Friday, September 30, 2011

Growing the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: What It REALLY Takes

I had the fun of being Allison Warren's last interview for KTRV Channel 12  before she takes the red pill &makes the entrepreneurial plunge. Of course, of all the good stuff I gave her, they used the most controversial comment, LOL. 

What I want from you, my readers, is to contact KTRV (@12KTRV or @SkryNEWS12; and sell them that they become THE station to cover entrepreneurial issues ( technology issues too!) for Boise and beyond. They are in the middle of reinventing themselves entrepreneurially so... what a great fit! And not saying there's Pulitzers out there but there is no shortage of killer stories to tell. So call them, email them, tweet them & let 'em know that you will love it if they do! 
And, before you read further, please check out these slides -[ ] and be thinking what *Norris* needs to do and.. .what YOU could do.. tomorrow.

A "gentlemen's C"
Old-school term, used to nudge students to do better. It's not so much a measure of "average" but a signal that an "A" is still within reach (but so is an "F".. hope that makes sense.) 
Remember - Fred Smith's initial plan for FedEx only earned a "C"... it sure didn't take long to get a whole lot better, eh?
       My full quote was to give a grade of "Incomplete" with an "A+" for potential. And, to be honest, we were no better than a "D" when I moved here. Anyway, Allison wanted me to sound bolder, I guess... LOL. 

The best stuff was the mantra of what we need to do -

Celebrate what we DO have, a focus on our assets not our liabilities is critical. What better way to start bringing the ecosystem together productively & get past the turf issues, the grudges and often just a lack of communication.

Educate - nurture the entrepreneurial mindset broadly & deeply across Idaho (not just Boise) -remembering that the only way that someone can 'get it' is to immersed (not just engaged) in the ecosystem. The slides give us some strong directions of what can be done... right now!

Initiate - "Entrepreneur" is a freakin' VERB, folks. If I have failed Boise, if I've failed Idaho.. if I've failed Norris... it's in not taking bold action. 
              That WILL change. Be watching on LinkedIn etc. 

Back to the slides... I have talked about the real "drivers" of entrepreneurial activity earlier in this blog.. but let me briefly recap. Years of data from dozens of countries & millions of people tell us there are 3 critical drivers of entrepreneurial activity:

#1 is Entrepreneurial Human Capital: The quantity and quality of our potential entrepreneurs.  
      How many people truly understand the mindset ? Do they feel personally prepared to be entrepreneurial? Boise (and Idaho) could do one helluva lot better at nurturing the mindset. We simply have not stepped to grow entrepreneurial human capital. We are capable of doing that; we have chosen to NOT do it. Hard to grade this much higher than that 'gentlemen's C' - when the quality of entrepreneurial training has declined and the best programming comes from internal efforts like how EO helps their members and from IDLA's online HS course...we could do so much better. But it requires commitment that I cannot see happening from our institutions. 
What DO We Have? We have entrepreneurial passion & brains out the wazoo.. The tinder is dry, the kindling is handy. We just need to get busy. 
What must Norris do? Time to finally start some world-class entrepreneurial training. Be watching for the first salvo, my Minimum Viable Product!

#2 is Entrepreneurial Social Capital: How connected, how supportive is our entrepreneurial ecosystem? 
We have a long way to go here, but we do have social and cultural norms that many places would envy. People here appreciate the role of entrepreneurs, not just in the economy but in society. (We also have turf issues that Chicago might envy, LOL.) We have institutions who don't get it.. but we also have those who do. Let's encourage them. Hard to grade this higher than a C+ & that's only because of the grass-roots rise of new organizations like TechBoise, ITC , Innovation Council and (of course!) Startup Weekend.
What DO We Have? Entrepreneurship is in the DNA of Idahoans. Clearly, entrepreneurship is desirable and feasible in the eyes of many citizens & taxpayers. It amazes people to hear that the Idaho Rural Partnership gets it, that IACI (supposedly big business) gets it, that some of out banks (like Zions & Washington Trust) get it. How many of you have heard of EO?
We need to beat the drum about what we DO have. There are so many great entrepreneurial stories in Boise and in Idaho that nobody knows about. In every corner of the state, young firms & old, high-tech & low-tech, male & female founders, even large firms & small.          We need to CELEBRATE those stories and learn from them. (Our entrepreneurial champions too.) Lt Gov Brad Little has already expressed that he wants to start identifying Idaho's "Entrepreneurial Heroes" and we should help him!
       What must Norris do? Almost every city out there needs a first-rate map of its ecosystem. OK, it's time. But we have to do it right. (There's even funding for this.) We also need a visioning effort, but there too, we must do the right things the right way. (Funding is out there for that too.) Once we have these two pieces, we can start moving forward rapidly.

#3 is The Ease of Starting/Running Business: Here we look pretty good. The first two are far more important but this is still something that we can build on. And I think we've made additional progress of late. (Especially compared to DC... yikes!) Grade = A- (good results, good effort)

p.s. Of course...  I really hoped that KTRV used the "Boise, take the red pill" quote. There is no 'safe' in this economy; ignorance is not bliss. We're all in this together, so let's get busy... together!

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