At the end of March, 1871 CEO Howard Tullman and I had the great opportunity to join 100 other entrepreneurial ecosystem builders in Washington, DC for the Rise of the Rise Conference, powered by Revolution Ventures and Steve Case. The goal of the conference was to share best practices from various entrepreneurial hubs from the "rest" of the country (not California, New York and Massachusetts, which receive 80% of the total venture capital dollars in this country).
Because I get very focused on our work in Chicago, it was very helpful to hear about how other geographies have built supportive startup communities.
Here are a few themes that resonated with me during the conference:
1) A deep belief that prioritizing diversity and inclusion can create opportunities for all: It was incredibly satisfying to meet organizations, who like 1871, prioritize diversity and inclusion and understand that this focus can help create more and new opportunities for their community. Organizations like DigitalUndivided and American Underground (an 1871 partner through the Google for Entrepreneurs network) have been measuring the gaps that currently exist in tech entrepreneurship and with that data, have developed programs and initiatives to help address the gap. Their inclusion efforts, similar to 1871's programs to support women entrepreneurs and Hispanic entrepreneurs, can help our geographies become the Silicon Valley counterstory.
2) An understanding that we must educate and support all stakeholders in our respective entrepreneurial ecosystems: In Kansas City, KCInvestEd has taken steps to set up early stage investor education in intimate and non-intimidating settings. If we are going to help startups grow across the country, we need to support not only the entrepreneurs but also potential investors and create the conditions for new capital to thrive.
3) The need to create workforce training to prepare the community for economic shifts: We heard from a variety of elected officials, including Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska, who walked through how advances in technology are guiding our next major economic and workforce shift. Throughout the conference, many organizations talked about how this shift is requiring new types of workforce training to ensure there are opportunities for people currently in jobs that could become obsolete. Programs like the DVX IoT Networking & Field Service (hosted at 1871) are working to make sure that we are providing the right workforce training to empower people in this new technology economy.