Book Review: Startup Communities

Want to make your city more of a hotbed for entrepreneurship? It’s the obsession of many entrepreneurs, mayors, and university professors. Finally there’s a book overflowing with practical, credible advice on how to do it — Brad Feld’s latest: Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. In addition to myriad tactics and examples, Brad also presents a persuasive set of overarching principles that all good startup ecosystems have. It’s a must-read if you are involved in trying to stimulate entrepreneurship in your region in the U.S. or abroad.

For me, the best part of the book is having seen first hand how my good friend Brad walks the walk on the things he writes about in the book. He is the entrepreneur who leads the community in Boulder, CO and who has run or supported almost all of the community-building experiments. He speaks from direct experience.

As it happens, in October, 2008 — well before the national press flocked to the scene! — I wrote a long-ish piece about Boulder as a startup town. The gist of the piece is that rather than be a pale version of Silicon Valley, Boulder is self-confidently something different: a small, energetic startup ecosystem filled with people who love to live in Boulder for the outdoors and quality of life, and who also work in the tech industry. A comparison: A liberal arts college offers something valuable and unique in the higher ed marketplace. It shouldn’t try to compete with a large research university; rather, it should embrace its strengths while fully admitting it’s not for everyone. That’s Boulder.

The one shortcoming of Startup Communities is that there is comparatively little detail about how communities other than Boulder have fared in their efforts to become startup hubs. I’ve personally seen differing approaches in places like Santiago, Chile, Austin, Texas, and Zurich, Switzerland. More on comparing and contrasting approaches from regions around the world on this vital issue would be interesting. The good news is that I expect that’s a theme Brad will take up on the Startup Revolution companion web site. Congrats, Brad!

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