“6 Things That Can Kill Your City’s Startup Community”

6 Things That Can Kill Your Citys Startup Community.

The co-founder of TechStars explains why communities fail to have an entrepreneurship community. He lists six broad categories that hinder startup and economic growth – and incredibly, Spokane ranks high on all six categories (most of which have been previously written about on this blog – See the History of Spokane Economic Plans and Recommendations, in links to right of this page).

This seems a reasonable summary that matches up with Spokane and may give hints as to how to overcome the problems …

  1. The Patriarch Problem. Spokane is ruled by century old dynasties focused on preserving their wealth, prestige and power.
  2. Capital shortage. No, VCs won’t flock to Spokane due to its location and poor non stop air service.
  3. We’re from the Government, We’re Here to Help. A former SIRTI board member told me that SIRTI may have done more to hinder entrepreneurship in Spokane than it ever helped. In the past, SIRTI was also the gatekeeper – your ideas had to be approved by them before you’d get outside funding. (Past comments on SIRTI). Today, the State, by law, only supports new businesses aligned with its top-down, centrally planned, regional clustering strategy.
  4. Do I Know You? Spokane runs on a hierarchy of ass kissing. If you don’t kiss the right ass and the proper ring fingers, you are unwelcome.
  5. Feeders Trying to Be Leaders. Government, universities trying to run the “entrepreneurial ecosystem” (and how the same group ran SIRTI)
  6. Risk Aversion.

Is this fixable? No. Every economic report written over the past three decades came to the same conclusion and nothing ever changes. Ever.

Those in power cannot see that they are the problem. In places like Silicon Valley, last decade’s “going public” are this decade’s VCs – funding startups that render their own accomplishments obsolete. But in Spokane, rather than fund today’s creative disruption, century old dynasties invest in real estate development and lobby the government for more concrete pouring to enrich their own land holdings.

Spokane has endured decades of this and is incapable of culture change. Even Greater Spokane, Inc is a cause of failure – formed by the merger of the Chamber of Commerce (tasked with lobbying for the interests of its members) with the Economic Development Council (tasked with starting up new businesses that could compete with it’s members) – the organization is in internal conflict. The latter conflicts with the interests of its paying members and is part of the reason GSI is the problem, not the solution.

Nothing less than a wholesale change in the community’s culture and power structure will lead to future success. In the meantime, creative, innovative, smart and ambitious people leave Spokane. Just like Stockton, whose “economy is garbage”, the middle class, skilled and educated jobs in Spokane are government and health care. Spokane is missing out the innovation economies of the 21st century.

But at least we have streets full of empty buildings! And cheap labor!

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