Growing a start-up technology business involves a great deal of entrepreneurial imagination, along with innovation and personal sacrifices. It is work done by individuals; by risk takers.
Is there a role that local government can play to support the growth of start-up technology entrepreneurship? How can a city encourage the growth of the entrepreneurial eco-system?
One idea is to create a regional innovators group, comprised of inventors and entrepreneurs and to then host and encourage monthly meetings of the group. Many cities are seeing a need to create business incubators to help facilitate the success of their local start-up companies.
The City of Murrieta, for example, recently established the Murrieta Regional Technology Innovation Center, a business incubator/accelerator, at its former city hall. Murrieta leases space in the facility for $1 per year to start-up technology companies with a focus on national security/defense and life sciences.
Cities can also encourage the creation of a local angel capital network and/or partner with a known organization such as Tech Coast Angel for fast pitch and business screening events.
Capital -- especially angel capital -- is a needed commodity when trying to create an entrepreneurial eco-system. There is also a great need for mentoring programs.
Community leaders can help create partnerships with individual mentors and local/national organizations that can provide mentoring services. Murrieta, for example, helped the Tri-Tech Small Business Development Center to establish an office in the city, along with their offices in Irvine and Riverside. Tri-Tech focuses on providing assistance to fast growth tech start-ups.
It is also a good idea for the city to create partnerships with industrial and office brokers and developers so that companies can move into larger accommodations as needed as they grow.
Skilled labor and tailored college programs are needed to help create an ecosystem that is most beneficial to entrepreneurs and the success of their business. Therefore, it is very important for a city to partner with colleges and universities that are within the region. Murrieta reached out to the University of California-Riverside School of Engineering and their School of Medicine to help facilitate the growth of existing and new businesses in the community.
Having areas of land that are available for the development of large office and industrial buildings is critical to attracting and keeping successful start-up companies within your community. Murrieta’s City Council funded the cost of a new General Plan and rezoned large areas of the city along both the I-15 and I-215 freeways for "Office Research Park" development; the only such tech-focused zoning to exist within this part of the inland San Diego-to-Los Angeles corridor. The City also funded the cost of the environmental impact report for the development of technology parks on privately-owned land, so as to provide certainty to investors and businesses. This allows for a more "shovel-ready" approach to development and allows the company to focus more on their business and less on construction plans and costs.
Growing a business is hard work, so a city needs to be a facilitator and problem-solver for business. Creating a "Fast Track" program to help facilitate tech development and business growth by granting permits in record time when applicable. Murrieta, for example, created a task force made up of department heads and the City Manager to make sure that large projects are moving through the City’s permitting system quickly and swiftly. Again, allowing the business to focus on their business and not on the development and permitting process.
The City leaders also took an active role in helping to create a new private sector organization, InSoCal CONNECT (www.insocalconnect.org) which is focused on spurring innovation, entrepreneurship and export opportunities for the region which includes the Twin Cities of Murrieta/Temecula on the south and the University of California-Riverside on the north (the" InSoCal Innovation Corridor"). InSoCal CONNECT recently completed the first Innovation Assets Report for this region which indicated, in part, that 80 new startup technology companies were formed each year, with 350 such companies launched in the past four years. The report further stated that there are early indications of micro clusters developing in the corridor including biotechnology, software, communications, national security/defense, advanced manufacturing and other fields. InSoCal CONNECT represents the first time that thought-leaders from San Diego, Murrieta, Temecula , Riverside, and UC Riverside have joined together to promote a regional approach to the growth of start-up technology companies.
There are many challenges to starting a successful company and there are equally many ways that the government -- particularly local government -- can help to facilitate their start-up potential, growth and success. The city’s role in creating a better economy is by "simply" doing what Brad Feld suggested: Creating the environment where the startup community can thrive.