Yesterday at Excelerate Labs Demo Day, Brad Feld gave the keynote. He talked about start up entrepreneurial ecosystems and brought up some fantastic points. He has a new book out that talks about building a start up community.
Brad speaks from experience, because he was one of the foundational builders for the start up culture in Boulder, Colorado. It wasn’t happenstance. It was a purpose driven effort.
Can Chicago do it too? Sure, we can. But it’s not easy. It also isn’t random. It has to be a purpose driven effort that comes from individuals acting in their own self interests.
The first thing you need is networks. Networks are absolutely critical when it comes to entrepreneurship. All kinds of them. Capital, customer, mentorship. They all should be built to support the entrepreneur. Successful entrepreneurs are the key to sustaining ecosystems. When Brad talks about networks, it reminds me of a trading pit.
Trading pits on the floors of exchanges were big entrepreneurial networks. Everyone was welcome. Information flow was pretty democratic. Everyone had a chance to access the market. Not everyone was successful. Ironically, the stats on traders and the stats on start up companies are about the same. For every Facebook, how many start ups fail miserably? For every “Facebook” type trader, how many traders failed? That mentality can be easily transferred to a public entrepreneurial forum. At Hyde Park Angels, our membership process and the way we interact is similar to the local commodity exchanges.
Viscerally, I understand exactly what Brad is talking about. However, I have a slight difference of opinion on who leads the ecosystem.
Brad makes the point that entrepreneurs lead. Entrepreneurs are the creative genius behind the ideas and companies that get started. I would agree, once an ecosystem starts, entrepreneurs lead and the rest of us follow. However, in the initial phase, capital leads.