This week, my column takes a look at the growth of regional centers of innovation. Although Silicon Valley still creates the most software startups and takes home the lion’s share of venture capital, other cities are growing startup scenes of their own.
Take, for instance, Chicago: Home of Groupon and, in 2011, another 128 new tech companies. One of the major players in the Chicago venture capital scene is wealthy Hyatt heir J.B. Pritzker, whose New World Ventures has funded a large handful of local companies including Zinch, Active.com, Aircell and others. But venture capital alone won’t make a company into a Silicon Valley rival.
I had dinner with Pritzker and a group of venture capitalists and journalists recently, where the conversation focused on what it takes to create regional innovation hubs. According to Pritzker, Chicago’s entrepreneurial scene has taken off in the past few years, and it’s not just thanks to the recent success of Groupon’s initial public offering. It’s not just having a rich guy bankroll things, either, though clearly that helps.
Rather, the VCs at that table agreed, what it takes to create a startup ecosystem–whether that’s in Chicago, New York, Salt Lake City, Detroit, or Boulder–is the presence of serial entrepreneurs. Someone has to take that first leap, start a company, recruit talent, and then stick around long enough to do it again.
Serial entrepreneurs can provide capital, by becoming angel investors or even venture capitalists. Their employees form a base of recruitable talent: people who have worked at startups before and understand that the work is not like a job at an ordinary company. Serial entrepreneurs also provide leadership, by serving as an example and as a magnet for talent: Smart people want to hitch their wagons to a rising star, in other words.
In other news at VentureBeat, the staff went out for karaoke last night, as a reward for hitting a traffic milestone I set last fall. Not only did the team hit that milestone, they smashed through it, delivering record traffic several weeks in a row. I had promised them that I would sing a really embarrassing ballad if they did well, and, well, I had to follow through. All I can hope now is that my performance does not wind up on YouTube.
Here are a few other recent stories (not by me) on VentureBeat that I think are particularly good:
- Yelp advertising is a rip-off for small advertisers by frequent contributor Rocky Agrawal
- Famous hackers discuss Zuckerberg’s “Hacker Way” comments — comments from Eric S. Raymond, Richard Stallman and others, written up by Jolie O’Dell
- How Camera+’s John Casasanta made millions off a $1 app — A nice look inside the app economy by Rob LeFebvre
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