Yak yak yak startup, squawk squawk squawk community
Talk is cheap. Talk is so cheap that there’s a new “Startup Community Organizer” organizing their YJASTE (Yet Just Another Startup Community Event) every day.
Here’s a tip: We already have the largest Tech Meetup in the country — DC Tech Meetup. We also already have one of the most substantive and educational technology meetups possible — DC Lean Startup Circle. And then we have 50 other meetups every month.
If our community is lacking something, it isn’t another event, meetup, talking session, networking and gathering, or opportunity to talk about talking about doing stuff. DC has become a city of doers! Unfortunately, the doing has become more focused on the doing of building community, educating, and networking at the expense of the “real” doing like building something meaningful, disruptive and big.
There aren’t enough “next –Steve-Case’s” building the region’s next world-changing AOL. Silicon Valley isn’t Silicon Valley because every day, people have a meetup, or another opportunity to pitch to peers, or another co-working session. Silicon Valley is Silicon Valley because there is a history of doing by a high density of doers who get meaningful stuff done.
What could make a big difference in the D.C. startup Scene?
- Government Focus – The District, Maryland and Virginia need to stop fighting each other, stop feasting on carrions and start attracting some live prey. While Greater Washington’s competing localities fight over scraps other regions like Austin and Las Vegas are focused on building environments that will attract others from outside the region. Intra-regional rivalries are producing friction at the expense of growth.
- Local Business Incentives — Stop trying to lure investors and companies across your meaningless local borders and start thinking about what would be best for the entire region. Start thinking about floating all regional boats instead of floating your parochial boats by sinking your neighbors parochial boat.
- Goofy Tax Incentives — Most serious investor don’t make investment decision based on your goofy little tax incentives. Nobody’s going to not invest in a great company in favor of a crappier company that features the possibility of saving a few percentage points in the unlikely event of a profitable exit.
- Incent Out Of Town VCs – Hey it’s great to reward our great loyal VCs with your state startup venture money like the state of Maryland did with Grotech and New Atlantic. Hey Maryland, want to know a secret? Grotech and New Atlantic Ventures already make investments in local startups. Want to grow the eco-system? Give money to Accel, Battery, Menlo Ventures, other great VCs who don’t do much investing here and then require them to open a local office. Get some leverage for your cash.
- Get Local Superstars of Startups Working on Local Focus
- Silicon Valley has Mitch Kapour, active Angel Investor and founder of Mega-software hit, Lotus while DC has Steve Case, active investor and active organizer of Startup America, founder of AOL, the precursor to the web.
- Silicon Valley has Marc Andreesen, active investor and community organizer and founder of Netscape and Ning, DC has Steve Case
- Silicon Valley has Peter Thiel, angel investor and a founder of Paypal and DC has Steve Case.
- Silicon Valley has active super angel investors like, Steven Chen – co-founder YouTube, LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman, Eric Schmidt former CEO of Google and Novel and former Apple board member and DC has Steve Case.
Now the problem with this picture is that DC has a handful of very successful companies besides AOL that have created great wealth for numerous entrepreneurs. In truth, I am being unfair when I don’t acknowledge the contributions being made by a very few of those uber-eixited D.C.-Tehies like Digex founder, Doug Humphreys or Ted Leonsis or Dendy Young. Yet D.C. would be a better place if government figured out how to get more of our successfully exited entrepreneurs involved in developing the local DC startup scene.
- Wannabe-Uber-Exited Entrepreneurs — So I say this. To all of you wannabe, uber-exited entrepreneurs, stop networking, stop talking, stop meeting-up, stop organizing, stop getting ready to do and start doing. Stop pitching to peers. Start building something. Make a sales call. Generate some revenue, turn a profit, exit and then it’s time to get involved in community building. First things first, second thing never and first thing is build a great company.
- Governments – figure out how to get more money coming to DC from Silicon Valley, New England, New York and stop trying to out-compete your neighbors at the expense of regional growth. We’ve lost 20 VCs in the last 15 years. Why don’t you work on bringing more investors to the region instead of playing musical chairs with existing companies.
- Successfully Exited Entrepreneurs — You folk who are not participating, it would be great if you’d follow the example of folks like Steve Case, and Doug Humphreys and Ted Leonsis and the few others who are giving back to the region. Remember where you came from and remember how much you would have appreciated advice, encouragement and an investment from someone like you. Help build an environment where our kids can aspire to be successful startup entrepreneurs without having to move west.
As Seen in the Washington Business Journal’s TechFlash. © 20-Washington Business Journal. Used by permission.