Every city in the world wants to be more innovative. If you do some research on this topic, it seems like there is a Silicon Something everywhere you look.
The word innovation may be one of the most overused word in the lexicon of political leaders, some use it better than others. In any case, there has been a proliferation of startup incubators, co-working spaces, and other innovation centers. These have been created in a top-down way from government entities and in a bottom-up way from large corporations and small companies whose sole goal is to run a space.
In our view, this space is not enough and other incentives and loans provided by the government is necessary but not sufficient. There are hundreds of startup spaces in cities where there are barely any successful, large startups. In fact the most important thing that most ecosystems don’t have, and which Silicon Valley has in spades, is experience.
Yes, the most important ingredient or action for any startup ecosystem to thrive is to bring the experience and knowledge of successful founders to the next generation of startups who are just starting out.
Most startup ecosystems around the world don’t have the luxury of Silicon Valley, where several decades of experienced entrepreneurs have come before us. So what to do? Our suggestion is simple – hack it (fake it) until you make it. Artificially generate experience in your local environment through two simple means:
1. Bring experience to your city – ask successful entrepreneurs to come to your local events and co-working spaces, even go so far as to provide them with incentives, like free travel and hotel stay (or Airbnb stay). Other successful plans have been to give incentives to entrepreneurs who were originally from that country or city and who learned from Silicon Valley or other biggest ecosystems to go back to the local environment and become mentors for new generations.
2. Give new entrepreneurs experience externally – there are cities and countries who send their minister of economic development to Silicon Valley and it mostly ends up being a photo op. People shake hands, kiss babies and leave. What these entities should really do is to send their 100 most eager entrepreneurs (including student entrepreneurs) to the Valley. The learning and the follow up action would be tremendous. Too bad most governments are still blind to this.
Having working space and putting a bunch of people together is simply not enough. It’s all about building experience as fast as possible and in the case where you don’t have experienced entrepreneurs, you can hack it until you make it. Get the experience from other people in whatever way you can.
Good luck building!
Ympact – Global startups, Entrepreneurs and Changemakers