Highlights of Kauffman’s most in-demand topics in entrepreneurship and youth education this year, plus some baseball action
2014 has been another year of prolific online content distribution for the Kauffman Foundation, which annually assesses what topics net the most attention as one way to gauge priorities among its entrepreneurship and youth education audiences.
In addition to producing dozens of research reports and entrepreneurship education videos and livestreams, the Foundation enhanced and revived three blogs, launched a monthly policy brief, debuted its first-ever online "Thoughtbook," and added thousands of Twitter followers, drawing nearly 2 million visits to the Foundation's family of websites: www.kauffman.org, www.entrepreneurship.org, www.fasttrac.org, www.istart.org and www.kauffmanscholars.org.
The topics that bubble to the top of the most-popular list are highlighted below.
Fodder for Building Startup Communities
Kauffman research on how communities can and do build startup ecosystems was in high demand in 2014. The following papers and videos drew the most attention:
Breaking Kauffman Video Sketchbook records for most views in a month's time, this Sketchbook sheds light on four persistent myths about entrepreneurship to help local and national policymakers understand how to best foster this key economic driver.
Dane Stangler, Kauffman Foundation vice president of Research and Policy, differentiates the job-creating significance of firm age over firm size, dispels the notion that most founders are in their 20s by pointing out the peak age is the mid- to late 30s, advises cities not to try to be like Silicon Valley, and cautions communities that "Most research shows that incubators are not effective at all for actually producing companies."
Spurring Entrepreneurship in States.
Another myth-buster for states that gained traction in 2014 is this Entrepreneurship Policy Digest on state tax incentives, which often are used to attract or retain existing businesses.
Pointing out that incentives can overlook the businesses that create the most jobs – the new and young firms – this Digest offers a range of alternatives that proved appealing enough to make it the most read among Kauffman's popular new Policy Digest series. The Foundation launched the policy briefs in 2014 to take deep dives into specific policy areas.
Local Startup Roots Grow Deep.
A survey of participants at the Kansas City 1 Million Cups entrepreneurship program offers lessons for any city trying to build a strong entrepreneurship community.
Concluding that entrepreneurship is largely a local phenomenon, the report shows that entrepreneurs follow local entrepreneurs, their local networks thicken over time, entrepreneurs want local peer-based learning and networking, and different programs reach different entrepreneurs.
A Model Ecosystem.
A study examining the growing startup community in St. Louis, a city not typically considered a hotbed for entrepreneurship, looks at a rarely studied yet in-demand topic: What elements are necessary for creating a nurturing startup environment.
The researchers found that the connections and relationships that pull support organizations, new entrepreneurs and experienced entrepreneurs together help founders get the mentoring and information that most benefits their companies.
Most Entrepreneurial Metros.
A study released in late 2013 continued to gain traction throughout 2014. The paper compares the trends in 40 metropolitan areas with higher numbers of startups over the past two decades to the significant national downward trend in overall new firm formation starting after 2006. Nationally, the trend reversed and started to recover in 2011. No metropolitan area escaped this downward trend, but there are differences among regions in the timing of the downturn and subsequent recovery.
The paper demonstrates that Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of different locations and sizes can have similar measures of startup density. Surprisingly, many of the MSAs that performed well in the evaluation are not commonly thought of as significant locations of startup activity.
Practical Founder Lessons
Content offering usable tips for startup founders were in big demand. Topping the list:
The Kauffman Founders School module featuring Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur and educator Steve Blank, the father of the "Lean Startup" movement, shows founders how to systematically test their assumptions and look for insights that can shape their business through this process.
The video series and supporting materials, which explain the method and several of its crucial elements, provide practical advice about how to implement this approach in a startup. "Founders are hungry for advice that they can use immediately," said Wendy Torrance, director of Entrepreneurship at Kauffman. "We are seeing people return and view other Founders School content like Steve's for even longer."
In this same practical vein, a paper offering a concise guide for building a startup board is one of the top Kauffman papers downloaded in 2014. Understanding that founders are extremely busy people, Suren Dutia, a Kauffman senior fellow, distills lessons from his vast experience serving on company boards to offer entrepreneurs a quick reference guide.
"This paper is by no means a substitute for the myriad materials available to founders, but it is serves as a reference for founders that can augment these other resources," said Dutia. "There are some basic elements to building an effective board that apply to any startup seeking to build a viable business and create value for all stakeholders." Kauffman Founders School will be offering more in-depth content on building boards early in 2015.
Reaching Your Potential.
Help with leadership skills was another hot topic for entrepreneurs this year. The monthly Kauffman FastTrac® Author Series that drew the largest online audience in 2014 featured Robert Steven Kaplan, author of What You're Really Meant To Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential. As a Harvard Business School professor, Kaplan provides a much-needed road map for redefining success and guides entrepreneurs in the quest for professional satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
In the author series webinar, Kaplan shares:
- What is leadership?
- Why do leaders fail?
- What are the two processes leaders must do?
- How to determine your leadership style.
Brewing on Social Media.
While Kauffman's 1 Million Cups (1MC) program continued to expand in 2014 – now drawing some 2,500 people in 34 states and one U.S. territory – its reach is extending beyond its weekly meetings.
Entrepreneurs and others who meet at 1MC events are keeping the conversation going online and in the social space. More than 15,000 entrepreneurs are now connected to the 1 Million Cups national Facebook and @1MillionCups Twitter networks, an increase of 131 percent and 113 percent, respectively.
Investing in K-12 Educators
In 2014, most of the Foundation's Education program activities happened on the ground and in the classroom, rather than online. This year, the new Kauffman Thoughtbook gives an online overview of Education programming and our strategies moving forward.
One topic that generated interest online in 2014 was information and programs to support, inspire and develop great K-12 educators.
Pension Plans for Educators.
This research paper looks at Missouri teacher pension systems as a microcosm of national challenges in meeting teacher retirement needs. The paper and a Kauffman Thoughtbook essay discuss the impact of pension plans on attracting and retaining high-quality teachers.
"Research on student performance consistently identifies teacher quality as one of the most important determinants of success in schools," said research author Michael Podgursky, professor of economics at the University of Missouri. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and The Kansas City Star both published editorials on the subject.
Fund for Teachers.
The Kauffman Foundation gave the national Fund for Teachers a presence in Kansas City to help improve teacher quality and to retain and attract great teachers. In the summer of 2014, fourteen teachers representing six Kansas City schools received Kauffman Foundation grants as Fund for Teachers Fellows.
Some educators shared their experiences on Kansas City public radio. These teachers embarked on self-designed odysseys across the globe to gain experiences that will transform their careers and classrooms for years to come.
The Royal Treatment
Though a departure from its programmatic areas of education and entrepreneurship, the Kansas City Royals' march to baseball's American League pennant and the 2014 World Series was most certainly a trending topic for the Foundation created by the Royals' founding owner, Ewing Kauffman.
The late Ewing and Muriel Kauffman's daughter, Julia Kauffman, appeared on the Kansas City-area Fox daily show KC Live to celebrate the Royals return to the World Series and reminisce about the team's glory years during Mr. K's time as owner.
Among the Foundation's most-shared Facebook and Twitter posts were messages featuring the Kauffmans themselves.