Between our efforts to support Triangle StartUp Factory (our new well-funded accelerator), Tech Jobs Under the Big Top (a reverse job fair for early-stage software tech companies), and of course, this local online magazine, we are brought into many discussions. Is there enough funding here? What can we do to get a direct flight to the west coast? Do we need more serial entrepreneur talent? And now the latest thread – how do we get more startups in Raleigh?
And unfortunately, the discussion has been both overtly and covertly about Durham’s success as it evolves into the region’s startup & early-stage software Mecca.
Those that pretend that this has not turned into some sort of regional competition have their heads planted firmly you-know-where. Because we all know that the same discussion takes place in the valley every day between Menlo Park and Mountain View. Or between Cambridge and 128 in Boston.
What a colossal waste of time and energy. How minor league. How 3rd tier.
Brad Feld of Techstars, Foundry Group and a great blog recently articulated a very interesting notion about entrepreneurial communities. It went something like this: to be a robust community, there must be a minimum quotient made up by dividing the number of entrepreneurs by the number of workers in that community. Ultimately, it is a measure of denseness and there is a minimum quotient in order to be viable community. It appealed to the math side of my brain.
Brad went on to add that he came to this notion after spending three weeks in Cambridge and basically never had to leave the area to see all the people he wanted and needed to see.
Durham and software is at that point. Whether it is Tyler’s in ATC or Beyu Caffe or Dos Perros, there is not a day I don’t bump into somebody and share updated information. It is currently our region’s water cooler. And it happened organically with no government subsidies, oversight or meddling. I am not talking about the seeds planted years ago by the Goodmons to create the American Tobacco Campus. I am talking about the explosion over the last two years. If you are part of this wave you know what I am talking about. There is a palpable energy in Durham that does not exist elsewhere in the Triangle.
So what’s my point and where do we go from here? First, notice that we refer to this as Heivly.com and Triangle StartUp Factory. We support the entire area and we will support any initiative to help Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Cary and other local communities embrace entrepreneurship. But not around software companies. Let’s support each community to identify their industry niche. Let’s rally companies in that niche to build a critical mass in a neighborhood. And then let’s celebrate and market that niche.
Let’s not split this region in half and waste precious resources on a competitive battle where no one wins. If you do, I am just going to go ahead and move to Calvander.