The Boulder Thesis
I was very interested to read Startup Communities by Brad Feld, especially considering my visit to Boulder Colorado in March 2018. In it he talks about the startup scene in Boulder, a small town of on 100,000 people but with potentially the largest startup density in all of the United States. I was particularly intrigued by The Boulder Thesis, four points that he considers the critical success factors for a startup community to thrive in a city:
- Entrepreneurs must lead the startup community – since publishing this first edition, Brad has rephrased this to suggest that you need a critical mass of local entrepreneurs playing a leading role to drive the development of the ecosystem for it to success. Other players (mentors, universities, governments, corporates, non-profit organisations) are feeders necessary to the ecosystem but that critical mass of entrepreneurs is crucial to it thriving.
- The leaders must have a long-term commitment – for the ecosystem to grow, you need entrepreneurs who play the long game and commit to be in the city for 20 years starting today! Rome was not built in a day and neither are startup communities. They grow incrementally over time and so it is crucial that leaders within it must have a long-term commitment to being in the city and building the ecosystem.
- The startup community must be inclusive of anyone who wants to participate in it – what I saw in several cities and towns in the US is how cohesive, focused ecosystems can span across the city and involve many players. Until a few years ago, my only observation of cohesive entrepreneurship ecosystems was very tightly controlled empires. Inclusivity broadens the scope and reach and is crucial if a city if going to become a prepared destination for business and investment.
- The entrepreneurship community must have continual activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack – from meetups to pitch events, any activities designed to empower entrepreneurs will fortify the ecosystem
Each of us need to bring this to context. Particularly considering African cities, here are some questions for our consideration:
- Do you agree with this thesis and do you see it as a formula of ingredients that will work in context?
- What would you add or subtract from this?
- What shall we do?
And finally despite our reflections and considerations, we simply need to start. I firmly believe that Africa has what it takes. Each city in Africa has the necessary ingredients to empower local entrepreneurs to thrive. What is our thesis? Let us begin…or is it continue?