Davis Startup Culture is Beginning to Blossom

by Rob White

Last week I talked about an article by David Lumb that was on the Fast Company website. It was titled “The Recipe for Building a Startup Scene in Any City” and highlighted the work by Tyler Crowley, who is widely recognized as the catalyst for startup communities in places like Los Angeles, London and now Stockholm.

As if to fulfill some of the points of the article, there are a slew of events and activities happening in and around Davis that are geared towards startups and entrepreneurs.

Before I enumerate a list of these happenings in just the next two weeks, I want to first point out a few organizations that are working very hard to create and facilitate this startup culture. Some of our local resources include:

Davis Roots – www.davisroots.org

Davis Chamber of Commerce – www.davischamber.org

UC Davis Child Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – http://gsm.ucdavis.edu/entrepreneurship

Davis Downtown – www.davisdowntown.org

City of Davis – www.cityofdavis.org

Davis Green Drinks – www.greendrinks.org/CA/Davis

Davis Startups – www.meetup.com/davisstartups

Davis Makerspace – www.davismakerspace.org

UC Davis Engineering Student Startup Center – http://engineering.ucdavis.edu/undergraduate/engineering-student-startup-center/

And the newly forming JumpStart Davis – http://davisdowntown.com/event/jumpstart-davis-cocktail-hour-2/

There are additional organizations and groups supporting this effort across Davis, and I encourage you to enumerate them in the comments section below as way of giving them some positive recognition.

Davis is also connected to the broader startup community in the Sacramento region through membership in the three State of California Innovation Hubs – SARTA, Innovate North State and the CA Network for Manufacturing Innovation – and by maintaining a strong network and affiliation with groups like Hacker Lab, the Sac Startup Community Builders, Startup Grind, Capsity, Urban Hive, Code for Sacramento, Public Innovation and Think House.

Below is a reminder of a bullet list of activities noted in the Lumb article that are desirable in creating a strong startup culture:

  • Hold a monthly event showcasing new companies and sharing positions needing to be filled at local companies;
  • Hold an annual two-day conference to amplify the monthly event with educational sessions and high-profile visitors;
  • Hold a 48-hour hackathon every quarter to raise community spirits with friendly competition and that will showcase ingenuity; and
  • Hold several low-key weekly meetups, including having startups open their offices to the community, coffee “office hours,” and lunchtime CEO meetups.

As you will see from the activities listed below for just next week, we are starting to fill out the list quite nicely, though we have some work to do.

These activities include:

Friday, November 14 to Sunday, November 16

Startup Weekend – Women’s Edition, Urban Hive-Sacramento, starts at 6 pm – http://www.up.co/communities/usa/sacramento/startup-weekend/4198

Wednesday, November 19th

Jumpstart Davis, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen, 6:30 pm to whenever –http://davisdowntown.com/event/jumpstart-davis-cocktail-hour-2/

Show Me the Money: Funding & Financing Start-ups, 6 pm to 8 pmhttp://www.eventbrite.com/e/show-me-the-money-funding-financing-start-ups-tickets-13215831909?aff=eac2

Thursday, November 20th

Innovate North State Awards Gala, Chico State, 4 pm to 8 pmhttp://innovate-northstate.com/featured_inc/1st-annual-northern-california-business-vanguard-dinner-gala/

(several Davis organizations are being recognized at the event)

Friday, November 21st

Hacker Lab ‘We Got a Gig’ Celebration, Sacramento Hacker Lab 11 am – 1pm http://hackerlab.org/event/hl-gigabit-ribbon-cutting-sponsored-cci-party/

Saturday, November 22nd

TEDxUCDavisSalon – Roots of Inspiration, Davis Varsity Theater, 9:30 to 11:30 am http://www.eventbrite.com/e/tedxucdavissalon-roots-of-inspiration-tickets-9637296413?ref=ebtn

But one thing that is noted in the article that I did not emphasize last week is the need to use modern social media tools to create a sense of community. Obviously, online resources like blogs, news articles and websites are important. But the author points out that the success of much of the startup cultures created in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, London or Stockholm comes from creating a virtual community where the entrepreneurs and others could connect.

It is suggested that social media tools like Twitter are useful in creating this community. And it requires a hashtag (#) to connect the dots. In the past, some of us have used #InnovateDavis to pull the efforts to a single virtual point. However, other creative ideas for a hashtag that might work are always welcome as a way to align the many efforts going on in Davis and at the university.

One suggestion I heard recently was #OpenSourceDavis, which could be both a play on the idea of shared ideas through open source data while speaking to the broad collaboration that organizations will need to accomplish to create a thriving startup culture. So feel free to suggest ideas in the comments section below so we can find a common and useful way to enumerate our collective efforts.

For those of you standing on the sidelines wondering what the usefulness of social media tools like Twitter might be, let me suggest the following points for your consideration.

The Millennial generation is the largest in the US (and by some accounts, on the planet). They adopt new technology at a very rapid pace. For those of you that have teenagers in your life right now, you are well aware that they think Facebook is ‘for old people’. They primarily use Twitter and Instagram to communicate, both of which are based on hashtag trending for attracting attention.

Additionally, the largest segment of the workforce starting in 2015 will be Millennials and they are by all accounts likely going to force us to change to their work habits, and not the other way around. It’s not unlike the conversation we had back in the 1990s when Generation X was moving into the workforce and there was lots of pushback on what the workplace might look like. Things like flexible work hours, cross-functional teams, 360 degree reviews and workplace satisfaction became the norm. None of these concepts was part of the workplace in post-war industrial complex of the 1950s and 1960s.

And as the Millennials influence and reshape our workplaces, they are also reshaping our communities. They are waiting longer to buy homes, have kids and ‘settle-down’, rejecting the social norms of even a few decades ago. And it is precisely these individuals that are the budding entrepreneurs and are driving the current wave of innovation and startups.

They clearly see the world differently and take social causes as way of life, wanting to have work that is meaningful and changes the environment they live in.

So, if we really want to create a culture of startups and innovation in Davis, we have our proverbial ‘work cut out for us’. I find this shift in cultural aspects to be reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s, when the youth of America decided they could change the way our communities (and nation) looked at the environment, racial interactions, social justice, music and clothing.

Just like then, this emerging generation wants to reshape the world and create new opportunities. And it is clear they want to do it in their way, at their speed and using their tools. I propose we join this cultural shift and figure out how to make Davis the most appealing place possible for all of that youthful energy and ingenuity. Much like Davis has been a leader in the previous shifts by being early adopters in sustainability, alternate transportation and local food systems.

I look forward to your thoughts and input. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis.org if you choose to email me directly or you can follow me on Twitter @mrobertwhite.

About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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8 Comments

  1. Aggie

    I propose we join this cultural shift and figure out how to make Davis the most appealing place possible for all of that youthful energy and ingenuity.

    The answer is obvious …

    Housing. Housing. Housing.

    The campus confers about 8,500 – 9.000 degrees per year. This represents an amazing pool of talent. Most of our graduates are on their way to more welcoming cities that offer better opportunities, but some have to leave against their wishes because the barriers to entry that have been erected by our no-growth culture are too difficult to surmount.

    1. Don Shor

      It is very clear that Davis residents and voters don’t want to grow that much or very quickly at all. So if the “startup culture” depends on more housing, it’s not going to happen. I don’t think those involved in the current discussions about invigorating the downtown for startups agree with your answer.

      1. Anon

        “It is very clear that Davis residents and voters don’t want to grow that much or very quickly at all.”

        First, what do you mean by “grow that much”?  Secondly, I don’t think it is clear at all as to how much or fast this city wants to grow.  I think it depends on the type of growth, how it will effect the city financially, will if fulfill a need for Davis citizens, etc. And it depends on who you are talking to. I suspect everyone has their own ideas about growth in this town.

        1. Don Shor

          I think it is VERY clear how much the voters here want the city to grow. They’ve had a chance to vote on that issue several times over the last couple of decades, and the results have been consistent. Whether voting on specific housing projects, or a measure that defines how much to grow, or voting on measures that restrict housing growth, the voters have rejected housing growth by margins of 2:1 to 3:1 each time.
          As to ‘grow that much’ I was replying to Aggie’s comment above about providing housing for some, presumably some significant, percentage of the thousands of UCD graduates that he/she believes want to settle in the area.

  2. DavisBurns

    I remain unclear on why we think we are losing 9,000+ potential job creators or job fillers every year.  Kids get degrees and go where the work is in their field.  I doubt there are many that want to stay in Davis and those who do frequently of out in the world and get some experience and if the opportunity comes up for them to return they snap it up. People who live here get jobs in other places and move away.  We are a mobile society.  If we want to create new jobs here, that’s a different thing but I see it as unrelated for the most part from job seekers looking for employment that best suits their experience and interests. This seems like a small town mentality. “We have to have jobs here so our children don’t have to move out of state.” Why? Kids move, it’s good for them, expands their horizons, gives them experience.

    i agree with Don.  If these jobs mean houses houses houses, then that is where you need to start the sales pitch.  If you sell innovation parks as not impacting our total numbers and then start a new campaign to build houses you won’t have much credibility or success. If that is the nitty gritty it’s better to face up front.

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