It is with great excitement that I am launchingCity Builders. Fifteen years ago I took an unexpected career turn from technology entrepreneurship into economic development. It was never meant to be a permanent career move, as I thought Iwas just “taking a rest” before I started another software company. But alas, the passion of community leaders that work with entrepreneurs and innovators to drive growth hooked me, and I never looked back.
I started out in Central Florida, and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to eventually work across the state. As an entrepreneur that understood theconsequences of non-communicative leadership, I was struggling to understand why community leaders and innovators often worked in parallel, disconnected silos. In most cases public sector officials had great intentions and understood the long-term economic potential of innovation-based economic development. But in many communities progress was hindered due to disconnects between government leaders, the general citizenship and community innovators.
Over the past few years, I had the honor of leading InBIA, a global network of business incubators, accelerators and entrepreneurship centers located in over 60 countries. I traveled across the globe, and saw the same disconnects – entrepreneurs and innovators often expressed disdain for “institutions” that they considered stale and boring. In turn, policy makers and economic developers were spending millions to lure “big fish” companies to their communities, which often resulted in disappointing results (not to mention job losses in the community the company moved from).
With respect to entrepreneurship, community and university leaders often focused on “easy” solutions such as Startup Weekends or student entrepreneurship centers. While these are important elements for supporting a culture of entrepreneurship, they are focused on the “idea stage” of company formation instead of on supporting the needs of established early-growth “Gazelle” companies. There is extensive research that shows that these early-growth Gazelles are driving the accelerated growth in rebound cities such as Detroit, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. These cities are excellent case studies of a diverse array of community stakeholders joining forces to support the launch, funding, talent development and growth of innovative companies that are driving economic growth.
I believe every community in America, both rural and urban, has the opportunity to leverage local assets and talent to bootstrap economic prosperity. I founded City Builders because I am passionate about working with communities to help them recognize their community DNA, break down communication barriers between key stakeholder groups, and assist them in finding their unique path to economic prosperity in today’s global economy.