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The WDCEP Looks to Get DC into the Startup Spotlight

If you’re at all involved in DC’s tech or startup ecosystems, you probably think we have a lot going on here. However, a recent ranking of the top global ecosystems shows that DC didn’t even crack the top 20. We clearly have some work to do if we want to entice people to startup in the nation’s capital.
Luckily, the Washington, DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) is on it. Their goal is to get DC in the spotlight as a tech startup hub. According to an article in DCInno, they’ve started putting some ambitious plans in place that will help promote DC. In addition to some recent new hires, they’ve also become DC’s representation at SXSW Interactive.
“People don’t always think of D.C. as a big part of the tech startup and innovation world,” Erica Moore, who’s recently taken on the role of WDCEP first technology and entrepreneurship program associate, told DC Inno “That’s changing and the Partnership is evolving to promote it.”
The Washington DC Economic Partnership is a non-profit organization that promotes economic development and business opportunities for Washington, DC. Of course their mission covers development outside of the tech industry, but they are putting more emphasis on tech startups than ever before.
As part of the 2015 SXSW Interactive festival, they hosted WE DC House. It included a number of events including a startup showcase, a fireside chat brought to you by your very own Tech.co, and a lounge where people could socialize, be productive, or both.
“At SXSW we are showcasing to potential investors in our startups,” Julie Weber, WDCEP’s marketing director told DCInno. “We can show them we have a burgeoning, thriving startup scene that they should take a look at.”
WDCEP is putting a focus on drawing more venture capitalists, angel investors, and other resources to the DC area as well, because the entrepreneurs are naturally going to gravitate towards cities with money. As part of the push to highlight tech startups, WDCEP is also planning networking events, lectures, and they’ve even put together this handy map of all of the coworking spaces in DC.

Image Credit: Flickr/

UVA Professor Utilizing Wearable Tech to Track Impact of DC Area Development

Tysons Corner is one of the Washington, D.C. area’s most renowned suburbs and thriving areas of business, featuring big-name companies like Deloitte, Capital One, and Microstrategy. By 2050, though, the area is hoping to become more than just a hub for office buildings and consumer spending, and to transform into a sustainable urban center and community. The area development initiative is being touted as one of the “most ambitious re-urbanization projects on Earth”, and one University of Virginia professor is hoping to utilize wearable technology to measure its impact.
Andrew Mondschein, a transportation planner and an assistant professor of urban and environmental planning at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, is hoping to explore the ways the development project in Tysons Corner can serve as potential model for future re-urbanization initiatives. By having teams of students armed with various wearable technology – from GoPros and various sensors to smartphone monitoring apps – Mondschein hopes to measure the impact that re-urbanization can have on the experiences of pedestrians.
According to UVA Today, Mondschein is looking to track the project throughout the years and observe the ways through which citizens respond to urban planning and development. “I want to see how attitudes, the environment and behavior are changing in concert with each other or at different rates and to see the magnitude of the changes,” said Mondschein in the statement. “I want to show how what we plan actually leads to what we want to see.”
While some have questioned the extent of wearable tech’s role in our future, Mondschein recognizes the role that this technology can play in enabling communities to observe the impact of certain environmental and urban development initiatives and to persuade policymakers and fundraisers to support one initiative over others. Through various wearable technology that can measure things like light levels and noise pollution citizens can determine various community needs – such as increased street lighting in poorly lit areas.
Mondschein plans to track the Tysons Corner re-urbanization project throughout its entirety, hoping to eventually extend beyond his research team and allow for community crowdsourcing of data. You can read more from UVA Today.

Chicago Locals Love Their Startup Ecosystem

Chicago, it goes by many names: The Windy City, Chi-Town, and Chicagoland. I’ve even heard some people on the West Coast Best Coast call it the Los Angeles of the Midwest. Alternatively there are those on the East Coast that call it the New York of the Midwest.
This celebration of the Chicago ecosystem is brought to you by @properties, the leading Chicago real estate brokerage serving both the city of Chicago and North Shore through dynamic marketing and innovation. Follow the full content series here!
However, regardless of where you hail from, I think we should move past the small potatoes here and give Chicago some much deserved love. Sure, they have amazing museums, great pizza, and winning sports teams, but that’s not why they deserve our recognition today.
Rather, Chicago has one of the strongest crops of entrepreneurs who put the entirety of their being into building companies which elevate the people, the city, the region, and ultimately America. To that end, I went out and talked with some of the embedded, local entrepreneurs who know the ins and outs of Chicago better than most.
I asked them all one question: what makes Chicago’s landscape so awesome? I think you’ll find their answers inspiring and interesting.
Here are 9 entrepreneurs who love their city, and they’re not afraid to show it:
Abby Ross – COO – ThinkCERCA
“There are three main points: collaboration, physical spaces, and a supportive community. I work hand in hand with my CEO Eileen Murphy Buckley, who has decades of education and administration experience. But this isn’t the only opportunity I have to collaborate with people outside of traditional entrepreneurial spaces though – Chicago’s open and inclusive startup ecosystem affords an opportunity to collaborate with people from a number of different backgrounds.
And when it comes to places to work, Chicago houses coworking spaces across the city that give entrepreneurs the space they need to jumpstart their company without the headache of finding a place and furnishing it alongside running the actual business. Great example: ThinkCERCA started off at 1871, a collaborative space where entrepreneurs can focus on the work and less on the office administration.
There are also startup accelerators like Impact Engine, which gave me the confidence to create a company that would have a meaningful impact. Because of this support, I was able to scale ThinkCERCA to reach more students, and help schools achieve the only thing in this business that matters the most: student outcomes.”
Robert Haidari – Founder – Hot Emu
“Chicago is a big city with a small town feel: I love it. Business is done the traditional way, based on trust and respect. If a business wants to operate it has to try its best to satisfy clients, employees, partners, and investors. And everyone knows each other, whether they’re inquiring about someone’s work history, getting in touch with a potential business partner, or finding a mentor – everyone is within reach.
We also have a lot of great talent. Chicago universities are top ranked and produce a lot of graduates, which gives the startups here a wide range of potential employees. Not to mention we’re surrounded by various industries, many of them ripe for disruption.
In the middle of a highly concentrated pool of businesses, with money to spend and appetite to get ahead, I’m often asked if I would ever relocate to either coast. Never. Chicago has a very special feel to it, and I owe this city everything I have accomplished.”
Hazem Dawani – Cofounder – OptionsCity
“As a trading technology company, there is no better city in the world than Chicago. Obviously this is a market center, and the home of the world’s largest futures exchange, huge hedge funds, major trading firms, and other global companies that are active in the markets.
But the key is that when you combine that environment with a deep, talented, and stable labor pool, particularly of tech talent, it becomes an even better place for a business like ours. Every day I’m reminded of just how lucky we are to be in Chicago.”
Craig Vodnik – Cofounder – Cleverbridge
“Our first office was a 300 square foot space that cost about $600 a month. Today, the 1871 offers something even more attractive than what we had, but to start out, that was a very reasonable cost. Once we started hiring, we were finding really motivated and sharp people that wanted to work for an ecommerce company, not only for the job, but also for the career path that we would set them on. In California, companies are competing with Facebook, Twitter, and Google for the best talent and that free market thinking results in more outrageous costs all the time.
Obviously, being a Chicagoan, I had a support structure that I could call on in a pinch to help out, whether that was one friend answering phones for a week while I was in Germany or another friend shipping boxes from my house while I was at a tradeshow for three days.
Also, while there’s a 7 hour time difference to Germany, there’s a big difference in having two hours of workday overlap each day versus having none, which is what would have happened had we been based in California.
Not to mention I’ve seen what goes on in California, and Midwestern attitudes towards hard work, loyalty, and trust are intangibly important for an entrepreneur to build a successful business. Does your key salesperson come to you and talk about the recruiters hunting him down, or does he stay silent, always listening for the best offer and then jump ship after a year?”
Joseph Collins – Cofounder – Markr
“It’s all about the community. The 1871 is a great example of this: when the City of Chicago passed a law on SaaS companies that was going to hurt a lot of Chicago startups, 1871 was able to get in the ear of the mayor. Further, they were instrumental in influencing the Mayor to change the law and help the startups. I don’t know if there are many other cities that do that, or places that will help small startups in that way.”
Stephen George – Cofounder and COO – IndiCard
“Chicago’s diverse service economy gives IndiCard the perfect market to truly build a brand that we can then roll out to any city in the country. I’ve found that when Chicagoans get it, they get it and they love it. Businesses and individuals are inundated with so much technology here in Chicago that we really have to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack. Since we have a proven brand and product here in Chicago, we have a great foundation for success in our other live market like Denver and Las Vegas.”
Darren Guccione – CEO – Keeper Security
“I was born in Chicago, have lived here most of my life, studied Engineering at the University of Illinois, and have built my companies here. My family and I love living here – except when it’s 30 degrees below zero :).
The tech startup ecosystem has grown into something I would describe as amazing. There are so many creative entrepreneurs here that are challenging the ways we interact with technology, innovating, and creating environments to help each other succeed with organizations like 1871, Matter, TechStars, and Catapult.
Despite being a big city, we know how to stay both humble and grounded – this city is all about a no-BS attitude and disposition focused on execution. People are cool, friendly, and in the sincere Midwestern way, welcoming to newcomers. My team in Chicago is an extension of this, and they are some of the most dedicated, smart, and creative people I’ve ever worked with.”
Adam Fridman – Founder – Mabbly and Meet Advisors
“Chicago’s entrepreneurship community is exploding and the growth is daily and visible. It’s driven partly by the energy of the city itself but also by a wave of young people who are highly motivated to create their own spaces, both personally and outside the shadows of New York and San Francisco.
The good news is that Chicago’s startup community and culture are evolving so quickly that there are overwhelming events and opportunities like 1871, Technori, and SBAC. Finding the right one can be a challenge, so trying many different things and keeping an open ear are keys to getting the most of what’s happening in Chicago now.”
Greg Fenton – CEO and Tim Haitaian – CFO or RedShelf
“We think the Chicago tech ecosystem is the perfect place to be. Because we have team that is majority made up of individuals under the age of 30 that live downtown, it provides the best atmosphere to get to and from work. We love that our office is surrounded by art galleries, pubs, and bars to enjoy a few cold ones after working hard all day.
Greg considers working in Chicago and being a part of the tech startup ecosystem like summer camp for adults. There are so many different pieces of Chicago that one or a group of people can experience and do together, whether it’s after work on a Thursday night or getting together as team on a Saturday to go sailing.
​Having a team full of different personalities, we chose Chicago as our headquarters because it has something to offer everyone’s personal tastes and preferences. And our office is pretty sweet, too!​”

Steve Case Celebrates US Entrepreneurs Alongside the White House

There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in America. After all, high growth companies now have the ability to start and scale just about anywhere thanks to the myriad technological advancements that lower the barriers to entry.
Revolution’s Rise of the Rest tour, led by Steve Case, was built on the foundation of that very principle. In that vein they’ve made it their goal to capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit alive and thriving in various tech ecosystems across America and spawn innovation across our great country.
To date Case has logged 3,000 miles across 14 cities on his big, blue bus, and along the way he’s invested $1.5 million into a smattering of diverse startup companies. Even our own CEO Frank Gruber got to tag along for the entirety of the tour from Washington DC to New Orleans this past May.
Along the way Gruber contributed to the mission of Rise of the Rest by hosting startup pitch competitions and interviewing Case at local events along the way to showcase the local talent. The question on all of our minds, however, has been if Case will decide to embark on yet another tour.
If you’re unaware, today is America’s first ever White House Demo Day, an event that actually proves Revolution’s stance on entrepreneurship in America 100 percent accurate. The event takes place in Washington DC and operates much like an accelerator demo day would: startups pitch their ideas to funders, innovators from around the country, and even President Obama.
As Case tells us, it’s the absolute perfect stage to announce that he will, in fact, be heading up a fourth Rise of the Rest bus tour, and he’ll even be making it a little bigger. Not only will the 2016 tour include five additional cities in the Western US, Case has also committed to investing and additional $1 million across ten more Rise of the Rest tour cities.
The difference in this fourth tour will be added participation from Google for Entrepreneurs and Salesforce for Startups. Case will also open partnerships with Engine, Seed Here Studio, Startup Grind, Village Capital, and Tech.Co (hey, that’s us!).
“It was an honor to attend the first White House Demo Day in the nation’s history, and I was pleased to announce the expansion of our Rise Of The Rest initiative to level the playing field for entrepreneurs everywhere,” says Case. “I look forward to visiting Baltimore, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Manchester, and Portland this Fall as our bus travels through the Northeast to visit some of America¹s most iconic cities.”
During the fall stops in the quoted cities, the Revolution team and their partners will:
Meet with local entrepreneurs, businesses, nonprofits, universities, and public officials to discuss the opportunities and challenges of fostering startup growth
Hold a pitch competition open to the public where a local startup will receive $100,000 investment
Host a happy hour party to celebrate the visit
If you’re interested in learning more about the Rise of the Rest tour make sure to check out their website and follow the #riseofrest hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. To give you a taste, here are some of Fank’s pictures from when he went on the tour with Case this past May:

Image Credit: Pixabay

5 Startup Hangouts in Chicago That Aren’t Coworking Spaces

Where do you go if you want to meet other entrepreneurs in a casual, spontaneous, this-might-actually-lead-to-a-real-relationship way? Why, one of Chicago’s startup hangouts.
You could go to a coworking space – and Chicago has many – but it’s a bit pricey if you are happily working from home (or some of these other unique places). You could go to networking events every night, but that’s a lot of time to spend away from work. This celebration of the Chicago ecosystem is brought to you by @properties, the leading Chicago real estate brokerage serving both the city of Chicago and North Shore through dynamic marketing and innovation. Read more here.
We asked Chicagoans to share their favorite places to meet entrepreneurs, and they cited some spots you’re already spending time in already – namely, the city’s trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants. If you’ve got a choice of where to eat or imbibe some alcohol, why not choose these startup hangouts and kill two birds with one stone?
1. Purple Pig

A well-reviewed restaurant specializing in charcuterie, cheese, and wine.
Address: 500 North Michigan Avenue (closest CTA stop: Grand-Red)
Why work there: “Board games, purple drink (actual drink that tastes like Koolaid and gets you drunker faster than you can code), and a performance space means I meet more ‘startuppers’ there than nearly anywhere else I’ve been in the city,” says Asif Khan, CEO of Caremerge.
2. Gilt Bar

A swanky, dark bar that’s so convinced its food speaks for itself that its entire homepage is nothing but (mouthwatering) photos. Located right near Merchandise Mart, which makes it convenient for entrepreneurs working out of 1871, Matter Chicago, and other coworking spaces there.
Address: 230 West Kinzie street (closest CTA stop: Merchandise Mart)
Why work there: “It’s a fancy-ish, dimly lit, French-feel of a bar/restaurant with a basement bar called The Library that all the ad kids and more well-off startup people like,” says Khan.
3. Starbucks

Duh, it’s Starbucks – the original coworking space. Choose the Chicago & Franklin location or the Merchandise Mart location to get the highest density of entrepreneurs for your buck (or your 4 bucks).
Address: 750 North Franklin Street (closest CTA stop: Chicago-Brown); 470 Merchandise Mart #111 (closest CTA stop: Merchandise Mart)
Why work there: “[The Chicago & Franklin Starbucks] is a frequent stomping ground for entrepreneurs to grab their cup of coffee as well as have meetings,” says Kevin Ludden, head of creative and brand for Figo Pet Insurance.
4. Rossi’s

A liquor store with a dive bar on site.
Address: 412 North State Street (closest CTA stop: Grand-Red)
Why work there: “Lots of journos, journos-turned PR and/or marketing, tons of startup folks,” says Khan.
5. Green Street Smoked Meats

By the same people as Gilt Bar, Green Street Smoked Meats serves Texas-style barbecue in a cool venue that looks like a warehouse.
Address: 112 North Green Street (closest CTA stop: Morgan-Lake)
Why work here: “I’ve met more people that work at Google and Groupon here than every other place in the city combined. Best potato salad ever, great BBQ, and relatively cheap drinks (specially on half-off wine night),” says Khan.
Did we leave any popular startup hangouts off our list? Share it below in the comments section.
Image credits: Flickr / Edsel Little (Purple Pig); Gilt Bar; Starbucks; Rossi’s; Green Street Smoked Meats

Startup Ecosystem Report Shows a Changing World (In 2 Graphs)

There’s a new startup ecosystem report demonstrating global rankings, with the top 3 spots all from America (Silicon Valley, LA, and New York). Tech company benchmarking firm, Compass Startup Genome, updated their 2012 list that ranks the areas of the world on how well they foster top tech talent, profitable businesses, and expand into foreign markets.
According to the report, Silicon Valley is pretty much the benchmark upon which the rest of the world compares itself. The Valley captured nearly half (47%) of startup company exists (acquisition, IPO) revenue in 2013 & 2014. London came in a distant second with 10% and LA is struggling to be noticed at 6%.
The good news for the tech industry is that the pie overall is growing at an impressive pace all over the globe.
“Silicon Valley is growing at a 45% rate over the last two years, whereas many other ecosystems further down the index are growing at much faster pace. London has quadrupled in the same timeframe, and Berlin has grown 20 times (due primarily to the two big IPOs of Rocket Internet and Zalando)”, concludes the report.
So, how do the startups compare on important metrics to Silicon Valley?
In the chart below, the Bay Area’s total GDP of tech companies is half-a-trillion dollars ($535B) compared to the North American Average of ($430B). The Valley has between 14–19 thousand active startups (!!) compared to the American metro average of 4K.

The Bay Area also has to pay a lot more per employee, averaging around $118K/year compared to $91k for the North American average. But The Bay Area has nearly twice the national average of founders who already have experience in fast-growing startups (35% vs. 17%).
That said, if ambitious tech folks don’t want to run the gauntlet in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of other fast growing areas in the world. Considering all factors (like talent pool and number of successful startups) Austin, the home of the tech conference mecca, SXSW, is new to the list and ranks 14th worldwide.
In other countries, Berlin jumped 6 spots from 2012, ranking number 9 in 2015. Amsterdam and Montreal bring additional international flair, coming in at 19 and 20th, respectively.
Readers can view the full report here.
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Education Might be Broken, but Students Can Fix it

My friends, Kirill Satanovsky is walking, living, breathing proof that entrepreneurs can come from anywhere. When he was in school he studied neuroscience, only to end up working at a home automation startup after graduation.
He didn’t abandon his interest in neuroscience by any means, Satanovsky simply found something in this world that was more important to him: entrepreneurship. You see, when he was working at this company he was bitten by the startup bug, big time.
Like many entrepreneurs before him he realized, while it was a big risk, his best bet was to pack up and move on out to Silicon Valley. After all, he had a colleague who was starting a company out there and she invited him to come help launch it.
Satanovsky spent about eight months at the company before realizing it wasn’t quite up his alley though. At the time when he decided to move on he was living in a hacker house which he eventually began running, and ultimately handling all the operations for.
That’s when Alex Cory entered the picture: Cory was running an education centered hackathon and needed some help. There was something special to Satanovsky about this hackathon, and he saw it as something that was legitimately trying to make a difference.
It all started when a group of student university ambassadors attended a Google summit and were charged with keeping innovative spirits at their schools high and to host individual, local hackathons. It didn’t make much sense to them though.
After all, San Francisco State, Berkeley, and Stanford are all relatively close: why not just hold one, massive event? That was the genesis of the first HackingEDU event, which Satanovsky eagerly offered to help with.
HackingEDU specifically brings together the sharpest young minds from all over the West Coast. It’s all under the banner of inspiring the next generation of students to solve the problems that plague our current education system,
“Education is broken, who better to fix it than those directly affected,” says Satanovsky. “I love the idea of empowering students to change the system from within.”
The idea has absolutely caught on with current university students. Cory and Satanovsky recently held a HackingEDU Training Day event where they brought in their sponsors to engage with the attendees, showcase companies, and provide networking opportunities at PayPal HQ.
Initially it was supposed to be a relatively low key, quiet event but the entrepreneurial duo got 1,500 student sign ups out of the clear blue. Granted, they officially clocked attendance at just over 400, but it was still a massive showing for the event.
When the PayPal rep asked them how they managed to pull the whole thing off, impressed by the turnout, they told him that it’s all because of the students. Cory and Sataovsky realize something poignant: these young minds are the ones who are super passionate about education because they’re directly embedded in it. All HackingEDU did that day was give them a stage to connect.
In a nutshell, that’s the core philosophy of HackingEDU though. Their biggest driving influence is to show students that they really can make a difference, even if it’s only making a smart watch app that teaches kids multiplication tables. However, you can’t innovate unless you start the conversation, and for HackingEDU it’s all about starting it with the students as early as possible.
“Education is more than just public schooling, it’s a right,” says Satanovsky. “You shouldn’t have to spend money on antiquated institutions who will teach you skills you can’t apply or not the right skills you need. Not everybody is Peter Thiel – what about all the other bright kids who don’t learn well in the traditional school systems? How do they learn new skills? How do they connect? We’re empowering DIY learners. We want to be the central place for people who are passionate about education.”
To hear Cory and Satanovsky tell it, this is only the raw beginning for HackingEDU, and they’re planning on running annual events for years to come. You’ve got to admire their tenacity, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. In effect, HackingEDU is showcasing a new generation of student entrepreneurs. This is what you get when you pair ambitious university talent with a robust tech ecosystem, and it’s beautiful.
Image Credit: HackingEDU Facebook page

Where to Start a Tech Startup

Planning a tech startup? Then as an entrepreneur, you must have many concerns such as funding, developing a marketing strategy, ensuring that you provide good service, etc. However, one of the most important decisions which you will have to make is to choose the right geographic location for your tech startup.
Location is important for a number of reasons. First of all, you will need to consider the office costs, the tax and legal incentives, and access to incubator programs. All these are important issues to consider for business especially if you are just starting. I researched data provided by Simply Business to compile the numbers that round out the top startup ecosystems.
Here is a list of top ten places where you should start your tech startup in the U.S.
1. San Francisco and the Bay Area
The San Francisco bay area is home to a large number of leading companies such as Pandora and Craigslist. The city of San Francisco is most ideal for a tech startup as the place attracts young people due to its vibrant and lively atmosphere. It does not cost much to build an IT business with the accompanying infrastructure so you might as well think of starting your tech startup here.
No. of Startups: 11,722

2. San Jose
Silicon Valley serves to be the birthplace of countless internet startup companies and continues to be the most popular place to start up a tech market. It is filled with the leading IT startup communities. Some of the major IT businesses such as Facebook, Google, and PayPal can be found here. The area is packed with talented entrepreneurs who daily venture a large sum of capital money.
No. of Startups: 980

3. New York
Over the years, the mayors of NYC have worked hard to make the city look appealing and attractive to tourists, investors, and the entertainment industries. New York City is quickly becoming one of the largest IT markets and IT hubs for these industries. The many media conglomerates that are spread across Madison Avenue help the nearing small IT businesses to flourish, making it one of the most successful areas to start a tech startup.
No. of Startups: 7,584

4. Boston
Boston continues to be one of the major IT hubs. Surrounded by the prestigious MIT, many of the tech start-up companies here have been created by MIT graduates who decided that they wanted to stay in New England.
No. of Startups: 2,334

5. Los Angeles
Initially Los Angeles was not famous for being an IT hub but over the years it has cultivated a thriving media and entertainment industry along with becoming a popular location for tech startups.
No. of Startups: 5,054

6. Washington D.C
Home to the federal government, DC has established itself a busy market. A lot of IT companies have flourished in the region mainly because of the heavy influence of the federal government and the strong interest in security.
No. of Startups: 1,133

7. Seattle
Seattle is home to many headquarters of hi-tech companies such as Microsoft. A large number of successful entrepreneurs are found in these regions and it serves to be the home of many start-up companies.
No. of Startups: 1,080

8. Austin
Finally, Austin is famous for having a thriving startup market. Many leading companies such as RetailMeNot and NetSpend started off as successful startup companies here. Austin is home to a vibrant young crowd filled with talented individuals who make the location ideal of a tech startup.
No. of Startups: 1,339

Why your City May not Be a City At All

Earlier this week I was privileged to sit in the audience of a panel entitled “The Best City in the World May not Be a City At All” at SXSW V2V. As someone who’s lived in multiple cities and yet hasn’t really found one geographic location I ADORE this as a topic. I believe that the reason I live or stay in a city is due to its people and its opportunities. Apparently I’m not alone in this thinking. But first let me tell you why I feel this way.

Feeling those geographic limitations
I’ve lived three places (so far); Suburban Minnesota, Downtown Chicago, and Downtown Dallas. I knew from a very young age that I was not fit for the suburban culture and probably would never be. (Sorry future kids – you’re not getting a backyard). This has nothing to do with the dislike of mowing lawns or hordes of kids but rather it’s the sounds and energy. When I moved from Chicago to Dallas I moved to the loudest area of town possible. And it was still dead to me. But I got my high off the people and environments I was working around. One of the very first people I met in Dallas shared an energy just like mine. (His name is Trey Bowles in case you’re curious). We both had “get it done now” & “there is always more time in a day” attitudes. I liked that. I soon met a few more people like this who shared the energy and sass I needed to thrive.
However, as I’ve now been a resident for over a year I’m craving a higher high. This has lead me to travel more. In the past month I’ve been in Chicago, Nashville, Miami, Las Vegas. Next month I will travel to Minnesota (Hi parents!) and Chicago. And in the month after, Las Vegas and NYC. The environment and the high I get from Dallas is still there; I’m just going through a “rejuvenate & build bigger” stage. This leads me to work on projects for Dallas which will bring it national attention. (announcing soon….) Because although Dallas to me isn’t SUPER geographically exciting, it’s home (for now) and I want to pump as much energy into it as I can. Which is one of the major reasons I recently took the position as VP of Programming at the Dallas Entrepreneur Center. This position gives me the opportunity to build the culture up, interact with hundreds of people and connect with those, like me, working for the high that cannot be provided by a typical city.
Finding a fit in your city
Now, back to this “the best city may not be a city at all” feeling. To me, and to a huge population of people, we don’t need to be tied down to a specific geographic location; our lives are digital. Our cities, rather, are phones, computers, people, conversations, laughter, music, noises, etc. It’s the components that make up a city or culture, instead, that we are attracted to.
While watching this panel made up of three New Yorkers – Jey Van-Sharp, Helen Todd, and Jim Hopkinson— I felt at home. (no offense Martin Waxman – Toronto just isn’t my jam but holla!) They had the energy and drive I needed. They are my city. New York has the lights and sounds and geographically would work for me yes – BUT it doesn’t have other key components I need in “my city”. That’s why I don’t actually live there, but the people – oh do I love them. I’m sassy, I’m loud and I’m a get it done person – sounds a little like NYC huh?
So the bottom line to this whole rant of an editorial is that your city may not be a city at all. Rather, you should find the items, people, and noises that make you tick – assemble those and call that your city.
If you’re curious, my ideal geographic city combines water with skyscrapers (and a lot of both). What’s yours?

Witness the Rise of India’s Startup Ecosystem

Sanjay Vijayakumar is himself a startup founder, but he’s also an ecosystem founder. He spent years embedded inside India’s startup culture and realized along the way that, compared to Silicon Valley, the ecosystem in India was rather weak. Despite the lack of infrastructure though, he also saw that India was producing some seriously talented, young entrepreneurs.
His solution was to build the infrastructure these entrepreneurs needed to innovate in India. To that end he helped establish the Startup Village incubator so that it could support the creation of a subsequent tech ecosystem for the country of India. It was setup as a nonprofit focused on promoting entrepreneurship across three main areas: Inspiration – Idea to Prototype, Incubation – Prototype to MVP, and Traction – MVP to traction and angel funding.
Selected companies receive three years of assistance from Startup Village to hone their skills. According to Vijayakumar, Startup Village provides everything a growing tech ecosystem and its entrepreneurs need for success.
“The need to spread and build a culture of entrepreneurship among the youth in the country is critical to reap the demographic dividend of India,” says Vijayakumar. “With over 225 million youth in the 19 to 25 age groups, the country needs to create a million jobs a month for the next 20 years to employ all its youth. This huge number of jobs is not going to come from established companies; it will come from startups and this is where efforts to create ecosystems like Startup Village become significant in nation-building.”
I spoke with Vijayakumar to learn more about Startup Village, where it came from, and how it’s aiming to be the top incubator in all of Asia.
Tech Cocktail: So, where did the idea for Startup Village come from?
Sanjay Vijayakumar: The initial idea was to create an incubator which was both credible and had the capacity to take large risks for public good. India is brimming with aspirational youngsters and top rate institutions. However, there was the absence of an ecosystem that would encourage college graduates to dabble in entrepreneurship.
Technical institutes were producing skilled brains, but most of them were ending up in queues of jobseekers. Instead of foraying into the fascinating world of entrepreneurship, they were making a beeline for the US chasing greenbacks and better career prospects. It was precisely because of this reason that the Indian government decided to address the issue in right earnest.
The Startup Village was formally launched at Kinfra High Tech Park at Kalamassery in Kochi (Kerala) in April 2012. It is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model, Technology Business Incubator (TBI). In fact, it’s the first of its kind in India with a primary focus on student startups from college campuses.
It was after nearly three decades of funding technology and management institutions that the government decided to move into PPP models, and the success of Startup Village is now creating a blueprint for more private sector companies to launch tech incubators in the country. The National Innovation Council, the government think tank for innovation in the country, has also endorsed Startup Village as one of its showcase projects in the country.
To that end Startup Village has created a model incubator that makes young people realize their entrepreneurial potential through their journey from idea to IPO. In the three years since its inception, it has electrified the startup scene in India and ignited the dormant entrepreneurial instincts in young, turning them into job creators rather than job seekers.
Tech Cocktail: How is your mission to become Asia’s number one startup destination coming along?
Vijayakumar: Startup Village has attracted over 5,000 applications and incubated more than 700 companies, 276 of which are student startups. This experience of creating an entrepreneurial culture is unparalleled in India – our ultimate goal is to emerge as the leading player in the domain of entrepreneurship in the country and create a bridge with Silicon Valley.
When Startup Village began operations, its mandate was to incubate 48 startups, organize 20 events, make available 10,000 square feet of infrastructure space, and forge 10 partnerships in five years. Startup Village has supported 533 startups, organized 102 events, offered 15,000 square feet of infrastructure, and forged 25 partnerships in less than three years.
By the end of 2014 Startup Village had also created 2,889 jobs and its companies were valued at a whopping 2.92 billion rupees. It has been creating one new entrepreneur every day!
Tech Cocktail: Why is it important that something like Startup Village exist?
Vijayakumar: The raison d’etre of Startup Village lies in unleashing the dormant entrepreneurial instincts of the young people and their enormous capacity to build enterprises and create wealth. Equally heartening is the burgeoning number of women as founders, employees, and interns at the Village. Presently, women have cofounded around 250 of the 533 startups.
Also, anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur can visit the weekly open house session organized at our campus at Kalamassery. They can meet the Startup Village team, clarify any doubts they have on our incubation process, discuss their business ideas, brainstorm with like-minded innovators and meet other technology enthusiasts.
The employment, knowledge, and wealth created in society are huge reasons to allow the passionate and determined minds to pursue entrepreneurship. The social and demographic stage that our society is in today also calls for a greater push for promoting entrepreneurship.
Significantly, Startup Village has been successful in creating a new wave of entrepreneurial spirit among the people in Kerala. The change is visible not only among the technology sphere, but also across all the trade.

Image Credit: Wikipedia