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May 11 2017 by

How to Understand Your Startup Community

Guest Post: Max Rehkopf is Head of Growth at Hardbound, a startup that makes five-minute illustrated summaries of the best books in business, history, and science (Sign up here). Hardbound is constantly on the lookout for the best business books. If you’d like to recommend they make a Hardbound about one of your favorites (including books here on Startup Revolution) let them know here.

Its my great pleasure to share with you Startup Communities, a video series explaining each of the participants in a startup community. The story behind this series is explained below:

It’s rare that you can attribute years of your life to the happenings of one day. For me, that day was April 1, 2015. This is not a joke.

On April fools day in 2015, I was offered to pitch my startup to Julie Penner, Director of Techstars Boulder. Julie is a pillar of the Boulder startup community and I was introduced to her through my school’s startup competition.

My team and I crowded into a very small conference room, and I did my best to deliver our pitch.

Julie was gracious. She let us know right then and there that were not ready for Techstars. We were crushed, yet what she said next changed my life.

She did as all leaders in startup communities should, she was radically inclusive, and said that if we needed anything, we should reach out.

Somehow, maybe from the look in her eyes, I could tell that she actually meant it.

After our meeting that day, I did reach out, and she gave me the job that I spent the next two years of my life doing. In my case, investing in the startup community, starting first with my universities entrepreneurship program, opened the doors to one of the greatest experiences of my life.

In my two years at Techstars Boulder I saw the power of community firsthand, and was inspired.

I was inspired to take long walks with other pillars of the community and ask them how a startup community really works. From those walks I produced a short video series explaining the roles and contributions of each and every member of a startup community.

It was my gift back to the startup community, and all 10 videos premiered at Techstars Boulder Demo Day 2017.

With this series anyone can, in 10 minutes, learn about their startup community and how to get involved. If you’re lucky, like me, you’ll run into a leader of the community. With effort, new doors will keep on opening. Enjoy!

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Apr 19 2017 by

Startup Communities and Saturday Morning Coffee

A recent article in 5280 Magazine caught my attention. It profiled the economic vitality of the Boulder-Denver region, dubbing it “The Most Exciting and Innovative Tech Hub in the Country.” While I expect every local publication to champion its own hometown, this one happens to be on stronger footing than most others. You see, at least in terms of innovation and startup activity, Boulder is unique among its peers.

The article—which is excellent by the way—couldn’t have come at a better time for me personally. A few days ago, I moved myself and my family to Boulder to work on a book about startup communities. Not only did I come here to work closely with my friend and co-author Brad Feld, I also wanted to experience first-hand what makes this place so special. I came here to learn… and to contribute.

Boulder may be small, but it is mighty. My own research demonstrates that Boulder is a major outlier among American cities when taking into account population size: it has the highest density of technology startups in the country (by a long shot) and it has the second highest concentration of venture capital dollars invested behind the San Francisco-Silicon Valley region. This research is a few years old, but more recent figures confirm the trend.

As the chart above shows, when adjusting for city population size, Boulder has more than 10 times the average for the entire United States—second only to San Francisco-Silicon Valley, which has about 20 times the US overall. Boulder’s venture capital investment per resident far exceeds that of Boston-Cambridge, New York City, and Los Angeles.

Critics may suggest that per-capita figures are misleading, and that what really matters is critical mass. It is true that Boulder is small—with approximately 108,000 residents in the city itself, and about 322,000 in the broader metropolitan area, it is most similar in size to South Bend and Green Bay. And, in absolute terms, Boulder accounted for just 1.2 percent of total venture capital invested in the United States between 2009-2016. By comparison, Denver’s contribution was 1.6 percent and San Francisco-Silicon Valley’s was 40 percent.

But, Boulder’s undeniable successes dispel those critiques. Google and Twitter acquired local startups SketchUp and Gnip, and both maintain sizable (and growing) outposts here. Biotech firms Clovis Oncology and Nivalis Therapeutics each raised north of $100M in capital on their way to public listings on the NASDAQ. SendGrid was founded in Boulder in 2009, and although the company moved headquarters to Denver last year, most of its growth—the company employs around 400 people today—occurred in Boulder. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

So, what makes Boulder so special?

To start with, Boulder has some obvious natural advantages. It is a beautiful place to live, has copious amounts of sunshine, and a vibe that attracts people who are active, mobile, and educated. It has a major research university and hosts an array of public and private R&D facilities. Historically, Boulder has boasted flagship companies in data storage, pharmaceuticals, and natural foods, which spawned a number of startups in these areas.

However, many places have some or all of those resources, yet lag behind Boulder. In fact, research has shown that the average relationship (correlation) between these factors and local high-tech or high-growth startup activity is tenuous—cities that are startup hubs have most or all of these qualities, but not all cities that have most or all of these qualities are startup hubs. In other words, these “assets,” as I will call them, are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a dynamic startup ecosystem.

If it’s not hard assets that make the difference, then what does?

In her seminal work, Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128, AnnaLee Saxenian demonstrated that the differentiating factor for Silicon Valley’s success was culture. Silicon Valley firms and institutions had porous boundaries, engineers and entrepreneurs cooperated in a system that valued technological progress over firm identity, and the region embodied a flat, network-based approach to innovation and “collaborative competition.” It wasn’t just the quantity nor the quality of individual actors in Silicon Valley that decided its fate—though both were necessary—but instead, it was the way in which they engaged with each other and with the system as a whole that made the difference.

Brad’s 2012 book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, which this blog is largely a dedication to, is also fundamentally about culture and approach. It describes the attitude of the startup community in Boulder, drawing broader lessons for other regions to learn from. Among these are inclusiveness, playing positive-sum games, being mentorship driven, having porous boundaries, and giving before you get, along with others.

“What we discovered is a community [in Boulder and Denver] full of ambitious leaders who value cooperation” ~ 5280 Magazine

I’m only a few of days in, but I can already see something is special here. Boulder may look like a small city (~108K residents), and it may act like a small city (people are very friendly and open), but it doesn’t feel like a small city—at least not like the small cities I have known. Boulder is an unmistakably vibrant place, with an army of smart, enthusiastic people doing interesting things, and having fun along the way.

Ok, but what’s this got to do with coffee?

After two days of driving to get here—some of it through poor, mountainous weather—my dog and I were a little on edge. To make matters worse, we had a bizarre run-in with a giant, angry cat upon arrival that left her quite shaken. Frankie is a very sensitive soul, and this series of events—the travel, the new environment, and the cat from hell—left her even more clingy to me than ever.

Saturday morning rolled around and I needed my coffee. The house I’m renting was empty of rations, so I ventured out to the local java establishment. Dogs are very much welcomed outside, as could easily be seen by the array of them on the sidewalk (one local said to me, “Welcome to the West Pearl Dog Park!”), but forbidden from going inside. Fair enough. But Frankie wasn’t having it. She was not ok with any sort of separation between us. How the hell was I going to get my coffee without further traumatizing her?

That’s when the community kicked in. Two tables of complete strangers sprung into action, offering to care for my distressed dog, putting her at ease so that I could grab a cup of joe. As these, and other valiant efforts failed, one kind neighbor emerged from inside, extending to me a hot cup of coffee, a sugar-laden pastry, and a warm smile. A chair was gently pushed out from one of the tables and Frankie and I were invited to join in Saturday morning conversation, as if we had done so many times before.

What became immediately obvious to me is that these people—a diverse bunch—know each other very well. They all live in the immediate neighborhood, had done so for many years, and they interacted frequently at their favorite neighborhood meetup. And yet, here they were, immediately welcoming a stranger into their world, sharing ideas and insights about the place they call home.

It was all there right in front of me, what I had come to learn about, contribute to, and be a part of—a community of established “leaders”, who were inclusive, cooperative, playing a positive sum game, giving before they received, and mentoring a newcomer. It was what I had heard about, but was experiencing first-hand in a totally unexpected way—which in my experience, is how some of the deepest learnings occur.

Things unfolded as they needed to, and I’m looking forward to the adventure ahead. I do it with eyes open, ready for my opportunity to pay it forward… as one does in a community.

Since I’m new, I’d love to get in touch. If you’re local and want to meetup, you can find me on Twitter or via email. Thanks in advance for the warm welcome. And, let me know how I can be of help.

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Jun 5 2014 by

Brad Feld on Denver- ID8 Interview

Brad Feld, a Managing Director at Foundry Group and Co-founder of Techstars, speaks prolifically about Boulder, the Boulder community, and how Boulder has come to be an international renown startup community.

What many do not know is that Boulder has sister startup communities in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs – the four innovation hubs of Colorado.

In this interview with ID8, Brad talks about the entrepreneurial growth that Denver has been experiencing in the last few years. Among the topics covered are Boulder’s relationship with Denver as well as what Denver needs to do to take their startup community to the next level.

Source: http://www.entrepreneurship.org/en/ID8/Denver/Drivers/Brad-Feld-on-Denver.aspx

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Dec 8 2013 by

Startup Communities – Lessons Learned

This is a guest post by Jeff Keen, the CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. The post originally appeared on Accelerate Okanagan’s website.

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I just returned from the Startup Phenomenon conference in Boulder where I had the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends and meet some new amazing people from around the globe.

We talked about everything startup community from culture, entrepreneurs, events, finance, corporations, and governments to networking models and measuring success.  Brad Feld and Jim Collins provided some incredible insight on how to take our startup communities from “Good to Great”.  The conversation was inspirational and ended far too soon.  I would like to keep the conversation going through this blog and encourage you to chime in with your thoughts, learnings & suggestions from your startup community.

To kick off the conversation, let’s start with a review of Brad Feld’s four pillars for building a successful startup community and how our own experiences relate to these concepts.

The first of Feld’s four pillars is that for a startup community to be sustainable over time it must led by entrepreneurs.  Many other organizations can play key roles in the startup community but they cannot be the leaders.

The challenge for many startup communities at the early stage of development is identifying and engaging with successful entrepreneurs.  This was the case for our community.  Here are a few lessons we learned along the way that can help engage entrepreneurs in your community:

  1. Hold events and activities that are appealing to entrepreneurs.  Events should be fun, casual and provide an environment for entrepreneurs to connect with community members without having to worry about being constantly pitched or inundated with requests for their time.  I would suggest that morning coffee meetups are a great way to begin the engagement process with entrepreneurs in your community.  One event that has proven to be very successful in our community is Startup Drinks, a monthly event that is hosted at various tech companies around town that regularly attract a full house of attendees representing a great cross-section of community members .  The venue is free, beer is donated by a local micro brewery and the networking is off the charts!
  2. Be consistent and patient.  If possible, community events should happen at the same time on the same day of the week, and preferably at the same location.  When entrepreneurs become comfortable attending community events and activities, they will attend on a more regular basis and invite the friends to join them – familiarity breeds comfort and this will eventually lead to more engagement.  One event that follows this pattern in our community is “Entrepreneurs Unplugged” which happens on the first Monday of every month at the Streaming Cafe at 6pm.  Entrepreneurs Unplugged provides a venue for local entrepreneurs to talk about their journey, share their successes and failures and inspire the next generation of creative, innovative, entrepreneurial thought leaders in our community.
  3. Identify and engage “rock star” entrepreneurs.  These are people who are recognized in the community for having significant success as an entrepreneur.   Our startup community gained significant momentum when the three most successful technology entrepreneurs became more outwardly facing and accessible in the community.  Although active behind the scenes for several years, this heightened level of engagement added a new level of credibility and “cool factor” to community events and activities.  These three leaders are now hosting coffee meetups, community building activities and are deeply involved in supporting social entrepreneurship and social enterprise initiatives.
  4. Identify and support volunteer, community driven organizations with a shared vision of supporting startups and entrepreneurship.  As a partially government funded organization our first foray into delivering community events and activities were done behind the Accelerate Okanagan brand.  What we found over time is that it was much more effective to identify likeminded community organizations and support their event and activity efforts.  We did this by providing venues, speakers, registration services and refreshments but took a back seat and remained behind the scenes.  Also, it should not have been a surprise to find out that entrepreneurs were active in many of these grassroots community organizations.
Brad Feld and Jim Collins
Brad Feld and Jim Collins

In his book “Startup Communties” Feld talks about the difference between leaders (entrepreneurs) and feeders (everyone else) including government, academia, service providers, venture capital, mentors etc. and that feeders play a key role but cannot be leaders.  One very interesting anecdote raised at the  conference, and supported by Feld,  was that individuals from feeder organizations can take on a leadership role in the community if they act as individuals and not representatives of the feeder organizations.  The key is they must share the “give before you get” philosophy.   I would support this notion and state that our community is very fortunate to have several individuals from feeder organizations who willingly volunteer their time and expertise to support entrepreneurs and are regular participants in startup community events and activities.

I would also recommend not underestimating the power of the grass roots volunteer organizations in your community and the leadership role they can play in fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem.  We are extremely fortunate to have organizations in our community like OKDG (Okanagan Developer Group), DO (Digital Okanagan) and OYP (Okanagan Young Professionals) that are behind several startup community events and activities like Startup Weekend, Okanagan Startup Week, TEDx Kelowna, Startup Drinks and several weekly meetups.  Amazing volunteers delivering incredible events!

I would love to hear from you and learn more about how you are engaging with leaders in your community and some of the lessons you have learned along the way.

Let’s keep the conversation going!

Jeff Keen, CEO Accelerate Okanagan.

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Jeff has 25 years of experience in the technology industry, having held executive level management and leadership roles in technology organizations in both the public and private sector. Prior to joining Accelerate Okanagan, Jeff’s roles included technology entrepreneur, founder, and executive in both early-stage and high-growth technology companies. Jeff is an Honors graduate from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and is currently leading the amazing team at Accelerate Okanagan (www.accelerateokanagan.com).

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Jul 26 2013 by

Startup Phenomenon

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Join us to celebrate the launch of Startup Phenomenon and collectively build-up the Denver-Boulder corridor.
When: July 30, 2013, 5:30 – 8:00
Where: Galvanize, 1062 Delaware St, Denver, CO 80204

The Denver-Boulder corridor: At one end is a thriving community of startups, tech companies, and investors, and at the other end is…a thriving community of startups, tech companies, and investors. So why the divide? Each city is doing fine on its own, but together we can turn this region into one of the most dynamic and economically important innovation hubs in the world. Join us for drinks and networking to help us bridge the longest 25 miles in business and look for ways that Denver and Boulder’s finance communities can join forces to expand both their collective strength and their individual investment opportunities. We’ll have a few brief comments from Jim Dieters, Brad Feld and the Startup Phenomenon team.

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Jul 12 2013 by

World Startup Report: 16 Countries and Counting

Guest Post By Bowei Gai – World Startup Report – (Founder)

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A million thanks to the World Startup Report team, sponsors, and volunteers around the world for making this trip a reality. It’s been an amazing 6 months. Here’s a recap of what I’ve learned on the road.

Time flies when you’re off exploring startups in far flung lands. Six months ago I set off with just a carry-on and my trusty laptop, bright eyed and armed with boundless enthusiasm – I was ready with a capital R, to explore the world of startups. Now six months have passed and amazingly, I’ve realized that the more I learn, the more there is I need to learn. 6 months, 16 countries and 1000s of startup conversations later, I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg. The people I’ve met and the passion they have for what they do, often times in the face of great adversity is equal parts motivating and humbling. Its been a whirlwind journey so far and I am beyond excited to be able to share these findings. So on that note, here’s a little mini recap of my trip to date. Stay tuned for the full startup reports!

What in the world did I find?

India: hello, Google? Running a search engine via telephone may sound funny to the Valley, but really is it that different from asking Siri where the nearest parking lot is? Now picture Siri as a live person and put yourself in a country with 895M mobile phones vs just 35M smartphones. JustDial is a $720M empire in India…and it’s just one of many catering to this unique market.

Nepal: Don’t discount this hidden gem – even in a country where there are rations of only 12 – 16 hours of electricity per day, you can build tech firms with $100M USD exits.

Australia: Being a small yet modern and accessible country can be a double edged sword. On one hand, you get access to the latest and greatest from the West, but on the other hand, this very same lack of entrance barriers eliminates many startup opportunities for locals hoping to break onto the scene. Expect stiff competition here.

Greece/Spain: This could be a classic case of turning lemons into lemonade. 50% unemployment rate among youth might turn out to be the fire-starter that Greece/Spain startup ecosystems need.

Argentina: The story of Argentina can be told through their currency, which devalued 25% in the last 3 months. These folks are under constant pressure to produce in the midst of impossible constraints – trial by fire style. It could be argued that these conditions have produced the best entrepreneurs in Latin America.

Brasil: Size does matter. Virtually all successful Latin companies make the move to Brasil after their initial growing period, despite the unfavorable laws and social instability.

Peru: Though one of the least developed countries in South America, it’s also the place with the highest growth. Serious potential here.

Colombia: When a country invests 40% of the national budget on education, it changes things and empowers people.

Chile: StartupChile might go down in the history books as one of the best things to ever happen to Chile in this decade.

Kenya: The future of mobile payment can be seen in Kenya today. M-pesa is a micro-financing and money transfer service all easily accessible from your mobile device. It accounts for 25% of the country’s GDP.

Ethiopia: There are two 1s you have to know about Ethiopia: 1% internet penetration rate. 1M new cellphone subscribers a month.

Philippines: The Peru of Southeast Asia, but three times bigger with its 100M population plus everyone speaks perfect English. Keep an eye out for it.

Thailand: Unbelievable infrastructure and ample access to talents through its tourism. This 70M population country is poised to do well.

Myanmar: For a country that’s only a year old, its infrastructure is surprisingly developed. Those who want to jump in for low hanging fruit might already be too late.

Israel: Roughly 70% of the startup founders at our meetup believe they can build a billion dollar company. With this much ambition, drive and optimism in the room, some of them could be right.

So what’s next?

There are 13 more countries on the list, equally split between Europe (Netherlands, France, UK, Germany, Ukraine, Russia) and Asia (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore). Big things are happening for the WSR team, keep following us to access the full country by country World Startup Reports as they become available. If your country is on the list, please let us know if you would like to help! http://bit.ly/helpWSR

Oh and one more thing… *drum roll*

GOAB

We’re proud to announce the WSR closing ceremonies happening in the Philippines at the end of my 29-country tour, called Geeks-On-A-Beach. Some of our most influential and knowledgeable founders/investors from all over the world will join us at Geeks-On-A-Beach to discuss the global startup trends and opportunities, from Silicon Valley to India. This will also be where I share my overall findings, impressions and conclusions from my epic journey.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet the world’s startup founders and investors.  Sign up today and get the early bird discount. This will be an incredible event in partnership to help the local startup community in the Philippines.

@Bowei
Founder, World Startup Report

Special thanks to: 500Startups, Startup Revolution, StartupWeekend, StartupDigest, Brad Feld, Dave McClure, Flightfox, Boingo, Bizpora for making this trip a reality!


Bowei Gai

Bowei Gai is a serial entrepreneur from Silicon Valley who sold the company he co-founded, CardMunch, to LinkedIn in 2011. On New Year’s Eve of 2013, he boarded his first flight for a 9-months long trip across 29 countries and 36 cities to research the world’s startup ecosystems.

Bowei’s first project, “The China Startup Report”, received over 100,000 views on SlideShare. His new project, the India Startup Report gained over 150,000 views shortly after release. From January to June 2013, Bowei has traveled to the following places: India, Australia, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Kenya, Israel, Greece and Spain. Below is his story.

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May 20 2013 by

Startup Genealogy

Family treeWe’re beginning to see an interesting phenomenon occur with the success of Startup Communities. Readers are extrapolating the lessons within the book and are raising some interesting questions about the drivers, best practices and key components of startup communities. Recently, Dan Moore, a local Boulder IT consultant, wrote a blog post questioning the lasting impact the personnel of a former employer had on the local startup community. His blog post raises an interesting question.

How many startups have been birthed as a result of personnel from a former startup?

In his own case, Mr. Moore was an employee of XOR, (Internet technology, Systems, IT) and according to his experience some 23 companies were formed as an off fall of its sale, one of which includes the company he currently works for. This information has spurred the team here at Startup Revolution to wonder if we could put together a data set that would depict the general impact startups have on their communities.

So we decided to begin the process of sourcing information regarding such matters and are now putting together a data set on the long term residual effects of startups; no matter their outcome. Whether they failed or succeeded we want to know the impact startups have.

So we’ve got a favor to ask…we need you to fill out the form below providing us with important information on the number of companies that were spun off as a result of either the sale or closing up of a former employer.

Simply fill out and submit the form below and we’ll start building the data set.

Thanks for all the help!

-The Startup Revolution Team

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Apr 11 2013 by

3rd Annual CU Mobile App Challenge

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The Computer Science Undergraduate Advisory Committee (CSUAC) is organizing the second round of the 3rd annual Mobile Apps Challenge here in Boulder. The second round of the challenge will take place tomorrow Friday, April 12th at 5PM at Hub Boulder. The competition will include student teams from across Colorado including CU-Boulder, Colorado State University, University of Colorado at Denver, and Colorado School of Mines.

List of Applications:

Musikfly: a platform for musical influencers to manage all their music submissions in one smart, simple feed.

PicPoc: a photo manager/viewer that runs on iOS. Its interface allows you to horizontally scroll through albums of photos, and PicPoc can view photos from your phone’s photo library or you can save photos to PicPoc to keep them secure. PicPoc’s best feature is the ability to lock/unlock your viewing to a single photo, or album of photos.

MGate: an app that allows users to simulate basic logic gate connections and outputs. Users can organize and/nand/nor/not or xor gates together to simulate basic digital logic. This would be a useful tool for teaching and learning about logic gates.

JamWalkr: a social music-listening and sharing app, designed to let users decide not only what kind of music they love, but WHERE it is loved

LightStop: an app that simply does one task really well: Displays current scheduling information for the light rail

Orpheus: is a digital DJ/Jukebox streaming music service for restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, and house parties. It uses social media and machine learning to play music that is revelant to guest and patrons.

Logistics

What: 3rd Annual Mobile App Challenge: The community event 

When: Friday, April 12th at 5PM

Where: The HUB Boulder

Format: Teams will be provided a time slot to present a quick demo of their application to community members and the judges. Following the pitches, community members and judges will vote for the best teams. Scores will be combined to determine the final results.

The total cash prize is $2,000!

Free Food will be served.

Get your ticket for FREE at: http://csuac-mac.eventbrite.com

For more information, please visit: http://csuac.com/tagged/app

The event is fully sponsored by SAP!!!

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Mar 13 2013 by

The Kentucky Thesis

Guest Post By Kent OylerOPM Financial – (President)

OPM Financial LogoNot long ago the guys from Awesome Inc arranged for startup guru Brad Feld to speak at the Kentucky Center about the Boulder, Colo., startup phenomenon. Somehow Boulder has attained the mythical entrepreneurial status we also attribute to Austin, the San Francisco Bay Area and Research Triangle.

Now back in the post-Nam days, when I was a longer-haired undergrad at CU-Boulder, the only local entrepreneurs I can recall utilized baggies to distribute their product. Gnarly for sure, but definitely not a global hot spot.

So, I wondered, what changed since the late ’70s, besides the merciful death of disco? How had the most liberal college town in America transformed itself into one of the preeminent entrepreneurial communities in the world and a birthplace of TechStars?

Maybe Feld’s speech would provide some answers, so I bought a ticket (and later, his book).

From Boulder to Louisville

In Feld’s TED-style talk, he used a flip chart to quickly lay out what he calls the “Boulder Thesis” (which he stretches to 200 pages in his book, Startup Communities). In short, Feld’s Boulder Thesis states that a vibrant entrepreneurial community must:

  1. Be led by entrepreneurs who
  2. Have a long-term commitment, and
  3. Be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it, and
  4. Continually engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.

Understand that Boulder, which is fondly referred to as “eight square miles surrounded by reality,” sports five major research labs and the most degreed population in the United States. So it’s a pseudo-Oz, and whatever they do or (now legally) smoke out there might not translate to Kentucky.

OPM FinancialBut what if it does? What if our most ambitious people self-organized into the best job and wealth creation machine this side of the Rockies?

I’m here to proclaim that the soul of the Boulder Thesis is, indeed, beginning to trend right here in the Bluegrass. Granted, we don’t yet match their 2013 Rockin’ Mountain High community, but (cue Journey) we are at least in the ’80s, or maybe even (fade to Pearl Jam) the ’90s in Boulder time, edging ever closer to the so-2009 Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got A Feeling.” (Way to remix those metaphors.) 

My point is that this region is slowly but surely crafting its own energetic entrepreneurial community under flag bearers such as Phoebe Wood, Doug Cobb, Bob Saunders, Kimberly Nasief-Westergren, David Jones, Charlie Moyer, Tendai Charasika, Mark Crane, Greg Fischer, Adam Fish, Alex Frommeyer, Kris Kimel, Brian Raney, Suzanne Bergmeister and many others.

This isn’t a planned and managed affair; it’s organic and authentic. It’s like cat herding. It’s highly inclusive and spans the “stack” from investors to entrepreneurs to supporters. It includes long-standing groups such as Venture Connectors, KSTC, Nucleus and Enterprise Corp.; alongside rogues like Forge and Startup Weekend.

With the Gil Holland-led re-entrepreneurization of NuLu, the community even has a homeland.

From Louisville to the Commonwealth

To paraphrase Brad Feld, we are witnessing the birth of not just the Louisville Thesis, but the Kentucky Thesis, which I might point out is miraculously overcoming basketball rivalries and connecting with like-minded clusters of entrepreneurial diasporas from Paducah to Lexington to Covington.

A good thing? I damn well think so, and cheer on all comers who are willing to pitch in, whether by starting a company, investing, working, sponsoring or just showing up. We don’t have to become Boulder.Who needs weed dispensaries and 300 days of sunshine anyway? We just need to be ourselves and stick with it.

We have strengths in logistics, healthcare, food and manufacturing combined with that bull-headed Kentucky long-rifle sense of independence – hey, not every region is so blessed. We have plenty of bright people and ideas. And nobody sees us coming.

Granted, it was probably a hair easier to grow a vibrant entrepreneurial community in progressive, highly educated, uber-cool Boulder. But when we do it here, Mr. Feld will have an even better book to write.

Or maybe we’ll just write it ourselves.

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Jan 28 2013 by

WSJ Accelerators Heartland Series: Boulder

This week, the WSJ Accelerators program is running a special discussion called Heartland USA. In it, they are exploring the development of startup communities in five cities:  Boulder, Colo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Washington, D.C.; Omaha, Neb.; and Portland, Ore.

Monday is Boulder day and there are a number of guest contributions already up, including:

Today, at 3pm EST, I’ll be participating in on online discussion called Ask The Accelerators and with Scott Case (Startup America Partnership CEO) and Marc Nager (Startup Weekend CEO). Join us as we talk about how you can create a startup community anywhere in the world.

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