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Intel, Google, Facebook back Obama startup love

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Intel, IBM, HP, Google, and Facebook are putting their money where the mouths are in support of the Obama administration's new business-boosting initiative, the Startup America Partnership. Well, some are giving more mouth than money.

"Entrepreneurs embody the promise of America: the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard and see it through, you can succeed in this country," Barack Obama said in a White House statement announcing the program.

"And in fullfilling this promise," he continued, "entrepreneurs also play a critical role in expanding our economy and creating jobs." Ah, the sacred J-word, one that dominates most American political discourse these days.

Some of the tech giants are writing large checks in support of Obama's new baby, while others are merely providing services, advice, and, well, good intentions.

As explained on Monday in Startup America's inaugural announcement, Intel, through its Intel Capital arm, has committed to $200m in new investments to US companies, and will provide advice to Startup America from "senior Intel leadership".

IBM is down for a cool $150m in 2011 "to fund programs that promote entrepreneurs and new business opportunities," while HP's contribution is both smaller and more targeted: $4m in 2011 for the company's Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (HP LIFE) training program that "helps entrepreneurs and small business owners develop essential IT and business skills."

Facebook and Google haven't put dollar figures on their participation. According to Startup America, Zuckerberg & Co will host 12 to 15 "Startup Days" around the US to "provide entrepreneurs with access to expertise, resources and engineers to help accelerate their businesses."

For its part, Google plans to work with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in the San Francisco Bay Area, a nonprofit that provides entrpreneurial support for low-income students and their teacher. Hey, it may not be $200m or $150m, but every little bit helps.

The Startup America Partnership will be chaired by Steve Case, late of AOL co-founder fame, now CEO of entrepreneur-incubating firm Revolution, and an old hand at both getting companies off the ground and in navigating the rocky shoals of Washington politics.

Case will have his work cut out for him. Although the economy is recovering nicely for the top end of the US citizenship – the Dow Jones Industrial Average is handily over 12,000 as we write this – for Average Joe and Average Jane, times remain tough.

Small business has traditionally been a driver of job creation, and entrepreneurship has traditionally been a driver of small business. Whether or not the US goes down the crapper may very well be decided in classrooms and startup garages.

It's good to see Intel investing in education and the Startup America Partnership's partner companies digging into their burgeoning reserves to help jump-start startups.

There are plenty of other companies out there with billions in cash and short-term securities, though, that could help seed the startups that if successful would provide them with less cash-strapped customers.

Apple, for example, is sitting on $59.7bn, some of which that could be put to use for more than buying up the world's NAND. C'mon, Steve, grab your checkbook. ®

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