Fun with pie charts and the startup scene in Ohio
30 Jun 2014
Fun with pie charts and the startup scene in Ohio
June 30, 2014
Posted On: June 30, 2014 | by: Dan Rockwell

Categories: BigKittyBlog, events, startups, the plan

Well last night I went to bed early.  Too early.  And now.. here I am.. 3AM and hanging out, awake, thinking.  Always thinking.

Over the course of my time working in commercialization and being exposed to so much in terms of volume of people tying, making, investing, dealing, making it all go go go Columbus and startups, bits of perception linger in my brain.  Keep in mind I’ve been thinking about this stuff since my first taste of it all in early 2003.  I love the scene regardless of where I am and I always believe.

Generally when I look at Ohio, especially Columbus, I feel the risk tolerance for startup investment to largely non-existent.  Of course keep in mind, I myself am not the bank, the ATM, or the dude writing the checks.  But in comparison to other startup climates, man Ohio is tough.  Wil Schroter the other day expressed that “This non-risk tolerance is everywhere but in the Valley.”  So maybe the valley has a done a number on me, making me think is possible only there.

The state of Ohio does more than its fair share of trying however, I mean the state gov is always an easy target, and while they benefit from the taxes, the economic impact fodder, the jobs metrics etc but I suspect govs are largely not making oodles of cash.

The VC climate gets better and better these days but we’re still far far far behind what I’d like to see.  DriveCapital is bringing alot of people to town I think.  The Kvamme’ Effect which could be short indie film by now is well known in Columbus.  In 14 months he’s largely changed the face of perceived investment and potential in Columbus.  He’s no charity provider however and I don’t want him to be.

At some point we ask ourselves is the region capable of worthy investable vehicles- meaning, do we have the ideas that can be next? Is it an idea problem or risk tolerance problem?  Both sides could argue this for eons.

I’ve never been a fan of this. I am one of those people with a good portion of my mind body and soul in denial.  I don’t want it to be true. I don’t want influence to work this way, but I’ve had countless examples where who you know does matter.  But the who you know matter issue breeds a kind of culture and climate that largely doesn’t benefit the ecosystem of ideas, building big ideas and making the planet go round.

People are conduits.  They help you carry messages, emotions, contexts and critical notions forward to other people, people you have an eye on, need of or benefactor from beyond appeal.

Like it or not there is a collective of influence in every city in America- these collectives twist in perception based on who is looking thru the lens.  The likely fix is the switch the mind set of yourself from thinking you don’t matter to you do and yes you too have influence.

This is a fun one.  I have countless doodles sizing up who I think the startup people in Columbus are.  I like it, its my fun little way of cross sectioning the city sizing up what I think I see.

Stumbling in the dark. These are the folks learning, stumbling, always falling over. People that stop fumbling and stumbling go on to be hustlers.  Stumblers are a key faction of people in town, they represent the % of hope in town.  We all started by stumbling our way down the path, making mistakes, not knowing a soul, learning, doing, losing, winning, losing.  There’s always that playground mentality looking back on where you’ve come from with notion of never again, heck movies today reinforce this mentality, as if stumbling in the dark is terrible, but it was likely the time where you had the most freedom, the most unbiased, non jaded aspect of you’re gonna do it experience.

People doing it but largely ignoring everyone else.  I love these people.  They are often oblivious to me, they don’t even recognize the ecosystem they are in.  A good portion of them do know the scene however and largely ignore it.  Noise.  They see me, this post, just talking about the scene itself as noise.  Many of these people are in a state of “investment you need me more than i need you” meaning they could take investment but largely don’t need it.  The state and VC while looking for where to put their cash etc, are also looking to fulfill a metric, and these people hate being your metric.

Evangelists. I guess I’m sort of in this space.  There are folks like me who speak to the scene.  We hold events, bring folks together largely because we’re hard wired to do it, we feel compelled to do it, its hard to explain really.  Sure I could say its because I care about you and the planet etc, but lets be honest, I can’t really explain it.  I do events like Startup Weekend and WakeUp StartUp and offer tons of my time in mentoring and helping because I like it.  If I can help one person make something awesome, thats a win for me.  In some ways doing those events help me more.  Just like this post, why do this, why not, because I feel like the pattern is so obvious yet unspoken, I want to set those ideas free.  The evangelists in columbus, we’re artists, we paint in chatter and why the hell not people paint.

Investors, angels and folks on the check writing side of the fence.  CASH is king people.  We know this.  Most people starting something idolize this notion of CASH as their single biggest factor to surviving another day.  As such, we hold investment, vc, angels etc is high high high high regard.  This in turn projects a ton of power in their hands to decide who lives and who dies- provided you buy in that mentality.  There are parts of me that see the investment space as largely misunderstood.  We have countless events on the process of starting up, doing, building, but we next to none on what its like to run a vc.  I’d love to see an event where we dive into the thick of it on RISKING it all.  Let’s do our own event, you all get 50 million, you gotta blow it all in 3 days, pick your companies in town, justify to the board the how’s and whys etc.  I sometimes imagine the world of VC like Brewster’s Millions, ya gotta blow it all fast and ya never really tell the tale of that.

The Authority.  Because True Blood is coming back on HBO for its final season, let’s pay homage to the authority.  Who’s the authority?  You know who they are.  They’re gist of everyone, self included, working for the state, the incubators, the first line of ok this is what you do people.  Many of the authority are the reluctant to be recognized as the authority.  Its not a great place to be I suspect.  You’re not a VC, you’re a thing in the middle.

Hustlers. This is everyone who stumbled their way out of dark and into someone they love and they are doing it.  They represent companies, startups, but largely a collective of people that believe, and find results.  I put nearly every student I meet in this mix.  Most students that find me have already had a degree of hustle success.  Most if not all hustlers want to hang together.  They want to go the same party together, they live for the crazy why the hell not scenario.  They thrive off the energy of others that believe.  Together they feel unstoppable.  They are doers, strategists, mbas, developers, designers and more.  Trending in Columbus, hustlers being identified in HighSchool- you want to change the culture of Columbus innovation?  Ignite the passion for startups in high school!

Brick and Lifestyle. We have a very strong base of what I call brick and lifestyle- these are people building retail, and lifestyle biz plays.  Columbus is especially good at nurturing the retail, pop up shop, food truck, small biz, lifestyle biz side of things.  I don’t think thats due to conscience efforts however, I think as the city grows, the base of people that want this, sort of manifest it out of the ether.  These folks are shaping Columbus, they represent a face we don’t see as starting up, but they do it.

There’s no handouts for cash.  We should know not to expect it, but the drive and culture is to always ask.  How a Columbus Startup gets funded.. well to me its pretty clear, you earn it.  Not only do you earn it, but every degree of which you don’t need cash I believe increases the likelihood that if you’d ask for it, you’d likely get it.

We cannot count on the grace of the system yet starting up, really starting up is super massively hard without cash.  Actually starting up is probably not as bad as I think, its growing is where you die without support.  In software you know the tale of I started, got going, and died due to the inability to close the gap between infrastructure costs (sheer computing) and scale.  Meaning thats there’s oodles of $$$ at the end of the rainbow where great adoption is happening and you’re trending toward that but right now you can’t sustain the burn, so you, your good idea, you’re ability to make coin, vapors before your eyes.

We likely place too much emphasis on starting up and not enough on enduring that burn to true momentum.  As such we nod at new ideas but largely pass because while very interesting, we don’t see you surviving the burn.  I choke on this notion.  I get it but the “i believe” side of me really hates the naysayers.

Trouble with ideas.  I see the origin of all these issues tracing back to the ideas themselves.  In some ways you need to game the system with ideas not only for you but built for the climate in which you operate in.  You are not in the Valley.  While we idolize the valley idea possibility, you are in a climate that celebrates de-risk.

So nice charts dan, now what?  The majority of this piece again was written for me, but hey if made ya think, sweet.  Good news is that Columbus is growing faster and faster.  Some things change others don’t.  Your ability to bank largely depends on you, as it, always has.

While i shouldn’t have to state this, let the record show these ideas are my ideas alone, spurred on by 3AM thinking on a thursday.