Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New blog location!

For future posts, please check out... 

Friday, March 13, 2015



* What *Would* Norris Do (WWND) would seem, oh, a wee bit narcissistic? ;)

a/k/a: “I Was Wrong, Friday the 13th Edition?” #BoiseIsRising?

Monday evening saw a great event, a joint extravaganza where Startup Grind Boise brought Scott Kupor (coo of VC goliath Andreesen Horowitz to the grand opening of Boise’s new collaborative space, Trailhead. I love ‘em both and together… just wow!

You might have been amused by all the people who took credit for Kupor and all those trying to impress him but this was not a night for the usual internecine squabbling… Look. At. The. Audience.

No idea what the count was but it was the biggest turnout ever for Grid. But forget that. The quality was staggering. I was exhausted by the time Grind’s Jessica Whiting introduced Scott… just from saying hello to all the good people who showed up.  Even met a few great new faces like CDA’s Nick Smoot of Innovation Collective (who now owes me beers!)

On the heels of the INL/CAES/ITC Energy Connected symposium and with develop.idaho arriving next month (not to mention the revival of ITC’s R&D/Tech Commercialization committee – wish me luck! Haven’t been fired yet, lol) Seriously… it’s hard not to feel encouraged, especially after what Trailhead honchos Faisal Shah & Karen Meyer told me (sorry, not yet).

With the quantity and quality of attendance so high… it was intriguing that 4 or 5 people (even strangers) wondered openly about those who were NOT there. Definitely the ‘top down’ types were in short supply[1]. It’s Brad Feld’s first rule of startup communities – entrepreneur-driven, relentlessly bottom up. Grind and Trailhead are exactly that.

But here’s why Norris Was Wrong… Again - it was a gorgeous warm, sunny day, the kind of day where all too often Idahoans decide to go enjoy the outdoors – or decide they needed to do something ‘family’ or…whatever. I’ve been to too many under-attended events simply because people had better things to do. (Yes, your kid’s lacrosse practice is important. But in happening communities, people find ways to do both. Maybe Monday night we saw signs that we are figuring it out.) So, thanks Boise for proving me wrong![2]

Ah, but what about Scott Kupor do you ask? He went out of his way to deliver a positive, optimistic message. He focused on Idaho’s positives (though it was clear he’d seen it all). He urged us to read more but also to do more.

The line of the night was Scott quoting his boss, Marc Andreesen, who when asked how innovative Andreesen-Horowitz was as a VC firm, he wondered if “we are the most evolved…. dinosaur.” Think about that for a bit.

Scott also made it clear that Boise was now on their radar and hinted that maybe they could be helpful (beyond just showering us with money at really good valuations, lol). Scott, if you read this… I have a wishlist for you. (Yes, you do need an office/spy here but that’s not what I’m talking about…)

Let me get back to what Faisal Shah and Karen Meyer both told me – complete with intent gaze and outstretched finger pointing at me – “Help. Boise.”

Rather than making excuses, I agreed and meetings are happening. [Possibly with more “gentle nudges” upside my head?]

So back to the title... What Should Norris Do? (to help Boise/Idaho)
And if I can be narcissistic and ask “WWND?”… here is MY action agenda.

Better LATE than Never?
#1… uh, wait! Full stop. Let’s reach out and Ask The Entrepreneurs. There is nobody in Idaho has a better idea of exactly what Idaho’s entrepreneurs need to rocket forward, nobody even close, and MY #1 agenda item is to say… Let’s. Ask. The. Entrepreneurs. (LATE)

So, the real #1…. Listening sessions. They’ve worked all over the world. We know how to do them brilliantly. And… they have even worked before in….. Idaho!

Google Maps! Combine those with world-class mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem (#2) and we know where we are AND where the entrepreneurs want to go. Something else we know how to do. Brilliantly. But haven’t. And in the meantime…

Startup Grind in 1 year has brought in more people who can actually help us than most groups have done in forever. (#3) Let’s bring the world’s Best and Brightest here. Listen to them. Hear what they really say. Ask the entrepreneurs what they think. And ACT on it. I know lots of amazing people – tell me who you want!

[Scott K – if you’re still reading… A16Z could help us with all of these ;) ]

There’s more but I’ll save those for the next post.[3]

So… What Would Norris Do… needs to become What SHOULD Norris Do?
So… TELL ME!!!!!! I can’t listen to you unless you tell me! ;)

Entrepreneur Up, Y’all!
 (and Happy Friday the 13th AND Happy Pi Day! 3/14/15!

[1] However, I won’t name names… I always believe that it’s better to celebrate what you have rather than bemoan what you don’t. This principle also is key to developing entrepreneurial ecosystems, any local economy.
[2] Again, admittedly not a high bar ;)
[3] But think “youth entrepreneurship” and “Assemble the Avengers!”

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sometimes, virtue DOES triumph?

I Was Wrong: Sometimes, virtue DOES triumph?

A string of good news items to share – with more to come! (The bad news being that I might be blogging more?)

Maybe THE single best tech commercialization program I have ever seen just got $26 million to grow.

True experiential learning
+ the right deep engagement with the entrepreneurial community  
+ exactly the right people running the show
= the most productive program for bringing local ideas into profitable reality.

I’d be happy to go into more detail on what they do, just ask!

The not-really-secret sauce is in that formula above –and that’s why it is so hard to replicate. Most programs claim to be “deeply experiential” and focusing on growing the “entrepreneurial mindset” and might even believe it . But they don’t. They rarely have the right processes and having the right people is even rarer. (And it is very, very difficult to replace the wrong people in bureaucratic entities, eh?) 

Time to defrag... Idaho?
The Idaho Tech Council Energy Connected symposium is next week – should be fun. Lots of energy-related mad science stuff and it appears that the ITC Marketing Committee did persuade TPTB that Ignite/pecha kucha 5 minute presentations are a good thing!
Except that they foolishly accepted my proposal? "Growing Defragging Idaho's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in 1, 2, 3, 4 Easy Steps?"
                         See my slides at

If you are an Idahoan… are you interested in a major defragging of Idaho’s ecosystem? Inquire at norris.krueger[at]

National/Global Good News?

Ecosystems! April 30 = the very first Global Summit on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems hosted by US SourceLink and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. I am deeply involved and what fun! Strong practitioner focus but THE leading thought leaders are being invited. Apparently, they see me as THE guy at that intersection. Humbling. Energizing but humbling. (and, no, they declined my idea to hold it in Idaho, lol)
        [ For Idahoans – every one of these experts is on record as wanting to help us. ]

no good deed goes unpunished?…
I am now an officer of the Academy of Management Entrepreneurship Division – working with the Communications team to help build some sort of portal to collect and curate resources so members can better help their local entrepreneurial communities.  (Probably first up will be around ecosystems. Soon after, best practices at improving entrepreneurial education[1]

Promoting cross-state collaboration?
However, this has opened a door to getting financial and political support to bring together, for example, the top 10 scholars on entrepreneurship/innovation in an area like the Intermountain West! If it includes mostly EPSCoR[2] states there is even more money.
Imagine the 10 thought leaders from ID, WY, MT, and UT (well, mostly Utah , lol) getting together to identify projects that matter for research AND practice AND education…
   AND imagine it being held in Idaho! 

Tech commercialization?
Looping back to my buddies at Chalmers, there is also national (if not global) interest in bringing together the very best programs. The top programs ALL resemble Chalmers far more than even the better entrepreneurship programs. (They also resemble the best non-academic programs like TechStars, Startup Weekend, etc.) This too could get held in Idaho.

Certainly, not a bad set of news to get? I am happy to share the bad news – psycho politics and bureaucratic stupidity never sleep, alas…

But I need to make 2015 a year of deep renewal for me. 

Will YOU help? 

At least by lighting fires under me?

[1] that one is easy: “Go get a degree in education.” But unlikely to be popular? ;)
[2] EPSCoR is a program that routes funding, etc. to the R&D “have-not” states like ID, MT, WY…

Friday, February 06, 2015



But that's how we learn. That's how we get truly better.
... people who are never wrong [just ask them ;) ]... scare me.)

From now on every blog post will include my latest numbskullery. 
Let's start with... I was wrong to not post more often. And not a traditional web page? I really need your thoughts on that.

but occasionally... I am right! ;)

My latest trip was over to the U of Minnesota for the midwinter board meeting of the Academy of Management's Entrepreneurship Division. Time to plan for the year ahead such as the giant conference in August in Vancouver (~15,000 of my closest friends? Yikes!)
I'm excited for the conference - more on that later...

But, Norris, weren't you going to tell us where are you RIGHT?

OK, take a few minutes and read this. Look closely at the figures. (I'll wait.) the 96% of university officials think they are doing a good job of preparing students for the real world, only 11% of businesses. Oops. When Gallup Education's Brandon Busteed shared that in Boise this week, the gasps were audible.

What matters to keep students engaged AND productively learning AND ready for the future is... getting to achieve in projects that matter, real world, team-oriented, etc. Whether K-12 or college... that's what moves the needle. I was right about that! ;)

And what does that better than anything? 
The best entrepreneurship programs: Personally-relevant, practically valuable problem-based learning. 
Not quizzes, homework, multiple-choice tests, or even in-class lectures. My best colleagues are doing that - and in November the OECD assembled 26 incredible K-12 programs. If this approach works with 3rd graders.... Just wow.

Conclusion #1: We need youth entrepreneurship programs broad & deep in our schools.
            Caveat #1: This won't work - none of these "engagement" projects work unless it is (a) experiential -- learners need to take away the right lessons, so (b) you need actual educators, people who are trained in how people really learn [see, I came back!] and how to make that work. IOW, professional educators. Accept no substitutes.
            Way too many entrepreneurship programs, even at good schools, that claim to be experiential… simply are NOT experiential. Hands-on is NOT the same thing. If a program tells you "we are building the entrepreneurial mindset" and we are "experiential"... the odds are... they are NOT. (Read my stuff or watch my video or tell me to blog on that soon.)
            Here's what I did:  - the students won national best practice awards (they won, not me)

Conclusion #2: Demand that programs are designed, developed and delivered by actual expert educators. Demand that students are truly engaged.
            Caveat #2: Administrators don't like these engagement activities; say it's not "teaching" and... ouch. For example, I've had friends do courses that *I* would love to take... and they got penalized by the deans. Seriously? Worse, it goes on everywhere.

If you liked the Gallup study, here are two more riffs on that work. and (And thanks to the ED Sessions for bringing Busteed to town, to the JK Albertson Foundation for backing it...)

BONUS LINK! Add STEM to early childhood ed:

If you are still reading, will you email or message me that you did? A martini or coke awaits at least one of you. :)

And, yes, in my next post I will give you details about my submissions to the Academy of Management...

Monday, September 29, 2014


For those of you who know me, I have been busy – conferences and projects and now teaching for 2 weeks in Athens! (It is a very promising new entrepreneurship program – can’t wait to share that with you. )

 I’m busy but am I… productive? I’m not so sure.
More to the point, am I making money? ;)
So time for a bold experiment!

I need to do a lot more to help communities grow entrepreneurs;
I need to do a lot more to help create world-class entrepreneurial learning;
I need to do a lot more to help organizations be more entrepreneurial.

HIRE ME!!!! ;)

As the old joke goes, I may not be cheap but I am easy. That is, I bring value and always over-deliver no matter what the assignment; I am never a snob when it comes to helping people.

That is, if you think there is any way that I can bring value to you, your organization or your community, you can get Norris at a significant discount if you invest in a retainer.1

So… how can I help your community? How can I help your organization? How can I help…. You?

At your service! /Norris

       1.  yeah, you caught me… I’m raising money for a new (stealth) project.

Ok, back to your regularly-scheduled blog…

Some Things I’ve Learned in My Travels
Nobody is all that great at growing entrepreneurs but the best places all try to get better like crazy, seek out great feedback and question their assumptions (do  you think that Helsinki and Boulder rest on their laurels? That’s how they became great!)
Everyone CAN get going right now. Yes, growing your ecosystem is a long game but do you remember that tv show “Extreme Makeover”? Well, you could do an Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover and start on it right now. Won’t be easy and will be disruptive but I can show you how. I want to show you how!  [free preview available upon request!].

Brad Feld talks persuasively that a good entrepreneurial community grows bottom-up, led by people who truly get it, who share the entrepreneurial mindset. It is not led by posers and wannabes, no matter how well-intentioned… or well-positioned politically.

The key to the “Extreme Makeover” is hearing what the entrepreneurial community is really saying and that means leaders who get all of this. So….

“Steal This Op-Ed”*

It’s election time in the USA and I’ve pitched an op-ed column to the paper about what voters should ask candidates about growing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. What would entrepreneurs want to hear from civic officials, regardless of political stripes? I’ve been hearing from the entrepreneurs, now let’s hear the candidates!

Here’s a link to a longer piece [] and HERE is the draft op-ed! [] Also I’d be tickled to turn this into a shareable questionnaire.

* So if YOU want to steal my op-ed for YOUR paper, I am happy to have you steal it! If being an entrepreneur taught me anything, it’s that we are all in this together. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chattanooga? Model for the Boises of the world?

Chattanooga? Model for the Boises of the world?
Anyone who’s seen what Chattanooga has quietly done over the last decades knows what a ‘can do’ group of citizens are able to make happen… their own gigabit internet, incubating businesses, building not just a great entrepreneurial community but... a great community period!  But I’ll leave the rest to anyone who’s interested.

An old Idaho chum, the shy-and-retiring ;) Wild Bill Sellers, former Idaho Falls gadfly/cheerful curmudgeon and co-inventor of Idaho Tech Launch, sent me the link below and asked for all the ideas hw could “steal” and pitch to the organizers of Chattanooga’s Next Big Thing. Startup Week. (Not sure if this is the Startup Week being pitched by UP Global but it’s a great, great idea… IFF it’s done well, of course.)  After seeing how Colorado Springs pulled off a great week-long event recently – despite opposition from the Turf Monsters ;) –> it sounds like the kind of thing that can bring together all the good folks in a community.

So the following is what I sent Bill... and it makes me want to plunge forward myself! (I will insert a few short asides as to how this might work in, ahem, Idaho.)

So… anything below that makes you want IN?


[Norris rant/on]
Dear Bill, er, Chattanooga:

Ah, Startup Week! Is this part of the national/global effort from UP Global? 

#1 Success Factor. Do NOT ask the "experts", tell them to ask the entrepreneurs. Sponsors may insist on some input but that's ok as long as you listen to the entreps.
See for a shorter, but great model. Founder Jeff Slobotski will help them.

Really depends on what the community wants to learn (again NOT what the "experts”  think they need to hear. ) Having said that, here are some ideas that play well anywhere.  Here are three: 

1. Think Global; Act Local [let me plug great OTHER folks]
2. Ecosystem Building
3. Mindset Growing

1. GLOBAL and LOCAL: Engage National/Global Allies & Friends

If this is not the UP Global Startup Week model, I'd still reach out ASAP to them –for example, my friend Shauna Causey,, tell her I sent ya! They have tons of ideas. See GEW below.

Kauffman is going through some changes but they are still trying to help communities - start with my new chum Nathan Kurtz there [] and the totally awesome 1 Million Cups initiative which they should launch []

SourceLink - dynamite model for keeping the ecosystem defragged [ for best example; Cathi Ulrich, is key contact. She is one of those who nominated me for the National Advisory Council for Innov and Entrep! Totally badass, Cathi might be a great speaker for this event, as would Shauna, Nathan and Slobotski.

Global Entrepreneurship Week - 3rd week of November but becoming almost year-round. The Chattanooga team needs to connect there too if they haven't already. There are some global events that make much sense - for example, do a Startup Weekend at the start or end of GEW and the winners become part of a GLOBAL competition. Total hoot. And a great way to help keep the positive momentum rolling after the October event!!! 

Is that enough, Bill? (Whew... I envy you, bro... I wish we could get the squabbling children together here to do something like this! NOTE to Idaho: We are making progress… keep your eyes peeled!)

2. DEFRAG: Growing Your Own Entrep Ecosystem []

Bill, show them this: dress rehearsal of video being used all across EU 

A series of events where you engage the entrepreneurs in growing the ecosystem. Bill, this is what I do -- it can be a 2-3 hour workshop or a series of activities.Combines the best of what we know with serial entrep/VC Brad Feld's clever model (book: "Startup Communities")

Done this for OECD, EU, in Singapore, Japan, Cairo, NJ, Denmark and Moscow/Pullman (that was actually a blast... seeing UI & WSU work *together*? Priceless!) These workshops always make an impact -and surfaces the turf monsters.... :)

If they want to focus on ecosystem growing, you have them 
a) do a world-class map of the ecosystem, starting in advance... Has to be done brilliantly - a crappy map is not a big help (that's what most cities have). 
b) do a listening session: use AI/ABCD tools - again, entreps only. Could do more than 1. (Should.)
c) tactics workshop (the 2-3 hour version mentioned above)
e) How to Keep the Momentum: simple mechanisms for keeping the lessons alive (e.g., the right metrics...)
            Other cheap/easy tactics here: 
If they like, this could comprise an event each day. I can prep local facilitators so this doesn't become a great event that fades in a week. [NOTE to Idaho: We can do this… so let’s!]

3. Nurturing the Entrepreneurial Mindset

Colorado Springs had a terrific Startup Week, led by the local community college and the Kauffman Foundation. Their focus was building human capital (the ecosystem stuff is more social capital) so they centered around an example of great experiential learning… (Hands on projects are NOT necessarily experiential.. so part of this was a workshop on that. Another ridiculously self-serving link: )

The example they used is the Kauffman-backed Ice House - it is really deadly good, sneaks in great experiential lessons disguised in a corny framework that plays well with most populations, 3 min video:  (also if you prefer sketchpad version: ) Watch that sketchbook and video and TRY to tell me that we don’t want this kind of great programming in your community!
[NOTE to Idaho: I am working with Ice House and a deep connection with NFTE who's got a similar program. Why not put something like Ice House in EVERY school?]

So, tell me true, my friends… assuming you’ve read this far ;) … am  I giving Chattanooga bad advice?

entrepreneurially yours, Norris

Friday, June 20, 2014

Celebrating Idaho's Coolest Entrep/Tech Stories! Will you help?

Feeling the entrepreneurial buzz? 

Just got blown away by the Breaker BOI event where design thinking gurus are helping HS students to team up for radical innovation. Wow! [Major props to the Albertson Foundation & Lisa Fisher, plus Juliette from Project Breaker and Susie Wise from Stanford's mind-blowing!] About damned time that we brought genuine experts in design thinking!

Also, I am driving north to speak at and mentor in the "Be The Entrepreneur" bootcamp by the Palouse Knowledge Corridor [link - still time to get there, at least drop by Sunday AM to lob tomatoes at my talk :) ]

A quick favor -- I am on the ITC's marketing committee and we're working on two ideas, one we need YOU to chime in! (I know you all are shy... but please help us out?)

You've heard my mantra 
"Celebrate. Educate. Initiate."
 ...possibly ad infinitum;)

Imagine 15-16 of the coolest tech stories in Idaho showing off!

We want to put together a 2015 showcase for the best entrepreneurial/tech stories in Idaho - companies who are doing amazing things, creating incredible value but we do NOT want this to be the usual suspects, we want the Hidden Gems. (We also want to showcase the full range of Idaho's tech wizardry and encompass the entire state.) 

I am lobbying hard for the Ignite/pecha kucha model where speakers talk for 5 minutes in front of a wildly supportive audience. As I get deeper into launching the national/global TEDxEntrepreneurship in August write for details], I am increasingly convinced that if you've got a great story... we can help you be a great presenter.


Will you send me ideas for presenters - especially hidden gems, especially non-Boise (but still want them), and a variety of industries?
Will you keep your eyes out for great candidates? 

This is going to be FUN! But we need your help to keep this being the same-old, same-old. 

If every Idaho economic developer, every Idaho entrepreneur, every Idaho entrepreneurial supporter on this elist sends me just ONE candidate... we could have an event that could draw national media attention and allow us to truly...

Celebrate (what great things we have)
Educate (learn from these folks) and
Initiate (use their example to inspire others to action!)

p.s. the other idea is a portal for resources supporting entrepreneurship, etc. Given that there are basically ZERO successful portals out there (and Idaho's prior efforts have fallen short).. it's a daunting task.:) 

BUT there is one exception and that's the new SourceLink model ( that embeds the portal into a more proactive connector model which itself is embedded within a serious, independent, no-turf-monsters-allowed ecosystem defrag effort. Anyway, check out especially and play with it a while... SourceLink really wants to do Idaho (and they are making noises about my joining their board) so.. check out the KC site and dream of an Idaho version. 

And as always...

Entrepreneur Up, Idaho!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Vote early, vote often? :)

 Vote early, vote often? :)

Pro-entrepreneur public policy is (a) hard to find and (b) usually misses the point...completely. One huge reason is that entrepreneurs aren't engaged in the process.

"Everyone loves progress; everyone hates change"
On the other hand, it is surprisingly easy to figure out where candidates stand on key issues that matter to us.  First, do they use the bully pulpit to support healthy entrepreneurial ac tivity? Or just recycle clichés? Second, do they really know and understand entrepreneurs? Or just think so? Third, ask them “would you rather be the windshield or the bug?” We can only choose between being disrupted or being the disruptor.

It's hard for insanely busy entrepreneurs to get involved in the political process which is messy, often illogical and definitely time-consuming. But we CAN get involved in educating elected and appointed officials in what really makes an entrepreneurial economy... truly entrepreneurial.

And back that with our votes.
Let me throw out some ideas for what we should look for in what civic officials say and do. Better still, if YOU are running for office, here are questions to ask yourself!

If you can only ask one question of a candidate or official, ask if they know entrepreneurs – real entrepreneurs – and do they listen to them? Really listen? Do they get what entrepreneurs really want. If they share what they hear entrepreneurs saying about to build on what we have... they’re a keeper.

If you want to educate them, use things like and I urge you to read it closely. However, Let me give you four key things to look for (shamelessly stolen from Brad Feld's book "Startup Communities") that a smart candidate can adopt as talking points. (Or see video here)

1. Do I focus relentlessly on helping bottom-up activities? Or do I work with, support or listen to the top-down, whether institutions, "power players" or The Usual Suspects? Government can fly cover for the bottom-up but shouldn't try to control them, even with the best of intentions? (See #3 below!)

1a. Who do I listen to about growing Idaho's economies? Self-styled experts? Smart, passionate, persuasive amateurs are particularly dangerous to listen to. Ask the *entrepreneurs* not those who want to speak for them.

2. Am I including all the different 'flavors' of entrepreneur? Or do I get distracted by the sexy high-tech, high-growth ventures? Entrepreneurship is very much a big tent.

3. Am I helping create rallying points for the entrepreneurial community? To finding out from the entrepreneurial community (again, not those who speak for them) what would galvanize them? In Feld's words: Government and institutions are not leaders but they can be feeders. You can play connector but you can also play convenor – do I support bringing entrepreneurs together for events like "1 Million Cups" ( And remember that all this must be led by entrepreneurs not institutions?

4. Am I in this for the long haul? It took Silicon Valley decades to become an overnight success. We’re behind the curve, so let's get started. Idaho’s entrepreneurial community is fragmented, so let's defrag it! [Start here! and here!  ]
Bonus question: Do you see entrepreneurs as motivated by money? Or do you realize that entrepreneurship is about making cool things happen. Cool things that create great new value?

Do you stand for maximizing the Benjamins... or do you stand for creating new value?
And will you vote for those who do?

Entrepreneur Up!

(for more on entrepreneurial ecosystems, check these links:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We’re #49! We’re #49! :)

We’re #49! We’re #49! :)

The formation of new businesses since the end of the recession has been lackluster at best. Job creation by new firms has lagged as well.  In the latest data from the good folks at EMSI (Moscow, Idaho!) where does Idaho rank among the states for net new business formation?



Add in the average number of jobs per startup has declined nationally since before the recession. And gross job creation peaked in 2005… pretty much globally. Then look at the self-employed: Those numbers are declining too (also still at least 25% of the Idaho workforce).

What the bloody hell is going on??
Job creation by startups in Idaho is better than the new business formation rate would suggest but - just as before the recession* – the overwhelming percentage of net new jobs comes from the growth of existing businesses. (Jobs from in-migrating firms remain very low.)
Cities are important, too. By the way, the best correlate of job growth is population growth. That means we also need to look at within/across states. Example: Indiana’s data looks pretty good but it’s pretty much all in the Indianapolis area. Rural areas are seeing a significant move in jobs from rural to urban. Idaho has the same issues but my SWAG is that we’re at least better (less bad) than the Hoosiers. Still, we eventually want to decentralize our DEFRAG of Idaho’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

What the bloody hell can we DO?
The states (and countries and cities) that ARE seeing strong net business formation are doing things very differently. The top 1% of those cities look and act in ways that we can learn from. Some quick examples plus how Idaho can follow suit. (for example)

1.       Listen to the entrepreneurs: The bully pulpit
How many people in high places are singing the praises of entrepreneurial activity? Is the media? Has this filtered down to the local level? More important, are they listening to the entrepreneurial community? (And actually hearing what they say?) Too often, cities and states end up listening to the power players and institutions who with the absolute best of intentions end up focusing on giving entrepreneurs what they think we need (not what we actually want).

2.       Few of us are truly ambidextrous: Execution/Implementation versus Ideas
A “great” idea is not a great idea unless you can make it work. (“Better a Grade A entrepreneur and a Grade B idea than vice-versa!”) Whether the idea is home-grown or a “shiny pebble” we see elsewhere, there’s a natural tendency to want to do it ourselves (see #3 below) but our communities deserve the best, yes?
“Ambidextrous” in the management world is being good at identifying what to do AND being good at implementing, a rarer skill than we’d like to think. It’s easy to get this backward – ask great implementers to come up with great ideas. (The ambidextrous few are invaluable, of course.)

3.       Listen to the experts: No more amateur night
Why would you give creative input to those who’ve been awful for literally decades, especially when A+ expertise is readily available? (And why would you give them creative control? Sigh… ) Communities have this maddening tendency to want to do things themselves. Yes, we need deep, broad local buy-in and effort. But there is so much expertise at Idaho’s fingertips that is outside the borders (and willing to help us! And they will listen to Idaho’ entrepreneurs – how do you think they got to be experts?)

4.       Everyone needs a Secret Evil Plan?
Bottom-up and inclusive but have a plan. The most successful communities have an overarching framework that marshals institutions in support of the bottom-up wants of the entrepreneurial community. Resources get aligned to maximize the delivery of value to the entrepreneurial community. This characterizes every great entrepreneurial ecosystem I have ever seen. It can happen organically but it can be nudged along (even shoved!)

5.       Google Maps?
What are the first two things you do when you open up Google Maps? The start point and the end point, eh? So how many communities really understand their starting point – how many have a great map of their ecosystem? (VERY few… though some communities have multiple competing maps that basically suck.) Even fewer have any sense of the ‘end point’- how many actually have asked the entrepreneurial community about their vision of where we could be? Almost none.
Any city or state who will do these two things brilliantly will jumpstart their entrepreneurial ecosystem. (And aligning resources becomes a lot easier.) But you have to do it brilliantly. Bring in the experts (example)

6.       You Win With People (or... “Ecosystems are Soylent Green?”)
                Entrepreneurial ecosystems aren’t lists of participants – the best maps (and visions and strategies) capture the dynamics and especially the interconnections in the system.  Great ecosystems reward proactive connectors. But that makes them intolerant of the turf-grabbers, narcissists and other pathogens in the system.
                Jim Collins’ great maxim that we need to get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus has never been truer.  But who are the “right” people? Who are the “wrong” people? And how do we get the wrong people off the bus when they’ve duct-taped themselves to the steering wheel? (Part of being “wrong” is feeling entitled to drive despite any actual expertise. Cue the Dunning-Krueger effect?) Google Bob Sutton’s “No Asshole Rule”. You will thank me.
                Markers of the “right” people/organizations? Think the 3 C’s: Competent, Connected, Collegial. When you start the ecosystem re-build, find the people who:
a)      bring a particular A-grade expertise at something mission-critical. Are they the best in the state at something important?
b)      are connected both locally AND at the regional/national/global level. Do the best people in the world on a topic think highly of them?
c)       are trustworthy. Have they ever grabbed turf that wasn’t theirs or claimed expertise they didn’t have? The heart of a great ecosystem is trust. Awfully hard to get started using people that have been untrustworthy…visibly.

7.       Bold, public commitment – not just to growing the ecosystem but also to embracing disruption
                We can be the squirrel or the truck. We can no longer choose to be neither. Disrupt or be disrupted. Or, more likely, disrupt AND be disrupted.  We are back to the bully pulpit: the economy is going to be very different in 10 years, even 5 years. More important, it is already more important.
                Adapting is not going to be incremental – it is going to be very discontinuous and most likely where you least want things disrupted. Assume your business model is toast in 3-5 years… if you’re lucky. But remember that business models are about serving customers and others… who wouldn’t be enthused about getting better at serving customers??

8.       ENJOY the ride (“Move that bus!”)
                Idaho may be #49 in creating new businesses...  but we have every reason to believe that we can change that. Radically. Now.
                We have it within our grasp to jumpstart our entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Think of it as an Extreme Makeover… an Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover. (Apologies if you haven’t seen the tv show.)

First steps for Idaho (more ideas at DEFRAG, tactics, metrics)

1. Bully Pulpit: Celebrate. Educate. Initiate. Never miss an opportunity to celebrate what we have. Never miss an opportunity to educate all of Idaho’s citizens on all this. Never miss an opportunity to initiate things like this Extreme Entrepreneurial Makeover or to support other’s initiatives.
2. Listen to the Experts/Ambidexterity: Take advantage of all those who have already said they’d help us. Be ruthless about great implementation. Quit playing amateur night.
3. Evil Plan: Use the cutting edge of what we know to create a strategy to engage institutions in helping. Comprehensive entrepreneurship development strategies (e.g., FIRE) pull together the no-brainer proven practices that will support bottom-up, entrepreneur-led efforts. Job #1
4. “Google Maps”:  Do a first-class mapping of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We know how to do it well. Job #2. And do a first-class assessment of the entrepreneurial community’s vision for where we want to go. We also know how to do this well. Job #3.
5. Win With People: Identify an “A Team” who pass both the 3 C’s and Bob Sutton’s test. Use the bully pulpit to empower them.
                6. Bold, Public Commitment: Make the need to embrace disruption a recurring theme – emphasize that embracing disruption is the only way to help mold our future. And support that with training and resources to help Idahoans to do exactly that. Once again, we know how to do that.
                7. Have Fun! In the tv show “Extreme Makeover” they did things in a week or less. It will take us longer, maybe a lot longer. But doesn’t that mean all the more reason to get started?
                I can’t wait till Idaho can yell “Move that bus!” and unveil a stronger, more resilient (and job creating!) economy, fueled by a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Somebody try to tell me this won’t be ridiculously fun….  And won’t create jobs!