By Daniel Parrella and Michael Bisch
“During the past three decades, startups in the US have created nearly 40 million jobs, all the net job creation in the country over that period. As we recover from a deep recession, our ability to innovate, build iconic companies, put people back to work, and inspire the world will once again be determined by whether entrepreneurs continue taking chances on a dream to start a business. After all, the story of America has always been the story of entrepreneurs going against the grain to imagine a better tomorrow.” -Steve Case, August 2012, foreword to the book, Startup Communities, by Brad Feld*
Within the past 20 years, thriving startup communities have grown organically in Boulder, Kansas City, Seattle, Omaha and elsewhere. These entrepreneurial ecosystems are driving innovation, new business creation, job growth, tax revenue generation, philanthropic giving and community reinvestment. While many cities attempt to compete by attracting large corporations with tax breaks and other incentives, the recently launched “Jumpstart Davis” is part of a growing network of local organizations and individuals who recognize that the key to a vibrant local economy is homegrown startups.
The book “Startup Communities” by Brad Feld has been making the rounds on social media as a blueprint for how communities can grow a successful startup culture. In his book, Brad Feld provides examples of communities that have a thriving startup culture and one community in particular that stands out as remarkably similar to Davis is Boulder, Colorado.
Both communities have progressive reputations. Both have high bicycle transportation share modes. Both have long histories of open space preservation through capping growth and purchasing surrounding land for conservation easements. Both have thriving downtowns in walking distance of a major research university. However, Boulder differs from Davis in that it was recently ranked the #1 Startup City in America. The bulk of that entrepreneurial activity is centered in and around their downtown, which is not much bigger than our own. All that innovation and the thousands of jobs that have come with it did not happen by accident, it was the long-term vision of a few leaders in the mid 90’s who made it happen.
The month of November features three events focused on building a Davis startup community.
- On November 15th, startup supporters will be hosting an “Innovation” booth at the Farmer’s Market.
- On November 19th, at 6:30pm, Sophia’s Thai Kitchen will be hosting the first “JumpStart Davis” networking event, a monthly mixer designed to strengthen and encourage the local startup community. The event will bring together entrepreneurs from all walks of life as well as startup supporters from the general community. The event is free to everyone. Details can be found @ www.facebook.com/events/1508331572763622/?ref=br_tf
- On November 22nd, 9:30am to 11:30am, Varsity Theater will be hosting a TEDxUCDavisSalon themed “Roots of Inspiration”. The event will highlight 4 speakers and 2 performers from the community who collectively examine the Roots of Inspiration as it means to them. Notable entrepreneur Pam Marrone will be presenting and details can be found here and tickets purchased here or here
There are two additional innovation initiatives developing that are intended to stimulate the Davis startup community: 1) creation of a Downtown co-working space for entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers; and 2) formation of a $1 million startup fund to provide early stage funding for what will someday be emblematic Davis companies.
A vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem is not something that will happen overnight. But a sustained effort to grow such an ecosystem will yield dividends for our entire community.
*Steve Case is the co-founder of America Online and, following the merger with Time Warner in 2001, was the Chairman of the Board until 2003. Since then, Mr. Case has partnered with numerous entrepreneurs as an investor and a mentor, creating a startup investment company, Revolution Growth. Mr. Case is also Chairman of the Startup America Partnership and co-chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.