Blake Glenn’s Looney thoughts, perspectives, adventures, and insights on the world of business!
— By Blake Glenn
It’s my first post of 2017. I’ve been away a little while. During my long hiatus I helped a family member close a deal to sell a property, moved many heavy items, took some much needed rest, discovered I need shoulder surgery (after moving many heavy items), and Donald Trump was elected President of the U.S. All of those things are true.
All. Of. THEM.
But in my near endless quest for uncovering interesting items happening in the business world, I came across an opinion piece in USA Today written by Steve Case, co-founder of AOL. For the last two years, through his Rise Of The Rest tour, Case has crisscrossed the U.S. in search of tech startup communities beyond Silicon Valley, Boston and New York City. In previous posts I refer to such cities and regions as “Outside The Valley”.
In any case, Case has spent time in a few cities that have been devastated by the decline of industrial age industries. And he has some interesting points to make about the growth of tech startups in there. Some of those key points include:
- Globalization and technology are irreversible forces
- Massachusetts, New York, and California account for 80% of venture capital investment
- Responsibility for changing the funding dynamic starts with Silicon Valley and NY tech leaders and venture capitalists
- Rise of the Rest cities are often too risk-averse and lack the fearlessness of Silicon Valley
- Nascent entrepreneurial communities are often fragmented
- Government, legacy companies and tech need to invest in unleashing America’s creativity
I just want to comment briefly about some of his points. First, I understand his belief that VCs need to redirect their investment resources to non-traditional cities. In fact, it may make good business sense to scour the entire country seeking out investment opportunities rather than just a select three or four cities. But that takes time, effort, and connections even for large VC firms.
So why would a VC seek out tech startups in, say, Dayton, OH, if there doesn’t already exist a strong tech startup community led by entrepreneurs? It’s the responsibility of the entrepreneurs in those regions to build their communities into viable, attractive cites whether VCs recognize them or not.
Case mentions that many cities are too risk-averse and lack fearlessness. As someone that led a tech startup Meetup group for 3 years in Dayton, I can testify to that fact. The mentality, not just of the institutions and general community, but of the people claiming to be entrepreneurs can be so damned oppressively conservative and failure-averse.
Finally, Case makes a good point about the fragmentation within many tech communities. While I led that tech startup group I attempted to organize a gathering for all leaders of regional tech groups. While my group focused specifically on tech startups there were many other groups focused on some particular technology or tech-related expertise. I contacted leaders from 17 or 18 groups in SW Ohio. We only had about five groups represented. To top the cake, the majority didn’t even respond to my invitation, including at least 3 that I already knew or had met previously. Not even a freakin’ no – just silence. And I sent at least two notices.
What Case found out during his Rise Of The Rest tour is what I learned during my three years of Meetup group dictatorship:
Cities with a traditional industrial base or dependence on a very narrow range of declining industries need a lot of time, patience, vodka and Tylenol as they seek to re-invent themselves into emerging tech startup hubs.
It’s been a little over a year since I shuttered IgniteTech, the tech startup group I founded. Over the next few weeks I’ll start posting my reflections and that adventure. I think I’ll call it “Surviving The Rustbelt”. Catchy title huh. Then again maybe not. I’m not completely sure I’ve survived it yet. Can someone pleeeaasseee hand me a bottle of Vodka. Actually … better make it the whole case. It’s gonna be a long story.
Blake Glenn shares his looney perspectives, stories, and mis-adventures in The Looney Executive blog. He has interviewed hundreds (or at least tens) of people via The Looney Executive Podcasts and former TV show. He’s the founder of a tech group called IgniteTech, and claims to be a direct descendant of the original Looney Executive – Because there must be SOME explanation … right?
If you dare, I can be reached the old school way … blake@LooneyExecutive.com
P.S. I’m actively recruiting test contestants for my business game show experiment. Interested? Please contact me so I can add you to the player pool!