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: