Can you develop an entrepreneur-led economic development strategy based on the Army . . . or Lawrence Welk?

Remember the complete chaos of all of your economic development folks vying for the pretty girl (aka Amazon and its HQ2 chess game) a few years ago? Remember Amazon and New York City – with a few nudges from local NYC politicians – stopped dating? Did you really think Amazon was going to ask you to get married, insert tier 2 or 3 US city.

Fair warning, I am a crawl-walk-run guy.  This incremental, momentum-based thinking provides me comfort in just about anything I do.  For the record, most things I do are about building things from scratch.  These types of activities are fraught with self-doubt, unknowns and general fear.  (Yes, even for someone as “experienced” as I.)

It is probably some level of cognitive bias but it seems like most successful building activities have a little magic about them.  Is it the leader?  Is it the product?  Could it be the geography?  Or is it the team?  Maybe it is all of the above.

I believe that every successful project has a rhythm or cadence.

A few of my starting anything proverbs:

  • Movement in a general direction is better than stop/starting yourself towards a overly-specific direction
  • Crawl – walk – run
  • Confidence is contagious and spreads fast once established
  • Momentum is your projects best friend

Fred Wilson of Union Square ventures posted a comment about the Amazon selection and what it means for New York City.  In his post he argued for “grow, prosper, invest, fix, grow, prosper . . .  You get the idea.

Reading Fred’s post all those years ago reminded me of the Lawrence Welk show (careful, you must be over 50 to remember) where he would command his orchestra with the phrase “and a 1 and a 2 and a . . . “.  Similarly, the Army training starts with “left, right, left-right-left”.

These are all cadences to get everyone on board with the goal of achieving synchronization.

For startup communities, local leaders must also set a cadence to achieve synchronization and ultimately some community momentum and then confidence.

Monthly meetups, regular coffee meetings,  and daily or weekly blogs are all simple examples of setting a cadence or rhythm for your community. It is amazing to see what happens when everyone begins to see the progress as more people show up or more information is shared.

My take for ecosystem building? Focus on building a cadence of small wins and leave the big swings to others.