Innovation, Exploration and Startups


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  @
  • 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.

Have questions about the events or wish to join the effort?  Contact Daniel Parrella ( or Michael Bisch (

*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.


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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9 thoughts on “Innovation, Exploration and Startups”

  1. Tia Will

    I want to thank Michael and Daniel for advocating for this kind of enterprise. I have a reputation for being against change. However, this is an inadequate representation of my position. I am absolutely in favor of change that I feel is aligned with the essential nature of Davis as a small city aligned with a major university. This type of enterprise which seems to be an optimal “fit” for new enterprises being generated by the university. In my mind, these types of small new businesses are much more in tune with the current nature of Davis which I see worthy of conserving than are huge “innovation parks” or providing spaces specifically for the large scale expansion of designated businesses. This is not to say that I would not support a very well done and truly innovative peripheral project, but merely that I find this type of endeavor better aligned with the existing community and the university. So I have some questions:

    1) creation of a Downtown co-working space for entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers;

    Can one of you elaborate a little more on how you envision this space. Do you see it as a series of spaces for rent ? More of a shared or open space ? What types of resources would be provided and what would have to be brought in ? Do you have a space in mind, or is this still conceptual ?

    1. Daniel Parrella



      Good question. All of the above. Every Startup Community that I have studied has a place where entrepreneurs can collaborate 24/7, it is regarded as a crucial piece of any startup hub. A good example is Hacker Lab in Sacramento. You can rent spaces to work in (rather than lease a place full time which puts alot of strain on any startup) and they have open space for people to meet for free. Right now its conceptual, Hacker Lab was interested in opening a space in Davis at one point but it fell through.

      Daniel Parrella

  2. DT Businessman

    Thank you, Tia, for your comments. The downtown co-working initiative is still conceptual, but I’m fairly certain it will transition quickly to plan development and execution.  We have no details at this time because we’re hoping to hear from local entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers what their requirements are and what amenities they desire.  At that point we will identify the space, devise a budget and set about procuring the necessary resources.

    -Michael Bisch

  3. Rob White

    Michael and Daniel, great article! I couldn’t agree more with your points about comparability of the two communities.

    Tia, though I always appreciate your well articulated views and input, in this case I will have to interject a little more facts into the conversation around some of your suppositions. The comparability between Boulder and Davis is remarkable. But what your sentiments don’t take in to account is that Boulder has two land use factors that Davis does not:

    1. Significant commercial and industrial space immediately to the east of downtown, at the intersections of State Hwys 7 and 157 and next toe Leggett and Valmont Reservoirs. Though I don’t have exact calculations, it appears to be about almost double the area of commercial and industrial space that we have in South Davis and along Second Street.

    2. In addition to these areas in East Boulder, several research parks have been built adjacent to Boulder in the county, including the Gunbarrel area and IBM/Ricoh Boulder Campus, both immediately to the northeast of Boulder along State Hwy 119. In fact, the IBM campus is about the same land coverage as the proposed Mace Ranch Innovation Park and the Gunbarrel area is about 3x larger than either of the proposed peripheral parks in Davis.

    If you want to view these aspects of land use yourself, you can use Google Maps to zoom in and compare the communities side by side.

    This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look to Boulder as a source of inspiration. But the land use facts on the ground in Boulder do not actually support the view of just small startups and no large industry or large corporations. Boulder just happens to have some of the research parks in the adjacent county area, in addition to a significant amount in the eastern half of the city.

    I will work in the coming week on additional comparability and contrasts between Davis and Boulder, and would hope to publish this info in an upcoming article.

    Michael and Daniel are correct – Boulder is absolutely a comparison city due to the similarities in attitude, social norms, research and thriving downtown. And by comparing what’s on the ground and the relationships between these aspects of land use we can begin to understand what is missing in Davis to emulate the best parts of Boulder.


    1. DT Businessman

      Bill’s just being a funny guy.  This is all a very organic effort with many participants/supporters, Bill certainly being one of them, and no leaders.  Daniel volunteered to write the article and asked me to provide input, which is the only reason we’re out front today.  I’m sure someone else will be out front tomorrow.

      Other participants in these initiatives are  Michelle, Mark, the TEDxUCDavis folks, Davis Roots (Alex), Davis Downtown (Nina, Stewart and myself), the Chamber (Matt), Davis Commercial Properties (Matt), the YCVB (Alan), the City (Rob and Sarah), Sophia’s (Kevin) and the Varsity Theater (Sinisa) with new participants/supporters volunteering daily, so this list is likely no longer current.

      Please contact us if you wish to join the effort.  The more, the merrier.

      -Michael Bisch



  4. Anon

    When I first read this article, my very first thought was “Where in downtown will startups be – there is just no room, especially for startups that wish to expand in the near or distant future.”  I am excited about the idea of startups, and if it can be pulled off downtown for some businesses, that is all to the good.  But 1) I don’t think there is sufficient space for a significant number of startups to locate downtown; 2) startups downtown are not likely to be part of an assessment district that will bring in the revenue necessary to help the city out of its financial woes.  So I see the Jumpstart Davis idea as a good mix/fit with the entire dispersed innovation parks concept.  Thanks for a wonderfully positive article, that has some great ideas that should fit nicely with the larger picture of making innovation/startups a reality in Davis.

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