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Startups Are Exploding
Just back after 10 days on the road (and happy to be sleeping in my own bed). The trip started in a very cold Kansas City before
escaping a massive snow storm to make it to sunny Silicon Valley, before returning east to NYC and finally London. Way too many
insights to list here however the one major takeaway from the trip was the level of excitement and energy around start-ups seems
to be exploding. Each of the cities visited is very different however it seems that they all see entrepreneurship as extremely
important. From governments to corporates and investors it seems the fate of our collective economies relies on squarely on the
shoulders of entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs - Key To World Job Growth
Over the last 12 months it has been interesting to see how research into entrepreneurship is been undertaken around the globe.
There now seems to be consensus (and data) which point at startups being instrumental to job creation and ultimately economic
growth. What is a lot less clear is how to support and develop these fragile companies and supporting ecosystems. Aside from
different approaches to supporting entrepreneurship it is important to understand the capabilities of each urban area. Each of
the cities listed is starting from a very different place. They have very different histories plus different social, economic,
industrial and financial infrastructures.
I don’t believe there is a one size fits all. Indeed it seems that many have stopped trying to replicate Silicon Valley and
started to think about creating links into and out of this unique place. Indeed this is something that Israeli entrepreneurs and
investors have known for a long time and it seems that governments are now waking up. During the trip I met a bunch of people
who are focused on building virtual bridges to the valley (Poland, India, Norway, Ireland, Italy, Czech and Spain to name a
few). Helping their entrepreneurs experience the valley. They are starting to think about what is unique to their location, what
the need to develop and what they need to leverage from other locations. The valley has such depth and breath how can other
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In this post I wanted to focus on just one city and will follow up with another post to cover the other locations before finally
thinking about what disruption is happening in the valley itself and how is continues to re-invent itself.
Kansas City Entrepreneurs
So let’s start with Kansas City and the freezing rain. Never understood what Ice Storm meant before this. As we drove to the
lovely Kauffman Campus, the taxi driver took great pride in telling me about the number of ‘old industries’ (auto,
manufacturing, etc) that continue to be the backbone of the mid west. Indeed they continued to grow and expand now that the
recession is over. Can these types of companies leverage start-ups and entrepreneurs?
How do they leverage this energy? What links should be developed between big companies and small companies. Kauffman Labs. is an
interesting experiment. Take an ‘old industry’ that should be ripe for disruption, identify the 30 top thought leaders and focus
on trying to create a whole new cluster from the ground up. Their first program focuses on the Education sector with Food being
the next one.
Kauffman Labs is seeking founders with ambitious plans for scalable, fast-growth companies serving the food and nutrition
industry. This global market represents a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity to transform our daily lives and our lifelong
- Have a business concept or young startup firm serving any part of the food and nutrition industry, domestic or global.
Existing firms incorporated less than eighteen months qualify as “young.
- Offer food and nutrition products, services or resources, or technology innovations in such areas as agriculture, food
processing, wholesale/distribution, retail, marketing, or research and development.
- Commit to up to six months of full-time study, training and business development.
In return they getting mentoring, funding, and access to a very interesting network. I love the idea of trying to apply
mentoring and lean start-up methods to these sectors and wish them well. Building on your existing assets and capabilities is a
lot more credible than trying to copy a generic model.
What Motivates Entrepreneurs
The open question for me is how do they find ways of making it attractive to relocate to KC on a permanent basis. What really
motivates entrepreneurs to up sticks and relocate on the back of a dream? When thinking about building a new companies what are
the factors aside from access to capital and potential customers that are important. Boulder has been very successful thanks to
the Techstars founders and community however it has the added benefit of amazing outdoor pursuits and environment. How important
is this for cities trying to attract out of town entrepreneurs? Interest in your thoughts.
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