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April 6, 2009 / Boris Mann

What can we learn from Boulder?

I’ll go ahead and use the same title as Mark Maynard’s original post: What can we learn from Boulder?

His write up is notes on the talk by Foundry Group’s Jason Mendelson in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

[Jason] outlines the necessary traits of a successful entrepreneurial community. They include; a dense concentration of technical, creative people, a strong research community / university (or, in the case of Seattle, Microsoft), an engaged community with desire to see their ecosystem succeed, a supportive legal environment, a culture of risk and respect for failure, and a history of success (which, he points out, is self-perpetuating). All communities have some of these, and lack others. For instance, he sees an erosion in Silicon Valley of folks wanting to see others succeed. In the case of Boulder, they are still young in their development and are still importing management talent from other areas (which he notes is a relatively easy thing to do given the quality of life in Boulder).

I think Vancouver has many of these attributes, but definitely has a lot still to work on. The strong research community / university is an interesting topic. While we have a great concentration of academic institutions in and around Vancouver, my gut says that a lot of research / experimentation actually comes from individuals. I only have to think of the Phone Gap project kicked off by Nitobi, or reaching farther back, Dave Shea’s unveiling of modern CSS web design, CSS Zen Garden. These happened in Vancouver – as in, the individuals were located here when they worked on these items – but very few people looking in from the outside associate “Vancouver” with either of them. These are people that live on the Internet that just happen to be in Vancouver.

And maybe that is one of Vancouver’s strengths. We have many people that “live on the Internet” – and just happen to live here. What I want / need from those people is more flag carrying for Vancouver … assuming that they don’t want to have to move somewhere else.

Another snippet I found interesting was the discussion on Tiers of VC communities:

I his opinion, there are two Tier 1 VC communities. They are the Silicon Valley and Boston. There are two Tier 1.5 communities. They are New York and Los Angeles. And there are a number of Tier 2 regions. They include Austin, Boulder, the Research Triangle area of North Carolina and others.

Vancouver is *very* similiar to Los Angeles in many ways. I would hope that we can grow into at least a Tier 1.5 community. That has always been one of the core goals that Danny and I share: let’s make Vancouver a fantastic place to start and grow companies, so that we don’t have to move to Silicon Valley.

I’m looking forward to having Brad Feld from Foundry Group / TechStars come to town on April 22nd and speak to us on these same topics (have you registered yet?).

Remember, a lot of his talk will be Q&A – we’ve set up a little experimental Google Moderator site where you can submit and vote on questions.



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