About two months ago we first met with our local Kalamazoo community to get a better understanding of what is going on in the Kalamazoo startup scene. Back then, we had little knowledge of entrepreneurship and startup communities but we were all eager and excited for the opportunity to go visit and meet with entrepreneurs, startups, venture capitalists, government officials in Detroit, Chicago, Grand Rapids and finally Boulder and Austin to see what was making them thrive so we can take our findings to our own community of Kalamazoo. Last Friday, the 27th of March, our group met again with about 30 individuals involved with the Kalamazoo startup scene along with the Mayor of Kalamazoo, Bobby J. Hopewell, this time to present our startup frame work from the findings of our trips as well as present our baby, Dash!
Our startup frame work was made of the following factors (“gears”) which we believe are important in making a startup community successful / vibrant:
- Acceptance of risk taking and failure (it is alright to fail)
- Sense of community and social events (Pride in your community, transparency)
- Quality of life (the stay factor that brings people to a community and makes them stay there)
- Diversity (of ideas and people)
- Government (funding, tax breaks and subsidies, provide image support, analyze community and community outreach)
- Research University (tech transfer, provide student and faculty talent, funding, add to culture)
- Corporation (provide economic stability, exit plans for startups, talent, consumers and resources)
- Accelerators, Incubators, and co-working spaces (funding, resources, mentors, collisions and affordable work space)
- Keystone ( individuals or groups who help provide connections, sometimes largest investors in a community)
- Entrepreneurs (talent and successes)
- Consumers (open and adventurous, loyal to community)
- Variety (need for variety of funding so communities are sustainable)
- Passion & Knowledge (investors are vested)
Some of the important things discussed in the meeting were things that Kalamazoo can improve on with its culture and to be more tolerant of people, ideas. We do not accept failure, and that is something hindering us as a community. Also it is important that as a community we find our identity so that we have our own “stay factor”. We already have a lot going on as Kalamazoo was named one of the top cities to live in for 20-somethings.
In our first meeting with the Kalamazoo community it was noted that capital was the most important and was it was that accessible in Kalamazoo. It was interesting to find from our trips that capital was not the most important thing in making a community thrive. For example, in Boulder 80% of funding of startups was not coming from within the community.
Lastly we presented our idea to open a co-working space in Kalamazoo by the name of DASH. We want to bring in all the cool aspects we saw in other communities and create something special in Kalamazoo that will foster the vibrancy of the startup community in Kalamazoo. We were happy to be received very well by the our community and actually got some great connections to get us going.
Earlier last week (prior to the March 27th meeting with the Kalamazoo startup community), we had the opportunity to chat with Elliot Peper, author of the Uncommon Series via Google hangout. He told us about his journey from the time he was in college to where he is now and what inspired him to write his books. It was interesting to hear how he got involved with Boulders’s keystone Brad Feld. He just sent an email to Brad about an idea, and Brad was willing to meet up with him; and that is how this book series started. This confirmed everything we had learned of the openness of Brad Feld.
Eliot Peper is the the lead author of FG Press. He has a different arrangement of a 50/50 with the publisher instead of the usual 80/15 agreement publisher/author agreements. Elliot has also made first novel of the Uncommon Series available to read through a series of blog postings. I enjoyed reading the first book (Uncommon Stock: Version 1.0) as I had a fresh visual memory of Boulder from our recent trip there. I was also able to learn about starting a company in a fun way. He has his third novel, Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy, is coming out soon.
The journey we have had from our first meeting in Kalamazoo through our trips and finally our last meeting in Kalamazoo has been amazing. The growth we have had as a group is unbelievable. Special thanks to the Lee Honors College for making this course available, all the entrepreneurs, startups, government officials who took the time to meet us, my amazing classmates, Fareed Shalhout for making sure everything was on fleek and our keystone, Professor John Mueller for putting all this together.
Although our last meeting marked the end of the course, I say it is just the beginning! It is the beginning because in each of us (although we are from different fields) there has been a seed of entrepreneurship planted that will grow and create things. Many years from now we shall look back and realize the significance of this course.