“Small businesses make up the backbone of the global economy, not just the American economy.” — Nagesh Rao
G. Nagesh Rao (USA ’16) was the Chief Technologist, Senior Policy Advisor and Geek in Residence at the United States Small Business Administration, and in March 2018 became the Director of Business Technology Solutions (BiTs) at the federal agency. Simply put, that means he is one of the government’s main evangelists and change agents for entrepreneurship in the sciences and technology. Rao’s work has always involved connecting and seeding resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses to catalyze their growth and impact. His fellowship, however, allowed him to bring his work to a global scale. Rao now connects U.S. small businesses through a network of Fellows around the globe, and helps advise tech accelerators and hubs in other countries on best practices and identify collaborative opportunities.
Within government, he has also been able to convince colleagues at the Small Business Administration that by investing in businesses outside of the U.S., there is a greater chance of creating peace in regions where normally humanitarian aid was the sole source of investment. Rao brokered an experimental effort between SBA and the United States Agency for International Development to ensure that small business and economic development, through the recently launched Small Business Applied Research Pilot Program (SBAR) was a focus of their investments overseas. That is in keeping with the ethos of Eisenhower Fellowships: peace in a region requires more than humanitarian aid. It also requires the creation of economic opportunities for people to thrive.