An Ecosystem Holding Back Entrepreneurial Progress

It is time for a change

In the past I have focused the attention of the majority of my blogs on the need for planning, process, communication, etc.  These are the things you, as the owner of a business, need to think about and act upon.  However, there is much more to the success of start-up and small businesses that I have not discussed.

What I am referring to are the external things that support small business: government, the economy, market changes, and surrounding ecosystem.  I can complain about government, and we all have our own grievances and accolades for various forms and levels of government.   Likewise, the economy, it controls us more than we can truly impact what happens in the economy overall.  Market changes and other external forces that fall under the headings “customer” and “competition” are why planning, process and communication are so important.  So, that leaves me with the surrounding ecosystem.

In some places, like Silicon Valley, CA; Austin, TX; New York City, NY and others like them there is something magic about the ecosystems that enable start-ups and small businesses to thrive.  By thriving I mean have access to necessary capital at reasonable costs and the support of the local community.  I believe the capital availability requires the support of the local community.  In the places that I mentioned there are firm relationships in place between government, education, businesses, banking, and investment sources that bring the type of coordination required to truly support a thriving and successful start-up/small business environment.  Plus there are risk takers ready to invest in risky assets.

Here in Phoenix I give us a C on our efforts, and I believe that is an issue that needs to be addressed in 2017.  We have wonderful groups/incubators like BioAccel, The Flinn Foundation, SeedSpot, Tallwave, Galvanize, the Surprise Tech Center, FundingPost, MAC6, Kadima and others.  We have a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit at our state Universities with ASU being ranked #1 in the nation in innovation two years running (beating out the likes of Stanford, MIT and others.)  Grand Canyon and the Maricopa Community Colleges (CEI) have also embraced entrepreneurial-ism. We have several angel groups like Grand Canyon Angels, VA Angels and others.  We even have the Governor’s support through the Arizona Corporation Commission and their Arizona Innovation Challenge grants and Venture Ready mentor system.

What is missing?  Why are we not attracting venture capital money like other areas, many much smaller than ours?  Why do we have so much money locally through community banks and wealthy people, yet money is hard to come by for small businesses?  Why do we have so many people focused on building this ecosystem, yet we are moving forward at a snail’s pace?  The answer I believe lies in the lack of coordination and true commitment.  We want to pat ourselves on the back for all the accolades, but we have no real state-wide plan or process to ensure we are accomplishing the goals that will really make a difference.

If you are reading this and are part of this ecosystem here in Arizona, I challenge you to join me in making 2017 the year to solve this problem and bring serious investment money into the state to support the amazing ideas we are incubating here.

Mitchell Bolnick – The Excel Consulting Group