First, I found this story on Minnesota Business by Peter Kane:
“Someone needs to say it: the Twin Cities has a dramatic gap between perceived ability and actual ability to support early stage startups. The lack of startup support structure is letting down an entire generation.”
I would like to be surprised, but I’m not. I am more than willing to fully embrace my disappointment however. But, over the past 8 years I have been more a part of the problem, than the solution. I’m one of those Minnesota entrepreneurs who left the midwest for the ‘glory land’ of San Francisco. I am not going to lie, I did learn a ton by being smack dab in the middle of silicon valley. But, before I left MN, I gathered a ton of folks from the community for a little come to Jesus meeting back in 2008. I feel like we had a good discussion about what was needed to build stronger community and support for entrepreneurs in this city: co-working, conversations around lean principles, more early-stage funding, and a healthier willingness to share what we were working on (rather than keeping everything so close to the vest).
Is the community perfect? No. But, I just moved back to town, and plan on being here for a long time. And over the past 8 years, I can tell you that things ARE getting better. Now, when I look around I see a THRIVING co-working scene, a saturation of understanding and actual practice of lean approach (vs watterfall and build the whole thing before you launch), a much bigger number of angels and seed funds, and many many more local startups.
I get where you are coming from Peter. And I completely agree that there is so much more we can accomplish and strive for as a community. But, these things take time. And, I would hate for us to forget how far we have already come in such a short time.”
Then, I found another response to this story over on Tech.mn by Jeff Pesek
I agree with you that the solution to these frustrations will come from *doing* rather than *complaining.*
But, the intensity of your response leave me feeling like you don’t believe the community needs to do a better job of supporting one another, encouraging one another, and struggling with one another. Maybe that wasn’t your intention, but it is what I absorbed. And, if I were a first-time entrepreneur, and I read your advice to me, I would assume that I should just shut-up until I’ve accomplished something big, don’t ask for help, and don’t admit publicly that I am struggling and need some help. Which to me perfectly describes the biggest hurdle this community needs to overcome to ‘level up’ to the next stage.
I suspect that these two articles describe the two extremes of the current culture in MN startup community, and the healthy reality is somewhere in the middle.
I can’t tell everyone else what to do, but I can tell you what I am doing, and hope to do more of:
- Dive deeper into the community and get to know more people who are in the arena trying to build something from nothing
- Share my own struggles and dreams with more people, being as honest as possible about the joys and deep-pains of being an entrepreneur
- Seek out individual people and the watering holes where people gather to reach out and lend a helping hand to fellow entrepreneurs
- Share as many lessons-learned as possible so that others can learn from my mistakes and discoveries at scale, hopefully resulting in a ‘rising tides float all boats’ here in MN”
Anybody want to join me?