October 10–11, 2016  •  San Francisco, CA
Penny Pritzker

Penny Pritzker
US Secretary of Commerce, US Department of Commerce


Most people have no idea what the Department of Commerce does. Its mission is to “promote job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development.” What I love is that they are thinking hard about the infrastructure of the future. They’ve convened a digital economy task force with some very clued-in folks participating and are also looking at what data might be required to better measure the economy of the future. (All of the government statistical agencies are part of the Department of Commerce.) Secretary Pritzker is an entrepreneur in her own right. I can’t wait to hear how she is thinking about the challenges of the Next Economy and the infrastructure of the future.

— Tim O’Reilly

Quotes from Secretary Pritzker

I grew up in a household that revered building businesses. It wasn’t thinking about leadership; it was more about building something. To build something, you ultimately have to lead.

Every country is distinct, but I have found that all innovators and entrepreneurs need the same basic foundation in order to succeed: access to capital, high-speed Internet, and a skilled workforce; the rule of law; intellectual property protection; and a culture and legal system with a high tolerance for risk taking. As entrepreneurs, you know that these are the necessary ingredients for success.

In the United States, we embrace the role government can play in building this foundation and providing these core elements that support entrepreneurs. Our government does not create new companies. But our government does help create conditions that give entrepreneurs the space to take risks, to collaborate, to find financial support, to find customers, and, ultimately, to thrive.


Penny Pritzker has served as the 38th US secretary of commerce since June 2013. In this role, she is focused on providing American businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow and hire. A key member of President Obama’s economic team, Secretary Pritzker previously founded and ran five different businesses in the real estate, hospitality, senior living, and financial services industries. Since taking office, she has worked closely with the business community and helped advance the president’s priorities of expanding growth and opportunity for all Americans. Guided by conversations with more than 2,000 CEOs and business leaders, including over one-third of the Fortune 500 CEOs, Secretary Pritzker has developed the Open for Business Agenda, which focuses on expanding trade and investment, unleashing government data for economic benefit, spurring innovation, and protecting the environment. She was recently honored as the inaugural recipient of the Commercial Diplomat of the Year award. Secretary Pritzker earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University and JD and MBA degrees from Stanford University.