Global Entrepreneurship Week starts this morning with more than 10 million people participating in over 30,000 events in 160 countries. While the United States has in large part been the originator of the startup revolution now unfolding across the globe, this renaissance of entrepreneurs is still relatively new for some parts of our nation. This week we look at how GEW is celebrating emerging ecosystems in three American cities: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Louisville, Kentucky; and Washington, D.C.
Compared to 131 other nations, the United States still ranks as the global entrepreneurship standard bearer, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Index recently released. The GEI measures ecosystem metrics such as startup skills, networking among entrepreneurs, cultural support, and access to talent and capital. As I pointed out in a previous post, while indexes are never perfect in terms of data collection methodology, the GEI is the most comprehensive analytical global source for measuring and comparing national entrepreneurial dynamics.
The United States’ top score, even when challenged by declining entrepreneurial dynamism and a startup deficit, is due in large part to the leveling of the playing field and the “rise of the rest.” Beyond Silicon Valley, Route 128, Brooklyn and the handful of other well-known technology hubs, cities not commonly thought of as startup centers are now rapidly developing thriving ecosystems in their own right.
“All cities,” according to Brad Feld, “are capable of a vibrant startup scene.” But, as a recently released Kauffman Foundation study indicates, each must craft its own unique entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque – the recent host city of the Kauffman Foundation’s annual Mayors Conference on Entrepreneurship, which explored questions about creating vital and innovative urban economies – has avoided the startup monoculture trap. They have done this by building on New Mexico’s existing strengths to foster the right environment, rather than importing a model from another city. Because ecosystem influencers often play multiple roles, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is partnering with a who’s who of the startup community to facilitate entrepreneur peer learning across industries and sectors. GEW partners include (alphabetically):
Each will be conducting activities, hosting events, and organizing meetups and hackathons – culminating with a Startup Weekend – all of which will help Albuquerque become a denser, more connected, and more diverse environment for entrepreneurs.
The density of Louisville’s manufacturing, food and beverage, logistics, business services and aging care business clusters as new smart policies and programs – such as the Kentucky Angel Investment Act and the SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program – have made it a growing startup hub. By bringing together research and commercialization resources, the University of Louisville’s Nucleus Innovation Park is a density point in the community and has attracted the likes of Code Louisville and the Learning House’s Software Guild. In addition, Access Ventures, an impact investment group headquartered in the city, has seeded Louisville-based startups such as MobileServe and Kiva City Louisville. MobileServe has pioneered an innovative way for people and organizations to measure and communicate their social impact through a web-based platform. Kiva City crowdfunds zero percent interest loans for early-stage entrepreneurs in the United States from an international network of Kiva lenders.
A highlight of GEW in Louisville will be Vogt Award Demo Day, when five Louisville-based finalists present their products. The finalists are Hue Innovations, which customizes gel colors and finishes; Inscope Medical, the creator of an innovative all-in-one intubation solution; Stinger Equipment, which created a saw that reduces exposure to silica dust, a cancer agent; Sunstrand. the producer of a polymer composite made from eco-friendly bamboo; and Tri-Blue Engineering, which innovated a process for removing carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from natural gas processing plants.
While Washington has never felt like a home of entrepreneurs, this year the Washington, D.C. metro area is on pace to top $1 billion in venture capital investments, according to the MoneyTree 2015 Q3 Report. The government’s ever-evolving need for high-tech – nearly one-fifth of federal spending is tech-related – has attracted a huge number of engineers, developers and other IT workers to the area. Now, many firms and workers who benefited from government outsourcing have parlayed that expertise into new ventures that are far less dependent on public dollars. These include such tech titans as Zvi Band and Cappaert (who co-founded Contractually and currently organize monthly DC Tech Meetups), Michael Chasen (who founded Blackboard), Tobin Moore and Adam Vitarello (founders of Optoro) and Fred Singer (who founded Echo 360).
Washington’s current and future entrepreneurs are empowered by a growing support ecosystem. Revolution, the investment group headed by Steve Case and Ted Leonsis continues to expand its portfolio as does Dan Mindus’ and Brett Gibson’s NextGen Angels, which has invested in 11 local startups to date. The campaign to raise the profile of the District’s entrepreneurs includes many well-known GEW partners. 1776, the D.C.-based incubator and seed fund that President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron visited, is working with more than 260 start-ups. Jeff Reid, the founding director of Georgetown University’s Entrepreneurship Initiative, Startup Hoyas, is grooming the next generation of Washington innovators, and the Global Innovation Forum is connecting startups with public policymakers to catalyze engagement in the global digital marketplace.
With growth across the region projected to accelerate over the next four years, according to Stephen Fuller, the director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, even as federal spending becomes about 10 percent less of the local economy, Washington is an example of how to diversify through entrepreneurship.
Washington is also, of course, home to leading policy wonks who during GEW will host a number of events related to research and policy. This morning I joined SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and the ambassadors and representatives from Austria, Chile, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Korea, Morocco, Nicaragua, Portugal, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden for a discussion around policies that incentivize innovation and risk taking, enhancing new firm formation around the world.
GERN, the Brookings Institution, and the World Bank hosted a seminar on growth entrepreneurship in emerging markets. Amway is partnering with GEW this week on the release of its annual Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report (AGER). On Wednesday, Nov. 18, we will also see a GEW event at the White House to discuss President Obama’s 2016 global entrepreneurship plans – including the location of his annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Beyond his administration’s support for Global Entrepreneurship Week, the President has also declared November “National Entrepreneurship Month.”
As cities celebrate both their entrepreneurs and search for ways to generate entrepreneur-led growth, “the best policy development strategies,” explains Phil Auerswald, GERN’s executive director, “require a practical approach toward understanding entrepreneurs’ everyday needs.” Celebrating their successes is another proven way to strengthen an ecosystem because doing so inspires those willing to try something new.
“As we celebrate National Entrepreneurship Month and Global Entrepreneurship Week,” the President said in his proclamation, “let us recommit to upholding our founding promise: that no matter who you are or where you come from, with talent, hard work, and dedication, you can make it if you try.”
Let us know what is happening in your city.
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