Freeport’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Keith McBride on May 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

A few years ago, a friend and colleague gave me Brad Feld’s book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. I read it almost immediately, because “building an entrepreneurial ecosystem” was something I definitely wanted to accomplish, and I couldn’t wait for my to-do list to explode with new project ideas from Feld.

Initially, I was horribly disappointed.

Feld uses Boulder, Colorado as his primary example throughout the book. Boulder is an interested case study, but Freeport and Boulder have very little in common. That left me wondering if any of the lessons learned and shared from Boulder have any application to my work in this community.  Feld also makes it clear that, “Leaders of startup communities have to be entrepreneurs. Everyone else is a feeder into the startup community.” That includes state and local government, and economic development agencies.

In short, Feld reduced my role to a cheerleading bystander. So I put the book on the shelf and let it collect dust for a while.

As time went by, I worked with more and more entrepreneurs who were interested in Freeport, and helped them however I could.  Some of these new businesses never got off the ground, others sprouted and grew. But I’ve noticed something interesting as of late that has made me think of Feld’s book again.

I’ve always offered to connect new entrepreneurs with other people in the community who are already operating similar businesses, as a way to help them get better information to use in making start-up decisions.  The Chamber of Commerce also became a place where new and established businesses came together and talked.  These connections became an enormous asset for economic development.

And I’ve always been amazed at how available and forthcoming local business owners are with others who are walking the same path they traveled. It’s somewhat unexpected, because it essentially fosters more competition, and yet that has never been a barrier that stops people from helping, sharing and reaching out to new business owners.

This is what Feld was talking about. The entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s an aspect of being a “business friendly” community that has nothing to do with streamlined regulation/permitting processes, and tax incentive programs for job creators and real estate developers.

Freeport has that in spades.  And I suppose, as Feld recommended, I’ve been a “feeder” into that system by referring people and making connections among the community. I can’t say Feld gave me the idea to do that, but because of the book I’ve noticed how this aspect of being a “startup community” applies to Freeport and has been an asset here, the same way that it was in Boulder.