This is a guest post by Skip Howard. Skip is the founder of Computer Vision–Dallas and Spacee, the next generation of interactive digital signage using computer vision, natural user interface and virtual touch screens. Follow Skip at @sphoward.
I was a lone-coder. In most of 2012, I was building a computer vision application, turning 2D surfaces into virtual touch screens in a way that hadn’t been done before. But I ran into a problem. I couldn’t get my computer vision engine running. I wasn’t sure if I had a math problem, a software problem or a combination of both. For almost the whole year, I worked on this problem alone, believing that there were no other resources in Dallas to turn to. At least, that was the perception. So I did what most solitary programmers do, and I took a break. I was sure that I was the only one that understood my problem and had the capacity to solve it. About a week into my break, I registered to attend a speech by Brad Feld. He came to Dallas in the fall of 2013 to speak about building startup communities. I have had one of Brad’s books and came alone just to check out his speech, not knowing what he was going to cover. Needless to say, after the talk was over, my mind was blown. My major take-aways were:
- If you have a problem finding resources for a specific topic or industry, then start a meetup. It’s ok if it starts with a handful of people. Start it anyway. It will grow.
- Be inclusive in your meetup. Make everyone welcome, no matter what the skill level. Be inviting.
- Give to people around you if you want to get from people around you.
I realized that my core problem wasn’t just my software, but that we didn’t have a community around computer vision. I talked this idea over with a friend, Jennifer Conley from The Dallas Entrepreneur Center (the DEC) and she encouraged me to start a meetup. The DEC is a co-working space in Dallas, TX and Jennifer is a co-founder. She immediately donated space for the group to meet. So, in January 2014, I started Computer Vision – Dallas and had about 18 people sign up and join. We have a growth rate or 20 members Month over Month, with a very high attendance rate. Thanks to the members of this meetup, I was pointed in the right direction to solve my problem. Now I have a working engine. But it doesn’t stop there. In June of 2014, Microsoft saw our success and offered to sponsor a Kinect hack-a-thon. We are calling it Computer Visionaries (www.computervisionaries.org). They are flying their entire Kinect for Windows engineering team to work with Dallas developers hand-in-hand. Microsoft is paying for all food, prizes, and giveaways. Dallas is one of four cities in North America chosen to host an event like this in 2014 and the only city south of New York City chosen in the United States. With future support pledged from Microsoft, we plan on converting this hack-a-thon into an annual conference centered on Computer Vision, which in turn will transform the developer landscape in Dallas.
Thanks to a speech and a book by Brad Feld, today I lead a cutting edge meetup, host Computer Visionaries sponsored by Microsoft, have a patent pending prototyped software finished, and am part of the story to bring bleeding edge technology to the Dallas development community.
You might have caught the Brazil Startup Report that was published on Startup Rev a week ago. This time, it’s Pakistan. Bowei Gai and his team have put together another informative set of slides that show how Pakistan’s startup ecosystem is quickly growing. With a population near 200 million, the percentage of creative class individuals rivals that of India and other ecosystems near their geography.
Cities such as Karachi, Islamabad, and Peshawar have laid the groundwork for entrepreneurship – they have well regarded engineering and research university as well as incubators and accelerators to make sure that innovation is top of mind. There are a lot of Pakistanis currently living and working in Silicon Valley which imports some of that culture back to Pakistan.
Check out the full deck below, or find it here on SlideShare.
Just in time for the World Cup, the folks over at World Startup Report released a report on Brazil’s national startup ecosystem. Brazil is quickly rising in the ranks as an excellent place to do business, and with that is coming a flood of innovation and entrepreneurship.
The report is packed with goodies such as an overview comparison to the United States and India, as well as the trends of internet usage in the country. Both seed and institutional money is showing up in Brazil which is additional fuel to the entrepreneurial fire that exists.
Find the report here, or flip through it below.
Fort Collins is a growing startup community up in northern Colorado. Entrepreneurial leaders recently put on Fort Collins Startup Week as both a celebration of all their progress and a launchpad for more entrepreneurial behavior. The week was a stellar one with involvement from organizations such as Colorado State University, Blue Ocean, Otterbox, and more.
The team who organized the event, led by Chris Snook, put together a mini video series covering the week. Their wrap-up video, which can be found here, provides an overview of why the community came out with such a strong showing for the week.
One book, Startup Communities by Brad Feld, has been having a deep impact in Cleveland, OH.
As this piece in Crain’s Cleveland Business details, Feld’s work has been the inspiration for new meetups around town, new forums for discussion, and a new mindset towards development the startup ecosystem. By focusing on Feld’s “Boulder Thesis,” the community builders knew to give entrepreneurs the space to lead the ecosystem.
Read the full piece here: http://www.crainscleveland.com/article/20140622/SUB1/306229984/book-leads-to-a-surge-in-startup-networks
The PR Tech Summit just finished up and there were some great conversations about how to build startup communities and stories from startup community from around the world.
One standout presentation was from Nick Such. He talked through his experience of building a startup community in a “one horse town”, otherwise known as Lexington, Kentucky.
The presentation touches upon Brad Feld’s Boulder Thesis from Startup Communities.
You can find the deck used for the presentation here. A big shoutout to Nick Such and the community from Lexington, KY.
Brad Feld, a Managing Director at Foundry Group and Co-founder of Techstars, speaks prolifically about Boulder, the Boulder community, and how Boulder has come to be an international renown startup community.
What many do not know is that Boulder has sister startup communities in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs – the four innovation hubs of Colorado.
In this interview with ID8, Brad talks about the entrepreneurial growth that Denver has been experiencing in the last few years. Among the topics covered are Boulder’s relationship with Denver as well as what Denver needs to do to take their startup community to the next level.
A story about blossoming technologies and entrepreneurial communities in Africa. The gist: there is a large movement to bring Africa online which will empower entrepreneurs and a new wave of innovation.
In early February, Seth Levine, Managing Director at Foundry Group, talked through the Boulder Thesis with a group in Minneapolis. The segment includes an interview with CEO Clay Collins and his perspective on startup communities.
Find a write-up and some video on the event here: http://tech.mn/news/2014/02/09/video-seth-levine-on-startup-communities/
This post originally appeared on Will Price’s blog. Find it here.
In a world of high-speed data and voice networks, web-enabled applications, and a global talent pool, does geography matter?
Will technology break down traditional industry clusters and distribute innovation, wealth, and opportunity across an increasingly flat world?
As a resident in the Valley, to me it is an important question.
Should company founders leverage the benefits of operating in a high-tech cluster and pay the cost premium of doing business here, or should they leverage the benefits of enabling technologies and remain in lower cost geographies, while working to recreate clusters?
The work of Michael Porter helps think through the issues. In his HBR article, “Clusters and the New Economics of Competition,” he lays out a convincing argument for the long-term viability of clusters.
He defines clusters as,
“geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field. Clusters encompass an array of linked industries and other entities important to competition. They include, for example, suppliers of specialized inputs such as components, machinery, and services, and providers of specialized infrastructure.”
His core thesis is that advantage in the global economy lies, ironically, increasingly in local things – knowledge, relationships, and motivation.
Traditionally, competition centered on input-cost advantages – natural and human resources. Today, however, competition rests more on the productive use of inputs, which requires continual innovation. He writes, “modern competition depends on productivity, not on access to inputs or the scale of individual enterprises.”
He defines the following characteristics of a cluster that accelerate productivity:
- sourcing of information, technology, talent
- coordinating with related companies
- measuring and motivating improvement
- better access to employees and suppliers
- access to institutions and public goods (venture firms, lawyers, universities)
- co-optition, cluster promote both competition and cooperation
Clusters also directly support new business formation. Porter argues that working in a cluster allows individuals to more easily identify gaps in the current market offerings, enables efficient access to talent, institutions, partners, etc, and a home-grown exit market (i.e. established members of the cluster are the likely acquirer).
The most important insight for me is that the modern economy competes on innovation and that operating within a cluster shortens the cycle time to identifying, resourcing, and realizing areas of need and opportunity.
Michael Porter’s thoughtful analysis helps me better understand why the Bay Area “cost premium” is well worth it. Market cap is a function of innovation and growth, and innovation is a function of access to ideas, talent, and supporting resources that eliminate frictions and catalyze connections and progress.
Ironically, in an increasingly globalized economy the Valley is gaining not waning in prominence. The valley takes ~40% of total US VC, with CA taking well over 50%.
What about people, however, who are committed to building companies outside of the Bay Area? Given Porter’s work on clusters, it is clear that people outside of a major cluster must work incredibly hard to overcome the evident disadvantage of geography.
Fortunately, a real world example of kickstarting a cluster is underway: Bend, OR. Steve Blank’s recent posts on Bend highlight the work of Dino Vendetti, a former Bay Partners GP, who moved up to Bend. The most recent post,Engineering a Regional Tech Cluster, summarizes Dino’s strategy:
- Encourage entrepreneurial density
- Leverage the local university
- Lobby for direct flights to major markets
- Develop local venture capital sources
- Invest in connection via local entrepreneur events and start-up schools
- Harness local business community support
Dino, and other cluster pioneers, like the Foundry Group in Boulder and FirstMark in NYC, are clearly thinking holistically about how clusters take shape and what dependencies are required for them to take hold.
Will the valley’s choke hold on the technology industry continue?
Or, will the Valley’s rising costs, plus collaboration technology improvements, and cluster-based business-government initiatives (ex. Bend) see talent migrate to new clusters and geographies?
Please comment below and share your thoughts. It’s an important topic.