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What the Heck We Learned From Brad Feld’s “Startup Communities”

In this book our team was shocked by how many parallels there were between the early days in Boulder that Feld describes, and today’s landscape in Windsor-Essex and Chatham Kent.

Here a few takeaways that hopefully provide some thoughts for those engaged in building startups and the entrepreneurial community locally.

The goal of any Startup Ecosystem is to have it lead by Entrepreneurs. That means across the board, not just agencies looking to develop programming, or capital networks looking to fund Startups, but EVERYONE should be leading with the lens of “How Do I Know This Is What Our Founders Need.”

A great measure for this Feld uses is a bit cheeky but serves a point. Whenever he goes to a Startup Event to speak, he asks everyone in the room who is in government or is a non entrepreneur to raise their hands, he then asks the entrepreneurs in the room to raise their hand. If it’s not at least 60% Entrepreneurs something has gone wrong and he points it out.

Our goal locally should be to facilitate the connection between entrepreneurs and the resources they need to scale. In order to do so we need to actually ask them face to face what those needs are and then go and try to find the best assets in the world to collide them with. That means two things.

First, that we need to bring together a strong core of entrepreneurial leaders willing to commit to the work of building this community over a long period of time (I believe there are MANY out there to choose from).

Second, we need to listen and grow our own networks locally and internationally in order to make those connections and bring those supports. Program building has its place, but at the top end of the scalable companies, they need so much more than a program to support their growth, and we need to come together as a community and work together to drive those connections.

This year we hope to bring back our Tech CEO peer group, if you’re interested in being one of these foundational players, let me know and let’s connect.

Windsor-Essex traditionally functions as a big small town where all of the players are relatively known, but that’s changing.

People are moving here, people are working remotely, and more and more people are working on really interesting businesses than ever before. Focusing on giving these folks an easy path into the ecosystem, and actively going out to find them and introduce them to the community will be critical to our long term success.

Over the course of the past 5 years we have seen pockets of Innovation Assets blooming across our region, and even more across the border.

In Essex County, we have the second largest Greenhouse footprint on the planet, next to Holland. This industry is undergoing a technical revolution and there is no reason we don’t create the Agritech Startups of the Future, like IPM Scoutek, Ortaliza Farms, and EZCrops, as well as a network of support in this vertical around them so they can scale global while staying local.

We have a massive investment, both new and old in Automotive/Automobility, we should be leveraging these assets to understand how we can better collide companies like Optimotive, Ettractive, and Durobyte with the core players building the next generation of Automotive Manufacturing.

We have a new mega hospital coming down the pipeline and investments into the Cross Border Med Health community, as well as locally with WE Spark. There is no reason we can’t create a commercialization Research Park and help StrongerU, Embrace Health, OLT Footcare, Audacia BioScience, and others scale.

If we can lean into developing a Startup Community around the sectors in which we are strong, we can create a regionalized approach that allows for permeable boundaries, and that are lead by entrepreneurs in each sector.

We have the assets, we have the entrepreneurs, we have the global networks, we now need direct action to bring them all together, and that takes a core group of us willing to give first, and play an infinite game to develop our community over the coming decades.

Overall, if you’re interested in building a strong Startup Community, I highly recommend you pair this reading with the MIT Innovation Ecosystem Stakeholder Model. Together, the two create a roadmap that gives light to how anyone can play a role in developing a thriving entrepreneurial community.

Next up will be 21 Leadership Lessons by Richard Peddie.

Original Article on WETechAlliance

WETechAlliance is one of seventeen Regional Innovation Centres, funded by the Province of Ontario, serving the Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent regions. We provide entrepreneurs with business services, training, perks, mentorship and strategic connections to help bring new ideas to market, scale to the next level and build a dynamic culture and a community of innovation. WETechAlliance has served as the catalyst for technology and innovation in the Windsor-Essex + Chatham-Kent regions since 2011.

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