Just a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to join over 400 entrepreneurial leaders from around the world in Kansas City, MO. The ESHIP Summit was hosted by the Kauffman Foundation and sought to begin putting together a playbook of strategies that communities can implement to accelerate entrepreneurship. The main theme of our discussions centered around the idea of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Kauffman Foundation Vice President and author of The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley, Victor Hwang, described these ecosystems in terms of the differences between farms and rainforests.
Farms are really good at growing one crop. Large mature companies (the farms) are seen as a good source of new jobs, but the things that cities do to recruit and support big companies and the things that make them thrive often don’t help the new ideas, the new products, the innovation, the weeds. Whereas in the rainforest, all kinds of different plants grow together elsewhere we’d call them weeds but here they thrive. And from them, we can seek and cultivate new innovative opportunities. But the things that the rainforest plants need are not the same as the farm crops. To cultivate both big business and start-up businesses in a city we have to realize the differences in these ecosystems and work to support them both.
This conference was just the beginning of a much larger nationwide movement to help more cities grow their economies by supporting start-up entrepreneurs. I’m excited that Burlington was at the table and that through collaboration with partners like the Kauffman Foundation, Engage Alamance, the Alamance Chamber of Commerce and others, we’ll be helping lead the way in the years to come.
Also, as a follow-up to my last letter about high-speed internet, I want to share a very helpful program that AT&T offers. In today’s world, access to the internet at home is nearly as critical as having running water and electricity. It helps students study and improve their grades, allows folks to build their resume and apply to jobs, and keeps us in touch with loved ones to name just a few reasons. For families that can’t afford this access, it can leave them stranded. The AT&T Access program seeks to assist. If anyone in your family is currently qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP) than you can sign up for this program and receive AT&T service for as little as $5.00 per month. This program is offered specifically through AT&T and is not funded with any government dollars. More info is available at https://accessatt.solixcs.com