City governments are typically hand-cuffed when it comes to supporting the local startup community. With modest budgets and significant infrastructu
City governments are typically hand-cuffed when it comes to supporting the local startup community. With modest budgets and significant infrastructure challenges (affordable housing, roads/bridges, transportation) it is easier for city councils, Mayors, and city managers to allocate resources to these more pressing needs.
But economic diversity is a key component of a thriving city and the startup community today plays a critical role in economic diversity.
So, what to do?
Some governments are earmarking large amounts of resources towards venture funds. I think that is a very bad idea. There is nothing worse than good money in the hands of bureaucrats with no investment experience. This also perpetuates the notion that more money fixes everything. (It has a negative effect in startup community development.)
Some are choosing to build out large innovation centers in hopes of attracting entrepreneurs. At a large scale, this is another bad idea. Great entrepreneurs are not incentivized by space. Having a great office space has no impact on the growth of a company – especially at the early stages. Subsidize a future or existing co-working space to drive some density? I am supportive of that tool.
One foundational key to a great startup community is the connectiveness of the members of that community. That is why subsidizing a co-working space can be a good move – it drives a little density. A connected community is a community that is ready to prosper. Think the Kevin Bacon game but on steroids. Imagine a community where anyone you need to talk to is no more than 1-2 hops away.
So, what can a city do to support more connectedness?
I witnessed this first hand in my region of Raleigh/Durham, NC. The city of Raleigh did something that appears to be trivial by most standards, it hired someone to be the connector. Derrick Minor was that person in Raleigh. First paid by the city business alliance then by the city, Derrick spent 8 years connecting people. He was the perfect person and helped entrepreneurs find resources, helped government officials understand entrepreneurship, and generally served as a master connector to whoever needed to be connected.
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