Hot Wiring Entrepreneurship: An Experiment in Detroit
It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur. There are no shortage of problems to solve, ever-lowering barriers to entry, and near-ubiquitous access to low/no-cost technologies, which makes damn near anything possible. I adore working side-by-side with those who also see the world as an experience in which to participate rather than just consume. I am constantly energized and inspired by their works. These are my people, ambitious and proud.
My business being invention and intervention during a company’s earliest stage, I spend a good deal of time in different American cities working with entrepreneurs and those who advocate on their behalf. Having the opportunity to serve these folks while experiencing their local entrepreneurial networks firsthand, I have observed a number of too-disparate, closed-loop entities along the way that are effectively guiding startup community members towards market viability. Historically, entrepreneurs have existed at one end of the ecosystem with investors at the other. A startup has to leap the chasm of proving their business scalable and, as such, investment worthy. The accelerator model pioneered by Paul Graham with Y Combinator disrupted that century-old model, moving down the chain halfway closer to budding entrepreneurs and providing them with sustenance in the form of small investments, as well as mentorship and a community of fellow entrepreneurs off which to bounce ideas.
It is my contention that the proliferation of startup accelerators and the subsequent realignment of early-stage capital behind the best of them to serve as a pipeline and viability filter has revealed a kink in the overall process of starting up for an overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs. As a result, thousands of would-be founders are currently mired in the “dead zone” that exists between ambition and minimum viability. The accelerator model, while certainly a net-positive for entrepreneurship, only serves the small minority of today’s entrepreneurs—those with technical expertise or a co-founder with the same who can clearly and concisely convey an idea. In aggressively cultivating the large majority, you direct the flood of ambitious folks waiting to be guided toward viability to existing early-stage market filters, fundamentally changing the landscape of entrepreneurship while simultaneously realigning the existing network of capital behind filters even further down the chain and closer to entrepreneurs.
Most every market—be it thriving, dormant, or beginning to burgeon—has more than enough resources to catalyze and drive a fertile startup community, including Detroit. You all have the raw ingredients: advocates, entrepreneurs, and investors. It’s not a question of resources, but how they are directed or, in this case, misdirected. Who you consider to be an entrepreneur or, more specifically, what your allocation of attention and resources would suggest, is fundamentally flawed. After engaging with hundreds of entrepreneurs on the subject, I find that for a city and its investment community, there are actually five types of entrepreneurs, and that acting passively … Next Page »