Tag: startup communities

Sep 25 2014

The Rapidly Growing Chicago and LA Startup Communities

I’m not a big city guy, so one of my favorite things to do when I find myself in a big city is get up early, before the city wakes up, and go for a run. There’s something about the silence echoing throughout a vast developed physical space such as LA that calms me down and builds up some reserves for me for the day.

I was in LA all day yesterday – starting with a Fireside Chat organized by David C Murphy. It was a full room of entrepreneurs and what I hope was a stimulating and useful conversation for them. I got in an Uber and traveled across town to Nix Hydra, a company run by two remarkable young women that we recently invested in. I got in another Uber and returned to Santa Monica where I attended the Innovators Collective Dinner, hung out with some old friends, and met a few new ones. Today I’m at the Disney Accelerator and tomorrow I’m at Oblong.

At dinner, I sat with my long time friend Matt McCall. Matt and I were on the FeedBurner board together and he’s got a powerful connection between LA and Chicago – another city with an incredibly thriving startup community. Matt’s part of Pritzker Group Venture Capital which has offices in Chicago and LA as a result of where JB Pritzker and Tony Pritzker call home (Chicago and LA respectively). While they invest nationally, they have deep roots in both cities and are key players in the respective startup communities, along with the cities at large.

As I was talking to Matt, it rolled around in my head that there are a lot of similarities in the growth of both the Chicago and LA startup communities. Our engagement with each is similar – we have Techstars programs in each (Techstars Chicago and Disney Accelerator), we’ve made investments in each over the years, and they are each cities that I have personal affinity for and have spent a lot of time in, even though I’m not a big city kid.

I came back to an email in my inbox from Troy Henikoff, the Managing Director of Techstars Chicago, which closed the loop on this thought for me. Troy has been a key part of the development of the Chicago startup community and we’ve been good friends from the moment he first reached out to me about developing an accelerator in Chicago.

Troy reminded me about the Chicago Venture Summit, which is coming up on 10/14 and 10/15. The lineup looks incredible and includes keynotes from folks like Travis Kalanick (Uber), Padmasree Warrior (Cisco Chief Technology & Strategy Officer), Ted Leonsis (Revolution Partners and previous AOL CEO), and Peter Thiel. Not surprising, JB Pritzker is one of the leaders of the event. In the note that Troy sent me, there are confirmed attendees from VC firms such as Founders Fund, DFJ, NEA, GE Ventures, Motorola Ventures, Accel, Revolution, First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. Yes, it’s a serious event worth attending if you can.

Since I started thinking about Startup Communities in 2010, a few years before I wrote the book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I believed the discussion about entrepreneurship would spread far and wide. If we could have the amazing things going on in Boulder that we were experiencing at the time, there was no reason every major city in the world couldn’t have a vibrant startup community. It’s a joy to see this developing fast, and in a powerful and sustainable way, in cities like Chicago and LA. Sure, there’s always been significant entrepreneurial activities in both cities, but the essence of the startup community in both places feels different – and more powerful – this time around.

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Sep 22 2014

Fostering a Startup and Innovation Ecosystem

UP Global just released a great new white paper titled Fostering a Startup and Innovation Ecosystem. As you might know, I’m on the board of UP Global and think they are doing amazing things for startup communities around the world.

Our friends at Google for Entrepreneurs helped with this and I’m doing a hangout with Mary Grove (Director, Google for Entrepreneurs) and Marc Nager (UP Global CEO) on Tuesday September 23rd, 2014 11am PDT for 40 minutes.

Join us as we discuss thriving startup communities and creating alignment and not just density in your community.

Enjoy the white paper and join us for the hangout.

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May 16 2014

The Largest Startup Community In The World

As Boulder Startup Week 2014 comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the power of startup communities today.

When I wrote Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I made some assertions about how to build startup communities and what the impact of them would be on society. As I sit here at the end of a week pondering everything that is going on in the world around startup communities, I believe I have vastly underestimated their potential impact. And this makes me feel very happy.

Startup Week is a great example of an activity and event that I talk about in my Boulder Thesis. It was also another creation from Boulder, just like Startup Weekend, Techstars, and the Boulder Thesis. Andrew Hyde, the founder of Startup Weekend, was also the founder of Startup Week. After a hiatus of a few years, Andrew came back to run Boulder Startup Week. But he is also about to do something magical with Startup Week – look for more on that soon. And, if you enjoyed Boulder Startup Week, go check out Fort Collins Startup Week which is happening from 5/20 – 5/25 and looks awesome.

This reflection led me to think about how to wire up the largest startup community in the world. Geography is one boundary, but the Internet allows us to create a global startup community that is a network of startup communities. UP Global, which I’m on the board of, is doing just that.

You might know UP Global by the names of the two organizations that combined to form it – Startup Weekend and Startup America Partnership. This combination happened about a year ago and the progress in the last year has been remarkable.

I encourage you to take a look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s 28 slides and when I looked at it early today it blew my mind. Here are a few key metrics:

  • 310,000 alumni and volunteers
  • 4,500 mentors
  • 132,000 businesses
  • 87,000 developers
  • 39,000 designers
  • 501 cities
  • 126 countries

Go look at the UP Global 2013 Impact Report. It’s insanely wonderful how many people and startup communities this organization has touched.

The network is getting incredibly strong and powerful. I believe that networks are now more important in our society than hierarchies. Sure – we’ll have hierarchies forever, but I’m going to spend as much of my time as possible in the network. And for everyone who is part of the network of people engaging in startup communities, thanks for all your efforts on this mission!

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Dec 6 2013

Turnstone Decks Out My Kansas City House

It’s been a blast to have a house in Kansas City. I’ve made a bunch of new friends from it and have been able to participate in the radical growth of the startup community there, especially in the KC Startup Village where my house is located. I’ve gotten to experience Google Fiber first hand and also helped mentor a neat startup called HandPrint who has been living in the house for the past six months. And it continues to be really fun to tell the story of the look on Amy’s face when I came home and said “hey – I bought a house in Kansas City today.”

When I bought the house, it had an attic that was a mess. A really gross mess. Think mouse turds, busted boards, and damp rotting wood mess. I hired a contractor who the HandPrint folks hung out with and he turned it into a great new loft. Turnstone (a Steelcase company) offered to furnish the house as a way of highlighting their furniture in a startup environment.

It turned out awesome. If you’ve been following the story at all, the video below will give you a few minute glimpse into the house, some of the players including the amazing Lesa Mitchell who helped make it all happen, the snazzy Turstone-loft, as well as give you a look at the HandPrint team.

I’m trying to figure out the next fun place to buy a house like this.

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Nov 21 2013

Building Startup Communities to Last

One of my heroes is Jim Collins. Of all books that I’ve ever read about business, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t are two of the most important ones I’ve ever read. While I read Built to Last first, I didn’t really get how important it was until I read Good to Great. I went back after, read Built to Last again – and slowly – and realized how powerful Collins’ research and thinking was.

So it was an incredible honor to interview Jim for 45 minutes last week at the Startup Phenomenon event about Startup Communities. We spent the time applying the ideas from Jim’s books and research to the idea of Startup Communities.

I learned a lot. I also had a lot of fun. And I came up with a few new ideas as Jim tossed out a few absolute gems during our 45 minutes together.

If you are interested in Startup Communities, or are a Jim Collins fan, I think you’ll like this a lot. Enjoy!

Startup Phenomenon | Brad Feld talks with Jim Collins from 23rd Studios on Vimeo.

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Nov 14 2013

Time to Flip Power In America Upside Down

I’m totally sick and exhausted with our federal government. Boehner’s statement yesterday on immigration, where he said “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill” was the last straw for me. Idiotic and totally broken.

I could rant for a while, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll encourage you to watch this amazing video that Jennifer Bradley just showed at the Startup Phenomenon conference. She totally nails it – people at the top, then metros, then states, and then federal government following their leads.

I just bought Jennifer’s book The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy and plan to read it this weekend.

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Aug 30 2013

Built In Colorado

A few weeks ago I did an event with Built In Denver where I interviewed Tim Miller and Ryan Martens, the founders of Rally Software, on their journey from a startup to a public company (NYSE: RALY). As part of the event – held at Mateo in Boulder – the gang from Built In Denver announced they were rebranding as Built In Colorado.

The attendance at the event was roughly 50% Boulder entrepreneurs and 50% Denver entrepreneurs.

The past two days the Colorado Innovation Network held it’s 2nd annual COIN Summit. As part of it, Governor Hickenlooper rolled out a new brand for all of Colorado, an effort led by Aaron Kennedy, the founder of Noodles & Co. The focus was on Colorado, not on Boulder, or Denver.

Powerful startup communities start at the neighborhood level. They then roll up to the city level. And then cities connect. Eventually it rolls up to the state level.

It’s a powerful bottom up phenomenon, not a top down situation. And inclusive of everyone. This is one of the key parts of my theory around Startup Communities.

When we started Startup Colorado in 2011 as part of the Startup America Partnership (now Up Global), the first of our six initiatives was:

Export the magic of the Boulder tech community to Fort Collins, Denver, and Colorado Springs by expanding New Tech Meetups, Open Coffee Clubs, and Community Office Hours to these cities.

When I look at what is happening in Denver, and the connective tissue between Boulder and Denver, I’m incredibly proud of what has been accomplished in less than two years on this front.

When I see questions on Quora like Should I start my start-up in Boulder or Denver? and then read the answers, my reaction is “poorly phrased question” and “wrong answer!” It’s not an either / or – the two cities are 30 minutes apart. They are both awesome places to start a company. It depends entirely on where you want to live – do you want a big city (Denver) or a little town (Boulder). If you choose Boulder, when you reach a certain size, you’ll end up with offices in both like Rally and SendGrid.

I’m psyched that Built in Denver is rebranding to Built in Colorado. I’m going to spend most of the week for Denver Startup Week in Denver, and CEOs and execs from most of our portfolio companies are converging on Denver in the middle of the week for a full day session together.

You’ll note that we have deliberately named things like The Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) with “Colorado” in their name to be inclusive of all entrepreneurs in the state. And we we do things to celebrate the startup community, like The Entrepreneur’s Prom that EFCO and Cooley are putting on September 7th at the Boulder Theatre, we focus on the entire startup community.

Entrepreneurs Prom

Innovation and entrepreneurship is off the charts right now. Let’s make sure we work together to continue building a base for the next 20 years.

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Aug 19 2013

Two Root Causes of My Recent Depression

I’ve talked openly about the five month long depressive episode I went through earlier this year.  If you missed it, I encourage you to read my article last month in Inc. Magazine titled Entrepreneurial Life Shouldn’t Be This Way–Should It? Depression is a fact of life for some entrepreneurs.

My depression lifted near the end of May and I’ve been feeling normal for the past few months. On July 1st I wrote a post titled Regroup SuccessfulI changed a lot of tactical things in my life in Q2 – some of them likely helped me get to a place where my depression lifted. And, once I was confident that the depression had lifted (about 45 days ago), I started trying to figure out some of the root causes of my depression.

I’ve told the story of how I ended up depressed a number of times. In the telling of it, I searched for triggers – and found many. My 50 mile run in April 2012 that left me emotional unbalanced for six weeks. A bike accident in early September that really beat me up, and was inches from being much more serious. Six weeks of intense work and travel on the heals of the bike accident that left me physically and emotionally depleted, when what I should have done was cancelled everything and retreated to Boulder to recover. A marathon in mid-October that I had no business running, followed by two more weeks of intense work and travel. The sudden death of our dog Kenai at age 12. A kidney stone that resulted in surgery, followed by a two week vacation mostly in a total post-surgical haze. Complete exhaustion at the end of the year – a physical level of fatigue that I hadn’t yet felt in my life. There are more, but by January I was depressed, even though I didn’t really acknowledge it fully until the end of February.

The triggers, and the tactical changes I made, all impacted me at one level. But once the depression had lifted, I felt like I could dig another level and try to understand the root cause. With the help of Amy and a few friends, I’ve made progress on this and figured out two of the root causes of a depressive episode that snuck up on me after a decade of not struggling with depression.

The first is the 80/20 rule. When running Feld Technologies in my 20s, I remember reading a book about consulting that said a great consultant spent 20% of their time on “overhead” and 80% of their time on substantive work for their clients. I always tried to keep the 80/20 rule in mind – as long as I was only spending 20% of my time on bullshit, nonsense, things I wasn’t interested in, and repetitive stuff that I didn’t really have to do, I was fine. However, this time around, I’d somehow gotten the ratios flipped – I was spending only 20% of my time on the stimulating stuff and 80% of my time on stuff I viewed as unimportant. Much of it fell into the repetitive category, rather than the bullshit category, but nonetheless I was only stimulated by about 20% of the stuff I was doing. This led to a deep boredom that I didn’t realize, because I was so incredibly busy, and tired, from the scope and amount of stuff I was doing. While the 20/80 problem was the start, the real root cause was the boredom, which I simply didn’t realize and wasn’t acknowledging.

The other was a fundamental disconnect between how I was thinking about learning and teaching. I’ve discussed my deep intrinsic motivation which comes from learning. At age 47, I continue to learn a lot, but I also spend a lot of my time teaching. The ratio between the two shifted aggressively at the end of 2012 with the release of my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. I spent a lot of time teaching my theory of startup communities to many people I didn’t previously know in lots of different places. I expected that I’d continue learning a lot about Startup Communities during this period, but I found that I had no time to reflect on anything, as all of my available time was consumed doing my regular work. So – between teaching and working, I had almost no time for learning.

I had an intense insight a few weeks ago when a friend told me that as one gets older, the line between learning and teaching blurs. This is consistent with how I think about mentoring, where the greatest mentor – mentee relationship is a peer relationship, where both the mentor and mentee learn from and teach each other. With this insight, I realized I needed to stop separating learning from teaching in my motivational construct – that they were inextricably linked.

Each of these – the flip in the 80/20 rule that led to a deep boredom combined with the separation of learning and teaching – were both root causes of my recent depression. As I reflect on where I’m at in mid-August, I’m neither bored nor struggling with the learning/teaching dichotomy. Once again, I’m incredibly stimulated by what I’m spending my time on. And I’m both learning and teaching, and not spending any energy separating the two.

While I expect I’ll discover more root causes as I keep chewing on what I just went through in the first half of the year, I’m hopeful that explanation of how I’ve unpacked all of this helps anyone out there struggling with depression, or that is close to someone who is struggling with depression. It’s incredibly hard to get to the root causes when you are depressed, but moments of clarity arise at unexpected times.

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Jul 17 2013

Startup Communities Are Up To The Entrepreneurs

Startup CommunitiesAs I continue to talk about Startup Communities, I say over and over and over again that the leaders have to be entrepreneurs. Everyone else – who I call the “feeders” (government, university, non-profits, big companies, VCs, angel investors) – have an important role, but the leaders must be entrepreneurs. Now – members of feeder organizations can play a leadership role, but in the absence of a critical mass of entrepreneurs, the startup community won’t ever develop into anything meaningful.

I was interviewed recently in MIT Technology Review in an article titled It’s Up to You, EntrepreneursIt’s part of a series they are doing titled The Next Silicon ValleyIt was a long interview by Antonio Regalado who boiled my rambling down into a bunch of coherent answers to specific questions.

For example, when he asked,  “What’s the most important step an entrepreneur can take to create a startup community?” I answered:

“Just do stuff. It’s kind of that simple. It’s literally entrepreneurs just starting to do things. If you’re in a city where there’s no clear startup community, the goal is not raise a bunch of money to fund a nonprofit, the goal is not get your government involved. The goal is start finding the other entrepreneurial leaders who are committed to being in your city over the next 20 years. Then, as a group, get very focused on knowing each other, working together, being inclusive of anyone else who wants to engage, doing things that help recruit people to that geography, and doing selfish stuff for your company that also drives your startup community.”

He got underneath some great key points about startup communities with his questions, which follow.

  • People talk about technology clusters. You talk about entrepreneurial communities. What’s the difference?
  • What’s the most important step an entrepreneur can take to create a startup community?
  • Let’s say you are the mayor. Would you rather bring Boeing to your city or have a startup scene?
  • You seem to think a top-down approach is pretty toxic.
  • What’s the evidence that startup communities can happen outside of traditional technology hubs?
  • In your book, you say entrepreneurs need to make a 20-year commitment to a place. Does anyone really think in those time scales?
  • How would you measure the success of a startup community?
  • In Kansas City you bought a house and handed it over to some programmers. What’s the idea?

If you want the answers, go read It’s Up to You, Entrepreneurs.

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Jul 15 2013

Entrepreneurial Density and Venture Capital

Richard Florida continues to write amazing stuff about Startup Communities in The Atlantic Online. Two of his latest articles talk about entrepreneurial density and venture capital.

For a long time I’ve suggested that an interesting measure of entrepreneurial density would be ((entrepreneurs + employees of startups) / total population). I asserted in my book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City that I thought Boulder had the highest entrepreneurial density in the world. I qualified this by staying I had no real empirical data – it was merely an assertion based on my experience.

Richard took this notion a step further in his article High-Tech Challengers to Silicon Valley and actually did some math. In it, he looked at Venture Capital financing (total dollars and number of deals) on a per-capital basis. Boulder came in third, behind “San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA” (what most of us think of as “Silicon Valley”) and “San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA” (what most of us think of as San Francisco.)

Venture Capital investment per capita

The comments are fascinating and generally miss the point. One in particular, called Richard unethical, although it was from “WithheldName” (also known as Anonymous Coward).

“It’s totally unfair to make Boulder separate from Denver. Combine Boulder and Denver. It’s called the Denver-Boulder Metropolitan Statistical Area for a reason. Was Cambridge separated from Boston? Of course not. The author was from Boulder. This data was slanted to Boulder. It was totally unethical.”

This particular person doesn’t understand that Boulder and Denver are separate startup communities. In contrast, Cambridge and Boston are one startup community, consisting of six startup neighborhoods (three in Cambridge, three in Boston, all within a 15 minute drive of each other, even in traffic.)

More importantly, the author of the article wasn’t from Boulder. I’m from Boulder. I didn’t write the article – Richard did. And – he was pretty clear about all of that, so our friend needs to rethink his definition of the word “unethical.”

That said, the more interesting study is by zip code, not by city or MSA. Mixing MSAs and cities creates a comparison that isn’t precise. And Richard acknowledges this:

“I’ll continue to track the evolving geography of start-ups and venture capital in future posts. Next week, I’ll look at the economic, demographic and social characteristics of metros that are associated with venture capital and start-up activity. In future posts, I’ll delve more deeply into all of this, using detailed data by area code and zip code level to tease out the changing geography of venture capital and start-up activity and its distribution across cities and suburban areas.”

I think the real magic in the analysis around entrepreneurial density will happen at the zip code level on a per capita basis. Look for 80302, 02139, and 10003 to show up high on the list along with some starting with 94xxx.

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