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Richard Florida is a huge influencer on my thinking about Startup Communities. On p.24, as I’m introducing the thinking behind the historical frameworks that helped me understand this better, I highlight his work specifically.
“Finally, the third explanation of startup communities, the notion of the creative class, comes from geography. Richard Florida describes the tie between innovation and creative-class individuals. Th e creative class is composed of individuals such as entrepreneurs, engineers, professors, and artists who create “meaningful new forms.” Creative-class individuals, Florida argues, want to live in nice places, enjoy a culture with a tolerance for new ideas and weirdness, and—most of all—want to be around other creativeclass individuals. Th is is another example of network eff ects, because a virtuous cycle exists where the existence of a creative class in an area attracts more creative-class individuals to the area, which in turn makes the area even more valuable and attractive. A location that hits critical mass enjoys a competitive geographic advantage over places that have yet to attract a signifi cant number of creative-class individuals.”
As a result, it’s a huge honor for me to do an interview with him. Yesterday he published the interview in The Atlantic Cities in an article titled What It Really Takes to Foster an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.
Boulder was recently named as America’s Most Creative City based on Richard Florida’s Creative Class index. That’s nice and flattering and the list is fascinating, but not that surprising. The top 10 cities are Boulder, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Ann Arbor, Corvallis, Durham, Washington DC, and Trenton.
Now, let’s look at America’s Most Economically Vibrant College Towns, also based on Richard Florida’s research. The top 10 are Boulder, Ann Arbor, San Jose, Raleigh, Boston, San Francisco, Austin, Trenton, Minneapolis, Washington DC.
While there are a few differences between these two lists, the heavy overlap is powerful and underscores one of the most important inputs of a university into a creative city, that of constantly getting fresh blood in the system.
There is a bi-directional link here – a university attracts young, smart, creative people. If the community is a creative one, these young, smart, creative people will stay and do interesting, creative, and entrepreneurial things. If the community isn’t creative, even if the university is fantastic, the young, smart, creative people will move somewhere else. These creative people are at the core of continual renewal in a startup community.
In my experience with many universities, they don’t get this and view themselves as a leader, rather than a feeder, into the startup community. By being an attractor of young, smart, creative people into a community and then a feeder of them into the startup community, a university can have incredible impact long term on a startup community.
It’s easy to see that dynamic in some of the cities listed above.