Cities across the country and around the globe are facing an increasing amount of pressure in the race to become “the next Silicon Valley.” Fueled to some extent by self-congratulatory hype, tech insiders from Marc Andreessen to Robert Scoble have widely proclaimed locations as diverse as Estonia and Seattle as next in line for the Silicon throne.
Regardless of which – if any -- geography ultimately declares victory, the one thing that pundits can agree on is that when it comes to innovation, place matters.
Whether it’s an Alley, a Slope or a Beach, many places are already claiming to be a “Silicon something.” The common bond among them and the Valley is their belief that the underpinnings of individual company success are found in a vibrant, supportive, and inclusive entrepreneurial community. Sure, the Valley has the advantage of a near monopoly on investment capital, but money alone doesn’t build cities or ecosystems.
Cities take time to become great, but one person or organization can be an inflection point. For entrepreneurs outside of Silicon Valley, below are tips on how to ensure that your city is next in line:
1. Practice the art of the possible.
To be an entrepreneur is to have one of the hardest, scariest, and sometimes most thankless jobs out there. Rally around the entrepreneurs in your community, and instead of anchoring on what could go wrong, applaud what could go right.
2. Celebrate the success of your peers.
Commit to being as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. Being able to celebrate another entrepreneur’s success won’t ever dampen yours, but it will create a stronger and more empowered community.
3. Give back capital.
Entrepreneurs in cities like Lincoln, Neb. or Portland, Maine simply don’t have as many shots on goal as entrepreneurs in New York, Boston or Silicon Valley when searching for local capital. If you are a founder who has had a successful exit, place yourself in a position to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs, especially those in your own backyard.
4. Serve your community.
Making a difference in people’s lives and making a profit aren’t mutually exclusive business endeavors – for as the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships. Work tirelessly to be an engaged citizen, and help increase the availability of tools and resources that make your community more vibrant and regenerative.
5. Democratize opportunity and mentorship.
Many cities dedicate significant time and effort to attracting major corporate relocations, believing it to be a cornerstone for economic prosperity. Others place the majority of their resources in incubators and programming for startups. However, the fact is that big companies start small and small companies grow large, and every stage of growth in between is equally critical for long-term success. Play your part in democratizing the quality of education, training, and mentorship that entrepreneurs receive at all stages of growth, including a critical need for “tweener” companies that have outgrown incubators but remain in growth mode.
6. Bang the drum.
If you want to be the next Silicon Valley, take a lesson from the current one and fearlessly assert the accomplishments of yourself and your community. Just because you’re not located in California doesn’t mean what you’re doing is less notable – in fact it’s even more so. Be loud, be outrageous, and tell the world why you’re making a difference – because you are.