Kauffman Sketchbook on Startup Communities

I just finished up at Thinc Iowa and am heading to San Francisco for a few meetings tomorrow. I had an awesome time in the last 24 hours, especially last night hanging out for three hours with 20 or so  entrepreneurs at StartupCity in Des Moines.

I started my talk off today by showing a video that the Kauffman Foundation just did for Startup Communities. It’s part of the Kauffman Sketchbook series which I completely love. I think it does a fantastic job of explaining the Boulder Thesis, which is the framework that I use in Startup Communities for how to create a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem.

If you haven’t seen the Kauffman Sketchbook series, go check out some of the other videos. My favorite is from Paul Kedrosky about raising capital titled Money Game. It follows.

  • Fantastic presentation of the thesis 🙂 Always loved a good sketch.

    • Yeah – I love it.

  • any idea how much time goes into making a 3 minute stechbook?

    • They recorded an hour worth of audio with me that was in the form of an interview. It’s a lot of work on their end to take that and turn it into something as tight as the sketchbook video.

  • Pretty snazzy. Are these the same people that do the RSA animate? It’s nearly identical. Though…I prefer it without the sound effects. http://www.thersa.org/events/rsaanimate

    • I don’t know – they are similar.

  • Wendy Guillies

    We were inspired by the RSA folks, but we found a great startup in Chicago called 321 FastDraw. I’d guess about 30 hours goes into the making of a 3 minute piece. Check out our whole collection on you tube….search for Kauffman sketchbooks.

  • fwmiller

    This may be the best post I’ve seen on your blog. Especially the “Money Game” video.

    I have a question tho that has been percolating in my head lately. I like the thesis and the overall discussion you present in your “Startup Communities” video. You’re absolutely right that the entrepreneurs should be leading. However, I’m not sure I see that happening in Boulder. Here’s what I mean. What I see when I go to things like Boulder/Denver Newtech and I watch things like Techstars videos, and talk to folks that are connected in various ways to “Boulder Startup Community” is that you, your “rockstar” status, and your firm have “poisoned the well.” I see a lot of people looking at things like the themes you publish and targeting their ideas on what they think will be most likely to receive funding. Its not just here, I saw a similar dynamic in NoVa a few years back. The entrepreneurs tended to steer their activities towards what the investors were telling them they were interested in. Isn’t this dynamic counter to your thesis on who is actually leading?

    • Can you give me specific examples of what you mean by poisoning the well? There are many companies that we aren’t investors in that are doing extremely well and that have nothing to do with our themes. Rather than the general case, lay out some specifics for me. Also, recognize that I play a cross-over role given that I’m also an entrepreneur and the TechStars founders (including me) are all entrepreneurs (David Cohen, the CEO, is most definitely an entrepreneur and TechStars is his latest startup).

      • fwmiller

        It ranges from the subtle to the very overt. It can be things like overhearing a conversation in the lobby of the UC Law bldg before a Newtech mtg where someone says, “Oh, Brad would never fund that.” It can be discussions with folks about ideas where they will observe that Foundry already has a company in that space. It can also be overt, where pitches to investors yield statements like, “thats an interesting product idea, but what we’re really looking for is X.” It seems to me that there is a high danger of this in incubators, particularly those that are closely tied to VC firms like Techstars is with Foundry. All the direct mentoring, while overall a good thing, probably has the effect of steering entrepreneurs towards things that are more interesting to the investors, whether they are interesting to the entrepreneur or not. These are all examples of the perceptions that entrepreneurs build up regarding what the investors are interested in affecting where the entrepreneurs go.

        Now “poisoned the well” isn’t meant to be derogatory. Its meant to refer to a generic phenomenon where it seems that investors underestimate their influence on individual entrepreneurs and I think entrepreneurs as a group. There are other facets of this. The “shiny rock” syndrome, where groups of investors seem to be all interested in a particular area at the same time. The “syndicate effect” where investors won’t put money into a deals unless there are other firms that will join in. The “pileon effect” where some investor has success and a bunch of others then want to invest in the same thing.

        I saw a lot of these effects in NoVa as I mentioned. At that time and place, telecom equipment was the shiny rock. Big East Coast firms (that shall remain unnamed) all looked at each other when thinking about making investments, there were very few deals that didnt have syndicates of less than 4 of 5 firms. One or two of them hit when VoIP was coming up and so a spigot got turned on for that for awhile afterwards.

        Since I’ve moved out here, I see the same things happening. Social networking and iPhone apps and HTML5 apps and “contextual marketing” seem to be a few of the shiny rocks for example. But I’ve also noticed that the effects seem to be more pronounced because of the size of the entrepreneurial community and the number of available investors. There just isn’t as much going on here overall and I wonder whether that magnifies these effects.

        Obviously these things are fuzzy. There are lots of other factors, like a particular technology may be the thing thats needed at a given moment so thats why investors want to see those things built. But I started thinking more about it when I saw your Startup Communities video. You elaborate on what should be the ideal I think wrt the entrepreneurs “leading”. However, I’m not sure this is really the way things are.

        The reasons I phrased my original post as a question are twofold, 1) Is this a bad thing and 2) can anything really be done about it (if something needs to be done). I don’t know that this is a “bad thing” in general. Obviously the entrepreneurial community has contributed lots of good things to the overall economy over time. Likewise, I don’t know that anything can be done about it, or needs to be. I guess what I’m really getting down to is that maybe your assertion that entrepreneurs are in the lead seems to me to be more of a “should” than an “is”.

  • These are both great.

    Sketchbook as business plan or intro may be the way to go.

  • Lior Shamir

    Amazing. Really enjoyed the clips.

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