Inspiration comes from many sources and this line comes from a talk Brad Feld gave here a few months ago over at Square One Bank. For those who don’t know who Brad is, go check out a few of his blogs here and here. Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur since 1987. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars. I read his blogs daily (pushed via an email feed like TTTalk).
His newest side interest is around Entrepreneurial communities – what makes them tick and I would venture how the good ones are built. I know he is totally into the Boulder scene as one of the early evangelists and has worked to push Boulder to the forefront.
It was with this in mind that he talked about “Leaders and Feeders”. I can’t stop thinking about this. You see, I want for the Triangle what Brad has wanted for Boulder. In fact, in his chat Brad wondered where we fell off the tracks as RTP was one of the top 5 areas in the country at one time in his opinion. Sounds great, right? Kinda like a promising baseball career cut short.
Great entrepreneurial communities have a healthy and obvious mix of Leaders and Feeders. Today I want to talk about Leaders.
Leaders have to be entrepreneurs themselves. The leaders must also have a long-term commitment. These two points drive what I think and how I operate right now. Same goes for my TSF partner Dave Neal. Short term thinking bears the risk of petering out and inhibiting the great momentum we all feel right now. Patience and thoughtful organic growth feel like good practice.
I previously posted a thought piece about a meetup called Triangle.EDU. This is an example of our application of the aforementioned guidelines. Long term we need to integrate college students into the startup ecosystem. Awareness was our simple goal. Long term we need to leverage our “great universities” to be part of the discussion. Over 250 students attended the first one at NC State back in January.
Though Dave and I seeded the first event (projected to be held in the first two weeks of every semester at 1 of the 4-5 local universities), we hope to hand this off to a couple entrepreneurs to keep it going. A couple guys have stepped up but more are needed.
Sounds like a great start.