Hot Wiring Entrepreneurship: An Experiment in Detroit
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and focusing on only one type repeatedly stalls and ultimately dilutes what could be a vibrantly dense entrepreneurial community with startups begetting other startups. I have categorized these five types as:
1. Those with a viable idea.
2. Those who think they have a viable idea.
3. Those who are spinning their wheels.
4. Those who do not know where to start.
5. Those who live in another city.
My experiment in Detroit will be to implement market-positive ventures that will serve to cultivate each of these groups of entrepreneurs effectively and efficiently, with the goal of intersecting them with the existing ecosystem. Participatory platforms that like the accelerator model will serve both as filter and pipeline to the early-stage capital system. I am not so much attempting to reinvent the wheel as I am realigning, or, as the title of this article reflects, “hotwiring” the city’s existing assets to jumpstart what is innate.
The obvious next question is: why Detroit? After all, I was born and raised in Philadelphia, which has a fantastic community of ambitious folks building things, with many of the same problems all industrial-age American cities are currently facing. It wasn’t an easy decision for a myriad of both professional and personal reasons and, in truth, I talked myself out of it more than once. In the end, it came down to two reasons, one more practical than the other.
First, I believe that these additions to and restructuring of the early-stage startup ecosystem can be applied to any market, be it blue-collar towns like Philly, Buffalo, and Cleveland, or more traditionally thriving tech markets like New York and Silicon Valley. To that end, if these platforms prove successful in Detroit, other markets will likely respond in kind with their own versions of the same. Second, and admittedly less practical, is the affection I have come to have for the city and its people. I love it because of the kind of people it attracts. Builders and instigators—artists and adventurists. The kind people who hold close their city’s history and push forward towards a brighter future. For as many people I have met from Detroit and the surrounding suburbs, I’ve had the pleasure to meet just as many from places like San Francisco, New York and Atlanta, all of whom came to Detroit to create something new, to find a canvas on which to paint their own sense of purpose.
For all the problems Detroit has—and there are more than a few—it has something you cannot put on a map: It has big ideas in its bloodstream. And so do I. So please follow me on this journey. Be it quick and painless or exponentially more likely, long and arduous, I want to share it as much as I can with all of you.