What happens when you take 120 entrepreneur leaders representing 27 states and lock them in a room for a two-day collaboration-fest? Loads of very cool ideas that will help build vibrant local startup communities all over the US.
That’s precisely what happened at this week’s national Startup America Summit. Here are some highlights:
1. People and principles matter most. Attendees developed so many creative and impactful ideas to build vibrant startup communities during the Summit, but it all boiled down to two key ingredients: people and principles. First, the people – a core group of entrepreneurs who come together, commit to creating a strong community, and dig in for the long haul. Second, the principles they all operate by – transparent, accessible, experimental, self-disruptive, and non-hierarchical. In fact, everyone agreed that what the community worked on was less important than the fact that they worked on it together, unified by a shared vision.
2. The tactics are not rocket science. Ideas to solve challenges facing the startup ecosystem included increasing access to capital, talent and more high-quality mentors, and many more. In fact, just about every state that joined the Summit shared a problem-solving technique. Each of the ideas demonstrated some outside the lines coloring, but none were put-a-man-on-the-moon complicated. For me, this reinforced two notions. First, communities should throw out all the old, tried, and tired ideas and think outside the box to tackle the hurdles startups face. Second, building a strong startup community isn’t rocket science. Crazy but simple experiments can move the needle significantly.
3. There is incredible power in connectedness. When we stop thinking “me” and start thinking “we,” a powerful shift that we’ve only just begun to explore with the Startup America regions occurs. Over the past months I’ve seen entrepreneurs from Colorado helping Michigan; Tennessee working with Florida; Washington State reaching out to Washington DC, and so on. This week’s Summit pumped those connections with steroids. Regional champions all grasp that they’ve become a part of something much bigger than themselves and their home communities. We’ve started to contemplate how we fire up the burners on this, and I suspect that connectedness is where we at Startup America will focus more and more of our time.
4. We are all thinking too small. As I travel the country, I see a lot of learned helplessness. As John Mayer so aptly said, “Waiting on the World to Change.” If we can take the blinders off and stop making excuses, waiting for permission, and hoping someone else will take care of it, we’ll see what could be instead of what is. My vision – why I joined Startup America in the first place – is the creation of a national startup economy. This economy will allow young businesses to reach their full potential regardless of where they are planted in the US, connect all local startup communities, and jumpstart the entire US into a powerhouse of new enterprise creation.
I’ll continue to share my thoughts and all the incredible ideas generated from the Summit here, on Twitter and on Facebook.