Last month I was involved in a discussion about the prospect of establishing a startup incubator/accelerator in Perth… A lot of thought had gone into the structure; models applied successfully elsewhere in Australia and around the world had been borrowed from; and, most significant of all, everyone agreed that it was important to stimulate Perth’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
To be honest, though, the response from the “big end” of town was pretty disappointing. Not because they couldn’t see the opportunity, but because they wanted someone else to do all the heavy lifting.
If only more of the people in that room were on the same wavelength as TechStars founder/CEO David Cohen and awesome innovator/VC Brad Feld.
A few choice excerpts from their interview:
@ 5:05 - Does this remind you of anywhere?
When I looked at Boulder as a community… it’s small enough that you can really understand what’s going on in the ecosystem but it’s big enough to be interesting and relevant.
@ 5:25 - Again, does this remind you of anywhere?
I have been here 11 years and I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs create businesses and I have seen lots of people have success and failure in those businesses, but there wasn’t really a cohesive centre to the entrepreneurial community. There wasn’t really a thing that all the experienced people and the first-time entrepreneurs or new entrepreneurs could rally around. There were lots of people doing stuff, but it was very diffuse.
@ 6:10 - Explaining the logic behind TechStars:
You were really describing this idea that was much more than just “hey let’s show up every now and then, and talk about doing something” or “let’s get together and host a party or an event”, you were really talking about “let’s go create a bunch of companies and let’s make sure we’re constantly getting new entrepreneurs into the mix, and I saw in that something that felt like it could really be the core in the centre. Not the thing that created all the entrepreneurial community, but something that really created some glue across that entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
@ 7:15 - This is the mindset that we need to see more of:
When you try to do something you should recognise “OK, what do I get out of this if it doesn’t work?” and I think our view when we first started talking about doing TechStars was “OK, it’s going to cost some money. We’re going to invest in these companies, let’s assume all of the companies are worthless. What do we get out of this?” I think we agreed that it would be fun, interesting and that we’d learn alot, but we also viewed it as a way to get 20 or 25 new entrepreneurs into Boulder and get them engaged with the people in and around the entrepreneurial community in Boulder. So we had a very clear sense as to what our downside case was, if things didn’t work out.”
@ 8:40 - An appreciation of this wouldn’t hurt either:
I have a very deeply held belief that the venture capitalist is actually not the generator of entrepreneurial activity - the entrepreneur is. I also believe that the venture capitalist is not the manager or the curator or that gatekeeper of the entrepreneurial community - the entrepreneurs have to do it. So I’m very attracted to entrepreneurs who want to drive that entrepreneurial community, where I can play a supporting role - which is what I think, fundamentally, the venture capitalist’s role is.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem doesn’t owe anyone anything; innovators don’t have a God-given right to find co-founders nor capital, and VCs don’t have a God-given right to “deal flow”.
If anything, I believe that we all owe something to the entrepreneurial ecosystem… We need to create some glue to bring it all together; we need to do more to connect the dots; we need to stop talking about doing stuff and actually do it.
According to Wikipedia, Boulder’s population is about 100,000. Perth is ten times larger and, as a result of the resources boom, significantly wealthier… If Boulder can build an inspiring entrepreneurial community then what are we waiting for?
[Originally posted 13th January 2012]