A few weeks ago Fast Company published an interview between me and Laura Rich titled Why You Should Start a Company in… Boulder. This morning I woke up to Fred Wilson’s discussion of his article Why You Should Start a Company in… New York.
Fred and I did our interviews separately – there was no coordination between us. I was struck by a common theme – startup hubs take a while to develop. Fred says:
“we’re into the second decade now, and what the second decade is really turning out to be is serial entrepreneurs who’ve done it one, two, three, sometimes four times now, who can bring teams together very quickly, often teams that have worked together very quickly, can get on opportunities fast, can get money raised fast, can build companies pretty fast.”
Compare that to what I said:
“You have a lot of those entrepreneurs that had a success. Wasn’t necessarily their first company, but they had a success. And then, they had a failure between the 1998 and 2003 timeframe. So they started another thing or made some investments that got caught up in the bubble. So they had both a success and a failure in that time. So some set of those people started companies from 2004 forward. They were very mature entrepreneurs. They’re entrepreneurs that had success AND failure and understand what was required to both win and also were humble enough to recognize that you could lose.
Then, we both talk about mentors and the engaged cycle of old and new entrepreneurs in building and sustaining the entrepreneur ecosystem. This – as I’m sure you know if you’ve been reading this blog – is a core thesis behind the TechStars program now running in Boulder, Boston, and Seattle. Again – first Fred:
“And now you have role models. So the first time entrepreneurs can find angel investors. It’s exactly what has been going on in Silicon Valley for three, four decades now. Marc Andreessen becomes hugely successful, makes a bunch of money, becomes an angel investor, backs a bunch of people, mentors them, becomes a VC. That migration path is now playing out here in New York, and so most of the investments we do at the first angel-round stage is ourselves and a bunch of serial entrepreneurs in New York who are now making twenty-five- to fifty-thousand dollar investments as angels in these companies, sometimes acting as informal advisers and mentors to the first-time entrepreneurs.”
So you had that against a backdrop of, everybody here is at most two degrees of separation away from any other entrepreneur, because there’s only 100,000 of us, right? And that then is great because what you have is this easy access to everybody. And even though there’s competitive dynamics and occasionally friction, and there’s plenty of personalities. More generally, you tend to see that people try to help each other here, especially around the thing that I think is the generator of new entrepreneurial activity, which is young, first-time entrepreneurs.”
Finally, even though both Boulder and New York are actively in the midst of an entrepreneurial renaissance, it requires continual effort to sustain this. I’ve committed the balance of my professional life to this (hopefully at least 20 years) – not just in Boulder, but in other entrepreneurial communities around the United States, including New York (which I love to both spend time in and work in.) See my parting comment:
“I think there’s been a ton of energy by entrepreneurs in energizing Boulder in the last four or five years. And that has to continue. There’s no such thing as resting on your laurels. There’s no such thing as being complacent. The entrepreneurial beast is hungry. And if you want to have a great entrepreneurial ecosystem you have to keep feeding the entrepreneurial beast. And it has to be fed all up and down the chain, from some entrepreneurs who are young to experienced entrepreneurs, and they have to keep caring about the place they live in, their community, and the dynamics amongst them, the people in the community.”
I’m curious to see if Laura picks up similar themes in her other interviews. Knowing some of the people and cities involved, I expect she will.