesn’t really work,” she said. “It’s got to be bottom up.”

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