I finished reading an excellent economic development planning and entrepreneurship book a week or so ago. It is entitled Startup Communities by entrepreneur and author Brad Feld. In the book, Mr. Feld adeptly describes how the Boulder, Colorado startup community began, thrives, and maintains itself. In doing so, he articulates what has become to be known as “The Boulder Thesis” - those factors that every startup community must have to succeed. Here are the four key components of his thesis:
“Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community.
The leaders [of the startup community] must have a long-term commitment.
The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it.
The startup community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack” [first-time entrepreneurs, experience entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, employees of startups, etc.].
In addition, here are some other important quotes from this excellent book:
“In Boulder, people are willing to work harder and devote a greater amount of time to help startups succeed with no expectations for reward.”
“The biggest observation I can offer from having a front row seat to seeing Boulder becoming one of the hottest startup markets in the United States over the last decade is that there was no strategic plan. Government had little to do with it and there weren’t committees wading in bureaucratic quicksand wasting hundreds of hours of people’s time strategizing about how to create more startups. Boulder caught fire because a few dozen entrepreneurs believed in their hearts that a rising tide lifts all boasts and they derived great pleasure from making this happen.” – Mark Solon
“Economic geographers, however, observe the opposite effect. Evidence suggests that location, rather than being irrelevant, is more important than ever.”
“Startup communities have to take a very long-term view. A great startup community such as Silicon Valley (1950-today) has a long trajectory. Although they have booms and busts, they continued to grow, develop, and expand throughout this period.”
“Building a startup community is not a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers; if everyone engages, they and the entire community can all be winners.”
“Although a university presence is valuable to a startup community, I reject the premise that a startup community is dependent on the university.”
“Students are by far the most important contribution of a university to a startup community.”
“The best startup communities have porous boundaries. It’s acceptable for people to flow from one company to another.”
“The Boulder startup community embraces weirdness.”
“Trying to be the next Silicon Valley is a fool’s errand.”