It would be difficult to find someone who would argue against the fact that entrepreneurship is at the core of any economic growth and yet, with all the focus on thriving in a post-industrial age, the entrepreneurial ecosystem exists mostly as it has for the last hundred years. The most significant change in recent history has been the advent of the start-up accelerator. First established by Paul Graham, an author and entrepreneur after seeing a need to support ambitious folks looking for an alternative path out of college. These programs, sometimes referred to as incubators help bridge the gap between the entrepreneurs and access to early stage capital. Previously, an entrepreneur would need to conceptualize, build and make consumable their company for angel investors or early stage venture capital firms in order to adequately iterate their product and scale. Now, equipped with supportive mentors and seed capital to cover living expenses, both supplied an accelerator, a certain segment of entrepreneur, one with some technical expertise and the ability to clearly and concisely convey their idea, has a shorter path to viability. A better chance at a successful conversion. These accelerators serve as a filter for the early stage capital entities and as such, investors are aligning themselves with the best of these programs in ever more creative ways.
I could go on forever about this topic and I do here should you be so inclined to read it but for the purposes of this platform, let’s just say that while accelerators are undoubtedly a net positive for all things entrepreneurial, they also reveal an alarming deficiency in the overall platform that is supporting entrepreneurs to solve problems with market viable ventures. A very small percentage, say 5% of those who would be considers entrepreneurs have the specific assets needed to access these programs. Leaving out the majority of would-be company founders at a time where the cost of entry is plummeting and it is ever more easy to build things on a shoe-string.
For the accelerator, it is a simple question of supply and demand. Even with their applicant requirements, most still have an abundance of applicants. Hundreds more than they could take into any given class of new companies. The opportunity for cities lay in attracting the other 95% with problems that need to be solved and supporting them to that end. Incubating and retaining them in your city by leveraging your existing but currently too disparate network of entrepreneur advocates. Provide a real world platform for these entities to connect along and thrive as a post-internet, entrepreneur-fueled engine for economic growth.