Lessons from TechStars’ David Cohen on Building a Startup Culture: 7 Takeaways from the Xconomy San Diego Dinner
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a prominent entrepreneurial focal point that enables everyone—first-time entrepreneurs, startup CEOs, service providers, angel investors, venture capitalists, and students—to participate in a meaningful way. Participating in awards dinners and cocktail parties doesn’t count, Cohen said pointedly.
—Startups need “fresh meat,” i.e. a constant source of new and interesting people coming to town. Students make up 20 percent of the population in Boulder, Cohen said, and that helps supply new people who want to be part of the entrepreneurial community. New startups also help to bring in fresh talent. “So you have to figure out what is the constant source of new and talented people in our community, and how do we fuel it and sustain it,” Cohen said.
—Entrepreneurial density. While New York is a big city, nearly all of the startup activity is in Union Square, Cohen said. In Boulder, which is a small town, the entrepreneurial density is palpable. “You can’t walk down the street without bumping into someone doing a startup,” he said. It’s something to think about if you’re in a large metropolitan area with a lot of traffic—like San Diego. If the entrepreneurial community can be consolidated into a compact area, or a well-defined neighborhood, Cohen says, “you get more serendipity, and that matters. The reason it matters is because it’s easier for capital to come there and look. It’s easier for out-of-town entrepreneurs to come there and meet a lot of interesting people. So thinking about that density is important.”
—Promote. “I don’t know anything about San Diego, but I will tell you, I can’t hear you,” Cohen said. “I don’t know what your successes are.” There are no prominent entrepreneur-led blogs that promote San Diego the way that Cohen and Feld promote Boulder or in the way Hsieh has been talking up a tech incubator in Las Vegas. “This may be totally off base,” Cohen said, “but you have to act like how you want to be.”
“This has to come from the entrepreneurs (and be amplified by the media),” Cohen says
—Create “visible entry points” that make it easy for new people to find their way into an entrepreneurial community. “There should be really easy ways to engage the community, so that everybody says, ‘Hey, if you’re new, you should go to this thing.'”
Our ensuing dinner discussion parsed how well San Diego’s innovation community meets Cohen’s criteria, quickly agreeing on some, and gradually settling around a few intractable challenges.
The investors were particularly struck by … Next Page »
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