A few weeks ago, I had a chance to hear about the status of the entrepreneurial startup world at the National Business Incubator Association’s (NBIA) international meeting in Denver.
It was affirming to learn that many of the great things happening here in Akron and northeast Ohio are considered best practices among other incubators. It was also great to learn what is working elsewhere that we can incorporate into our program here.
As I already suspected, entrepreneurs from around the world are faced with similar challenges and opportunities. There are also changes in the way incubators like ours support entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial support used to mean simply providing space and good advice to young companies with potential (i.e. incubation). For those of us whose bottom line mission it is to create new jobs in our region we found there is so much more that can be done and were excited to learn about some new initiatives that are producing results.
What I learned
- It was validating to me that others were recognizing the value of “extras” that we are working to implement here in Akron. Entrepreneurs need collaboration spots, co-working areas, maker spaces, accelerators, coffee shops and places to eat and live.
- A startup community is essential. This network of like-minded people who “get it” and are there to assist and to be assisted are critical to the success of startup companies.
We have a great foundation in Akron but there is opportunity to do much more. Here in the Akron Global Business Accelerator, we have an outstanding program for our client companies; the Software Craftsmanship Guild teaches coding through intensive courses; The Bit Factory software acceleration program helps tech startups; and the SBDC’s regional office supports entrepreneurs of all types. We also have our Bits and Atoms Innovation Center coming to the city in 2016. This new space will have a state-of-the-art maker space, a progressive co-working space, working areas for new companies, a variety of gathering areas and plenty of spaces/events for compulsive collaboration.
Our challenge is to build a startup community to enhance the entrepreneurial culture of Akron. It will take partnerships like the one we have developed with Women’s Network of Northeast Ohio. Its entrepreneur education program is specifically geared toward women with sessions taking place here at the Accelerator.
We have the foundation, but need to continue to build upon the success in our “Startup City.” Embracing this challenge can provide excitement and fulfillment for many. But we need to continually add entrepreneurs as nodes in the network to independently provide leadership. We must continue to build our governmental and university partnerships to serve as resources in this community. And we must continually shine a spotlight on the community drawing other talented people to it.
To paraphrase Colorado-based entrepreneur, author and venture capitalist Brad Feld: no matter where you are in the development of your startup community, you must stay focused on the long-term plan to make it even more effective and inclusive.
It’s an exciting time to be an entrepreneur in Akron.