Entrepreneurship 101: Be The Change You Wish To See

http://blog.timesunion.com/opinion/files/2010/10/1008_WVimmunity.jpgRarely, if ever, do such cries come from real entrepreneurs:

“The lack of startup support structure is letting down an entire generation.”

“Minnesota could do more to encourage, nourish and retain new startups.”

“We don’t have to stay in Minnesota and be blasted with terrible advice and disparaging feedback.”

“The early stage startup community has nothing to give right now except for the promise of Minnesota’s future.”

These expectations…and implied entitlement…are cancerous to the heart and mind of entrepreneurship. Worse, toxic to a community. Just because you wannabe an entrepreneur — because you care and try — doesn’t mean that someone else owes you time, advice, or money.

What successful entrepreneur ever got to where they are with such a perverse view of how business works?

It matters not your age, gender, race, religion, life situation, or any other factor aside from action and ability.

Real entrepreneurs:

  • Place their validation in the market above all else.
  • Don’t turn to others for the answer.
  •  Are creators of circumstance, not victims.
  • Operate more from a space of within and less from without.
  • Take ownership of their fate, the trials and tribuluations, their wins and losses.

It’s the wannabes who tend to impose their sense of entitlement and expectations on others. This approach may draw some attention and empathy from equally depraved peers, but it never convinced a customer to buy a product, inspired others to jump on board, or attracted an investors cash.

Real entrepreneurs are taking what they’ve got, where they are at, and running with it.  If that sprint leads to a different environment, one of greater opportunity given the objectives, then that’s their path and their concern.

Meanwhile, the other real entrepreneurs are not letting those life and career choices distract their pursuits.

Wannabe entrepreneurs waste energy on trivial matters — such as whether their state or existing network is “supportive enough” — instead of learning how earn business in the wild right now on their own accord.

When the wannabe fails, the excuses emerge and it becomes other peoples fault. They distract and steal attention from the real entrepreneurs who are making it happen every damn day under the same circumstances as the rest.

Transforming from a wannabe to the real thing comes from leading by example, taking initiative and doing it. The onus of success is always on the entrepreneur, and no one else — that’s 101.

Look in the mirror because it starts with being the change you wish to see.  Invent a solution to the problem you perceive instead of waiting, or expecting someone else to do it while passing blame.  And if it’s a grant you’re after, start a charity; if you want a shot at investment, start a company.

Jeff Pesek has interviewed hundreds of Minnesota tech entrepreneurs. Some are real, and some just wannabe.

Comments

  • Matt Otterstatter

    Jeff, I don’t know the context of those quotes above, so take this with a grain of salt. While I do agree with you that the attitude of an INDIVIDUAL entrepreneur building a business should be one of determination and scrappy resourcefulness, it isn’t necessarily inappropriate for people to honestly assess the weaknesses of their community. If you’re in a position to do something about it and are actively trying, it can help your cause to call attention to shortcomings in the ecosystem….but again, that might be a more appropriate conversation for policy makers, philanthropists, corporate leaders, or others with the resources to really make a difference. The paradox of course is that many people knowledgeable about building startup communities (Brad Feld, Kauffman, etc) believe these initiatives must be entrepreneur-led to actually be successful, and thus, how would that happen if entrepreneurs are not thinking realistically about the problems they want to address in their communities??

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi Matt, thanks for the comment.

      “…how would that happen if entrepreneurs are not thinking realistically
      about the problems they want to address in their communities??”

      It surely wouldn’t happen if entrepreneurs were not thinking, caring, trying things in the first place.

      Those are part of the equation forsure. But they alone are not enough to change the dynamic.

      • Matt Otterstatter

        Jeff, I’m confused, because it seemed like the core thesis of your post was that entrepreneurs should NOT spend their time bemoaning the shortcomings of the ecosystem, as Pete has, but now you acknowledge that it can be a step towards progress. Regardless, he’s in a unique place because he’s got one foot in the entrepreneur’s camp with a for-profit business and he’s also got one foot in the community-building camp and is actively trying to change the culture. So it’s a little different than other entrepreneurs that can just put their head down and work.

        Also, it’s great to see such passionate interest on this topic. The worst thing would be apathy. Given the interest, have you considered having a panel discussion on this topic at the next Midwest Capital Call, MinneBar, or something earlier?

        • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

          “Jeff, I’m confused, because it seemed like the core thesis of your post was that entrepreneurs should NOT spend their time bemoaning the shortcomings of the ecosystem, as Pete has, but now you acknowledge that it can be a step towards progress.”

          I’d caution you against confusing talking with complaining (or projecting words of entitlement on others), very different types of content, vibrations and directional steps.

          But…what is talk, even when stricly positive and constructive? Relatively nothing when compared to the rest of it all. Action my friend is where it’s at, there is no substitute and that’s what great entreprenurs do early, often and sustainably over long spans of time. This really is 101 stuff here I’m surprised it’s garnering such discussion, but ok, we all gotta learn sometime.

          “Regardless, he’s in a unique place because he’s got one foot in the entrepreneur’s camp with a for-profit business and he’s also got one foot in the community-building camp and is actively trying to change the culture. So it’s a little different than other entrepreneurs that can just put their head down and work.”

          Are you thinking that because its a coworking space and the customers are peer entrepreneurs, that the business is somehow different or excluded from the realities of economics?

          It really can only be for profit or not for profit at the end of the day, there is no one foot in and one foot out -or- “I’m for profit but with the exception that I care?” – ultimately the market rules the roost and dictates whether or not there’s merit to the model.

          Sure, one can have more of a socially conscious take on it, but that doesn’t mean that the same rules & principles don’t apply – regardless of what you sell and to whom. Thats what sets it apart from a nonprofit and makes it a completely different animal – it’s beholden to actually providing measurable and profitable value exchange! As Clay reminded us, this is capitalism not charity. Many problems arise when entrepreneurs try and mix the two, because there is only one master and that’s the customers in the market you choose to serve.

          “Also, it’s great to see such passionate interest on this topic. The worst thing would be apathy. Given the interest, have you considered having a panel discussion on this topic at the next Midwest Capital Call, MinneBar, or something earlier?”

          Well there’s certainly some passion, but that’s so easy to fake it online. Funny how such passionate people come out of the woodwork around certain types of articles and never others. It says something. And yeah we do a session at Minnebar annually along the lines of “State of Startups”…but between now and then the narrative is being written everyday by real entrepreneurs who are being the change…and the good news is they’re everywhere!

          • Matt Otterstatter

            Jeff, we agree on about 90% of the things being said, and I greatly appreciate your diligence in responding to all the comments! It must be exhausting! However, that 10% is a REALLY BIG difference that I feel needs to be addressed, so sorry for one more punch on this horse.

            While I greatly respect Clay for the success of his startup in MN, he is not completely accurate in his portrayal of entrepreneurship as necessarily being cold hard capitalism devoid of any support. Maybe that was his experience here, and that’s valid, but that’s certainly not the way it works on the west coast with companies like Google, Cisco, Citrix, Qualcomm, Amazon, and Microsoft all offering copious amounts of free support for startups (and those are just the ones that I have direct experience with). It actually made me scratch my head when I saw all the free programs with little to no expectation of return from these for-profit companies. When I talked with the leaders of these programs they made it very clear, it’s not charity, it’s simply taking a long-term, relationship-minded view towards entrepreneurs. The corporations gain information on industry trends, new business partnerships, potential acquisition targets for talent, and an engaged user community, all while effectively outsourcing a piece of their R&D. It’s certainly an innovative approach, and the larger point is that the black and white portrayal of capitalism vs charity is one born out of a LACK of entrepreneurial experience in different ecosystems, most notably silicon valley.

            This misunderstanding is also precisely the problem with the MSP tech community. Maybe it’s our stoic heritage wanting to be completely self-sufficient, but communities that take a more supportive long-term view towards their high potential entrepreneurs and startups will stand to benefit in the long run. Again, it’s not charity, it’s just a more mature view of business in the 21st century. There are some corporations in town warming up to that idea, but the tide turns slowly, and I believe this is the core of Pete’s frustration, because he’s also spent some time in SF and seen the light.

            In the meantime, let’s all get back to work on real actionable projects that will make a difference here!

          • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

            “…companies like Google, Cisco, Citrix, Qualcomm, Amazon, and Microsoft
            all offering copious amounts of free support for startups (and those are
            just the ones that I have direct experience with). It actually made me
            scratch my head when I saw all the free programs with little to no
            expectation of return from these for-profit companies. When I talked
            with the leaders of these programs they made it very clear, it’s not
            charity, it’s simply taking a long-term, relationship-minded view
            towards entrepreneurs. The corporations gain information on industry
            trends, new business partnerships, potential acquisition targets for
            talent, and an engaged user community, all while effectively outsourcing
            a piece of their R&D. It’s certainly an innovative approach, and
            the larger point is that the black and white portrayal of capitalism vs
            charity is one born out of a LACK of entrepreneurial experience in
            different ecosystems, most notably silicon valley.”

            Astute observations…and we may be closer than it seems in thinking. If a corporation in Minnesota or wherever (as Google is doing w/ CoCo) decides to take this approach in Minnesota, more power to them. It is the long view and giving to get yes, but still a function of their for very for profit business as you correctly point out.

            “There are some corporations in town warming up to that idea, but the
            tide turns slowly, and I believe this is the core of Pete’s frustration,
            because he’s also spent some time in SF and seen the light.”

            Sure, it’s a frustration shared by many including myself…a BIG missed opportunity (see: http://tech.mn/news/2015/04/27/proto-labs-cool-idea-contest-2015/ ) – but nowhere in that process of slow change is entitlement or sense of obligation an effective approach towards incentivising and convincing them to part with resources. They need to see the value for themself and if an entrepreneur aims to demonstrate that, awesome, but the burden falls squarely on the entrepreneur, as I suggest above.

            “In the meantime, let’s all get back to work on real actionable projects that will make a difference here!” Amen :)

  • http://minnovation.co Joe Serrano

    Ha ha ha. Here we go again….

  • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

    That’s some solid victim blaming.

    Real entrepreneurs are taking what they’ve got, where they are at, and running with it

    Yes, to Silicon Valley.

    If that sprint leads to a different environment, one of greater opportunity given the objectives, then that’s their path and their concern.

    Yes. This is the core of Pete’s point—there are real startup founders in MN. But the ecosystem doesn’t support us so we leave. Clear example: lack of sophisticated VCs.

    p.s. You are responding directly to Pete. Have the courtesy to use his name.

    • John Brownlee

      Tyler, Jeff linked to the article.

      • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

        Yep

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi Tyler, thanks for the comment. I don’t know what victim blaming means – are you referring to my perspective or Pete’s?

      “there are real startup founders in MN. But the ecosystem doesn’t support us so we leave.”

      Are you suggesting that the real startup founders leave? Umm…

      Regarding your entrepreneurial experience, one of hundreds here – it’s a bummer that you felt compelled to go elsewhere to start/grow your company because it hurts like hell personally and professionally to lose any entrepreneur/startup. That said, kudos to you as a human being for making a change that resulted in a more positive situation vs. becoming bitter and entitled.

      • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

        Your perspective.

        I would never classify someone as “real” founder. I shouldn’t have used that term.

    • http://twitter.com/casey__allen Casey Allen

      For what it’s worth, I want to applaud you Tyler for making the move west. You couldn’t have done it soon enough, and you’re correct, SFBA will serve a customer-facing startup such as yours MUCH better than MN will.

      They specific type of advisors, investors, and product talent you need is there, not here. Kudos, and keep killing it.

  • truth

    petes upset bc the whole startup loft thing isnt going as planned.i know i was there.shame on minn biz mag for posting his rant without the backstory. too bad hes gone so neg,dont take it too seriously guys bc theres plenty of amazing things here

    • John Brownlee

      If you’re going to publicly criticise a guy for putting everything on the line to build an idea (like Pete has) then you should really identify yourself.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      People are free to comment on here anonymously but there’s no credibility in the nameless claims.

    • http://twitter.com/casey__allen Casey Allen

      Why are you anon? What are you afraid of?

  • John Brownlee

    As an entrepreneur myself (vidscrip.com) I’m glad Pete has raised the issue of the startup ecosystem. Ecosystems exist, and it’s important for a community to think about them. I also share Jeff’s skepticism about the entitlement underpinning Pete’s analysis (although he was a bit harsh…come on, this IS Minnesota!).

    Every ecosystem is different, and they tend to nurture some forms of life over others. Pete seems to assert that our ecosystem should be just like Silicon Valley’s. I don’t agree. If you have a “crazy, world changing” idea (his phrase) with no business model in sight you may find a friend on Sand Hill Rd. They’re good at that. However, If you have a business and you know how to make money, you’re not going to find a better place than MN to locate it.

    I don’t know if the premise of the article – that there is an exodus of startups leaving MN – is true. But on our block in downtown Minneapolis (1st Ave and 3rd St) we have Zipnosis, Vidku, and Vidscrip – all kicking ass. For me, I love MN as a place to start up!

    • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

      Thoughtful points John. One qualm:

      If you have a “crazy, world changing” idea (his phrase) with no business model in sight you may find a friend on Sand Hill Rd. They’re good at that.

      True. Good point.

      However, If you have a business and you know how to make money, you’re not going to find a better place than MN to locate it.

      I think this sounds nice because of the way your paragraph flows. But high-growth-potential, revenue-generating businesses still have more friends with bigger checks in SV and increasingly markets like NY, Austin, and Boulder. Growth capital and valuation acceleration are very real and do not exist in MN (… yet)

      If we’re just talking about businesses generating $$ but not high scale opportunity then there are many great markets for those I agree, including MN. But those are not startups.

      • John Brownlee

        I completely disagree that “growth capital and valuation acceleration” do not exist in MN. I cited two startups on our own block (Zipnosis and Vidku) who have both raised significant resources and are jammin. We (vidscrip) chose to invest our time in building a product, and selling it (rather than making pitch decks and calling on VC’s). We have awesome top and bottom line growth and a great story for investors when we’re ready to pour gas on it. Now VC’s are calling us (a lot). You can do anything here that you can do in those places you mentioned.

        • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

          A few companies yep and a couple VCs yep. But it’s not a culture, and certainly not a self-supporting ecosystem.

          • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

            What’s a few?

            I’m looking at a research report coming out next week with around 45 different MN based tech companies that raised early stage capital (10k – $27m; $250k median) in Q2 2015 alone…not counting the off record deals.

          • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

            Not bean counting. Overall point is there are better environments than MN, significantly so; and also that MN ecosystem is counterproductive by denying this which disallows infrastructure to take hold. No one is saying there are no startups or VC in MN, or even that that trend isn’t upward

          • John Brownlee

            So the point that there are better startup ecosystems than MN in undoubtedly true, for some markets. If you’re creating a new photo sharing app you probably shouldn’t be here. If you’ve developed a novel device for cardiac valves then you shouldn’t be anywhere else. That’s the thing about ecosystems, they systematically favor some organisms at the expense of others. I think what’s great about this discussion is that its critical for young entrepreneurs to know how to best leverage the ecosystem we have here, and it’s critical for us all to discuss the ecosystem we really want. The premise of Pete’s piece was that there is a structural deficit that is causing startups to leave in droves (or never appear in the first place). It’s just not clear to me that that’s the case – and JP cites data to suggest it’s not that bad – but this discussion is important.

          • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

            OK. So besides stating the obvious, moving your company away, and defending critics – what could you do more of to make Minnesota a better place to be for tech founders?

            Assuming that is, a change you wish to see?

          • http://madebytyler.com/ Tyler Hayes ✮

            I talked about that in MN last year: http://healthcare.mn/prime-ceo-tyler-hayes/ I think it’s towards the end of the video

            This will be my last comment in this comment section. I don’t feel welcome from your passive aggressiveness and unnecessary hostility.

          • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

            Goodbye Tyler, thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions. Your inability to answer such a direct question will have to speak for itself. Do consider being the change you wish to see!

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi John, thanks for the thought, good points.

      “I don’t know if the premise of the article – that there is an exodus of startups leaving MN – is true”

  • Daniel Worku

    It matters not your age, gender, race, religion, life situation, or any other factor aside from action and ability.

    Wow. The onus of success may always be on the “real entrepreneur” but Jeff must live in a privileged echo chamber to conflate that with equal opportunity. Action and ability are requirements but do not guarantee success.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      “Action and ability are requirements but do not guarantee success.” – yessir.

  • http://minnovation.co Joe Serrano

    Jeff,

    I am a big fan of the saying “Criticize by Creating.” Don’t you think Pete has earned that right with creating a startup loft? Not an easy thing to do.

    In regards to: “Placing validation in the market above all else.” Don’t you think we have to be careful of dogmatically following the “lean startup” movement? While it’s tenets are sound for most startups, I don’t feel like ecosystem-building startups that change the trajectory of human evolution start over the weekend with an MVP.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall seeing a transformational startup, defined as one that has the ability to build an ecosystem singlehandedly of dozens of other startups, and liquid exits that get recycled, in the last 40 to 50 years here in Minnesota. Moreover, if you research the history of the founders of these startups, you will see the overwhelming majority of them were founded by people who were NOT ORIGINALLY FROM MINNESOTA. Why is that?

    Lack of talent? Maybe. Maybe not. Lack of “adventure” capital? Without doubt.Lack of support from big companies. Maybe. Maybe not. Implicit adherence in Minnesota culture to our following of the “Law of Jante” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante)? Yes.

    We can only move forward when we are honest about our circumstances and not deluding ourselves that “Minnesota is a great place to create a startup.” Not in a cathartic way, (although we are only human and can’t help ourselves sometimes), but in a way that sees things for what they are so we can CHANGE THEM.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi Joe, thanks for sharing your perspective. I’ll attempt to address your questions, FWIW:

      “Don’t you think Pete has earned that right with creating a startup loft?”

      We all certainly have the right to say and think what we want.

      “Don’t you think we have to be careful of dogmatically following the “lean startup” movement?”

      Call it what you will, that’s the core of entrepreneurship, which is a function or phase of business. Product – market validation. Does this principle not apply when the market is the community? Based on years of firsthand experience, I’ve come to realize based on the economics, that it definitely does.

      “Why is that?”

      Again, be the change you wish to see! Where there is great challenge lies great opportunity.

    • John Brownlee

      Transformational Startup: Medtronic. In 1949 it was a startup in the purest sense. Changed everything, and the MedTech industry we have here – including the startups in that space – is a direct product of that one company.

      • Frank Jaskulke

        John – thanks for mentioning Medtronic. They are the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve noticed that in many discussions around Minnesota’s startup community medical device is ignored. Since Medtronic formed back in 1949 Minnesota has become the world’s leader in medical device.

        And it is still going strong today. See the news last week of Tendyne being purchased for Abbott. Tendyne relocated from Maryland about 2 years ago, raised $25 million and was just sold for $250 million++. Not bad. Last year we counted over $400 million raised by health care related startups, about 2/3 of that medical device.

        Could things be better? Of course! Are they pretty good? You betcha. Would 47 other states kill to have a medical device startup community like Minnesota? Yes.

        And we are starting to see the emerging health tech community – companies like Vidscrip, Zipnosis, Novu, RedBrick and others bring new entrepreneurs, new technologies and new success into health care.

      • http://minnovation.co Joe Serrano

        Exactly. The 1950’s seemed to be Minnesota’s last heyday of creating “transformational startups.” Medtronic, Control Data/Sperry (we missed our shot at becoming Silicon Valley), 3M’s hockey stick growth. What happened after this? I ask this seriously, and from a place of wanting to understand. Why haven’t we created more?

        • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

          What happened after this?

          The state of “innovation” became complacent and thought that everyone was as nice as us. That proved not to be a strategy for sustainable success.

          Who is we?

  • http://www.thecontributor.com Teke

    I’ve had the good fortune to have this “debate” (in differing contexts) with both Pesek and Pete in person, and the awesome thing is that they’re both infinitely correct: whatever you think of the Minnesota ecosystem, that’s precisely what it is. What?! No, seriously. This is an Oprah argument. It’s one of positivity and/or myopia. You either have the ability to construct a successful future, or you do not. Victim blaming, city blaming, ecosystem blaming, media ranting . . . it’s all the same, i.e., not much at all. Make what you will of your future. If you can handle the cold, Minnesota is as excellent as any other excellent city IN THE WORLD> it’s what YOU make of it. Not what she makes of you.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      “You either have the ability to construct a successful future, or you do
      not. Victim blaming, city blaming, ecosystem blaming, media ranting . . .
      it’s all the same, i.e., not much at all. Make what you will of your
      future.” – indeed.

  • http://www.localledge.com jerdei

    I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started several companies over the past 15 years and most failed but I’ve had some good wins along the way. I do not feel entitled to help from others that have success or knowledge but that does not mean I don’t try and seek them out and get advice.

    With my latest venture ( LocalLedge.com ) I have been self financing for 2 years and make consistent progress even if it’s at a snails pace. I can only count on 1 hand the people I have contacted that turned me down for a quick phone call to ask a few questions or get some advice on a specific issue I was having.

    I’m close to 5K installs with my App in Brazil and just last week I got some help with the UX from a person at Coco and I got 30 minutes of time with someone who has had years of experience in the tech and startup field. That person will be setting a side a whole hour of their time for free to help me again in the coming week.

    As an entrepreneur I can definitely go it alone but having meetups, co-working places, access to talent are all important. If I was not getting that here in MN I would seek help outside the state which I do when needed. It’s a whole lot harder getting a silicon valley person on the phone when you don’t know them then it is in MN.

    Out of the 7 states I have lived in, MN at least for those in the Metro is by far the best I’ve come across when it comes to finding some real industry experts and getting 20-30 minutes of someones time.

    Startup echo systems are not there to hold your hand. They are there to help others connect and innovate. You are still going to have to do all the work and chances are you are going to fail. Failure is key to growth as an individual.

    We can always improve upon MN’s startup scene and I think a lot of people are doing just that daily by answering the phone and e-mail when a nobody like me comes asking for a few minutes of the persons time.

  • Thompson Aderinkomi

    I’ve been working closely with Pete the last 2.5 years, so here is my take on this conversation in the comments of the original MN Biz post. http://www.minnesotabusiness.com/millennial-startup-exit

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Hi Thompson, thanks for sharing. While I digest that, could you elaborate on this part?

      “If the MN start-up ecosystem was doing what it is supposed to do”

      + Who or what is “MN start-up ecosystem” and what is it “supposed to do” that it’s not?

      • Thompson Aderinkomi

        I’m resisting using analogies, so I will try to do without. In my response I focus on output of the startup ecosystem because one cannot define an abstract system in the way one can define a closed system like a car engine. Furthermore, everyone will have a different opinion on who, what, and supposed to do when discussing abstract systems. Therefore, you can only define it in terms of its outputs which are concrete and tangible, around which general consensus can be attained. So the answer to who is “anyone” The answer to what is “anything”, the answer to supposed to do is “whatever it takes that is moral and ethical”: as long as the desired output is achieved, which I believe we can mostly agree is fundable and funded startups that change the world and also achieve liquidity. If we can ensure this output is attainable by millennials, first time entrepreneurs, and underrepresented ethnic groups, we will truly have arrived.

        • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

          OK, coming back to the thread here…I’m trying to follow…this may be too meta for me today?

          It sounds like you’re saying at a high level (please correct/clarify as needed): an absract system, one that consists of anyone or anything, is supposed to do whatever it takes that is moral and ethical?

          …because when you say the “MN start-up ecosystem”, it definitely sounds as though there’s some lines drawn? And it’s being thrown around in here recklessly or without consideration for who or what that actually means — starting with the original piece.

          So I’m finding that answer nebulous and diluted, hard for me atleast to wrap my head around at the moment, which is OK. I’d like to better understand though, who in your view, is “supposed to do something” under your code of moral obligation or ethical responsibility?

          I’m glad you brought it up, even if it’s hard to grasp in this instance, because concepts like morals and ethics, manifested as values, are the underpinning to so much of what is being discussed and are worth expanding on openly – a huge part of the enrepreneurs psyche.

  • Mark Ritchie

    Jeff, Thank you very much for this important piece. As Secretary of State one of my responsibilities was ensuring a smooth process for the over 60,000 new businesses being created each year in Minnesota. I was only able to meet and talk directly with a tiny fraction of these each year but whenever I had the chance I would hear about the many different reasons why these entrepreneurs chose Minnesota. It is our entire eco-system that makes us the top state in the nation for business – and I believe that has been the case since the quarries at Pipestone, Minnesota “kick-started” North American-wide trade several thousand years ago.

    As we plan for hosting the World’s Fair here in Minnesota in 2023, focusing on health and wellness, I am conscious that we have all sizes and shapes of institutions that make up this part of our community. It takes all of us pulling together to harvest what has been sown before us, to prepare the ground for the future, and to make sure that the seeds are planted deep enough and in sufficient quantities to ensure future harvests. Jeff has helped us think more carefully about all of this.

    Mark Ritchie, President and CEO, Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee

    • Linda Kollofski

      Mark, I’d be more in agreement with your comment if you had thanked BOTH Pete and Jeff. Pete initiated this conversation by putting himself out there, trying to offer some solutions, but most importantly opening a discussion on an important issue. Jeff’s response, while passionate, is more of a harsh criticism and lecture than a healthy way of convening a discussion that will lead to solutions. Kudos to Patrick Delaney for trying to move the issue forward productively.

    • http://minnovation.co Joe Serrano

      Mark, Iove the optimism and energy. However hyperbole doesn’t help. If you were a startup entrepreneur pitching an angel investor or VC on creating the “top state in the nation for business,” from that post, they would have told you: “Well, when you get some traction, come back and we might talk.” http://www.kauffman.org/microsites/kauffman-index/rankings/state

  • Patrick Delaney

    I commend both Pete and Jeff for furthering the entrepreneurial community of Minnesota in their own ways. This discussion should not be a flame war over the comments section – that’s a waste of time. Hold a public forum on the topic, get together and meet face-to-face and stop being passive-aggressive Minnesotan about it, you can increase public awareness of both SVL and Tech.MN. If you don’t do it, I will.

    • http://tech.mn Jeff Pesek

      Thanks for contributing to this civil adult conversation Patrick.

      Why talk when we can do and be? It’s much more effective and fun!

    • Matt Otterstatter

      +1….I would love to see a civil, intelligent, public conversation on this. What is out there is usually either too much cheerleading or too much pessimism. It’d be great to lay it all out with people who have different perspectives based on real entrepreneurial experiences.

    • John Brownlee

      Happy to hold this forum at our new offices on the 5th Floor above 112 Eatery. Any time! Patrick, you going to plan it? I think we should all lay down our money and have Pesek and Kane thumb wrestle for the lot.

      • Patrick Delaney

        I think the perspective that entrepreneurship conversations will not be enhanced by mentioning geography is rather narrow-minded. There are very interesting discussions I have heard about starting a business in China vs. the US. That being said, in my opinion what we should be debating or discussing in person is not, “how many startups get funded,” but rather what is the exit rate of our startups vs. in other areas and how can we improve that, and how we can improve innovation. The Bay Area is very innovative and has tended to specialize and speculate in technology risk pools over the last 40 years. The Twin Cities has a largely agricultural and manufacturing economic background and has tended to specialize in forecasting, med-tech, corporate finance and associated technologies over the last 40 years. Minnesota is just not going to become a Silicon Valley – ever, period. That being said, we do have a huge amount of entrepreneurship and innovation here since we are a major metropolitan city in America, and it would be interesting to see where our startup companies go and what gets bought and what goes to IPO status. What I imagine the opinion consensus to be here in Minnesota, with my very limited view and conversations on the subject, is that there are fewer candidates for IPO in the Twin Cities per capita entrepreneur than in the Bay Area — with Lead Pages being basically the one candidate that people mention. But, I could be totally wrong on that. What would be interesting is to get someone like Brad Feld on one side of the table, and Clay Collins on the other, and have them discuss in a civil manner, whether geography matters, whether community support within that geography matters and why, and how this is going to make any of us better off. I am genuinely interested in this and these are people I look up to. That being said, I don’t know Clay or Brad but perhaps Clay will read this and give his thoughts on that. I am sure Jeff has detailed insight on this as well because he more than anyone follows this regularly.

        • http://twitter.com/casey__allen Casey Allen

          Companies that are >$50m rev, still high growth, and have (or could easily put) a C level team into place to IPO:

          Realistic:
          Code42
          Jamf
          Leadpages
          SportNgin
          Redbrick Health
          HelpSystems

          Semi realistic, but too early to tell:
          FieldNation

          This is by no means exhaustive nor does it mean they want an IPO our won’t get acquired first. But the good news is that I suspect the pool is in better shape than most people would suspect and its size is trending up, not down.

          The only thing lacking is perhaps the strong likelihood of a $1b valuation IPO amongst any of these which is usually what causes significant ripples in an ecosystem.

  • http://www.LeadPages.net Clay Collins

    Hi,

    I completely disagree with the notion that Jeff’s article is “victim blaming.”

    Self-victimization has no place in entrepreneurship. Perhaps the #1 trait of an entrepreneur is that they don’t view themselves as a victim in any circumstances.

    Also, can we take the term “support” off the table? There are no charities here. Have we forgotten that we’re talking about capitalism, not non-profits? Are you a charity in need of “support” and donations? Or a business that’s trading money for value (and if you’re talking about entrepreneurs pitching in to help other entrepreneurs, then I’d argue that we have one of the most supportive ecosystems in existence).

    The rewards are million dollar (or billion dollar) exists. Believe me, if investors thought they were going to make money with your business, they’d be doing everything they could to invest in you. We’ve raised $38M without a pitch deck and have had no problems with fundraising.

    If you don’t like it here please move to SF so all your imagined excuses for failure can be taken off the table. I’ve lived in both CA and MN and have found it easier to raise funds here.

    Also, everyone in SF is complaining about cost of living, cost of doing business, and how hard it is to hire developers.

    Again, this is capitalism: if your business doesn’t work, it’s your fault and your fault alone. It’s not because investors here aren’t sophisticated enough. There’s almost no discussion about entrepreneurship and startups that, as an entrepreneur, I find to be enhanced by talking about geography. Normally, discussions about geography turn into complaining sessions.

    If you’ve got traction, it doesn’t matter where in the US you are, investors will find you. And if you don’t have traction, investors won’t give you the time of day (even if you live in SF). BTW, investors don’t owe you anything, and the fact that they don’t want to invest in your startup doesn’t make them any less sophisticated.

    Minnesota owes you nothing. And neither does SF… which chews up and spits out entrepreneurs at an alarming pace. Our jobs as entrepreneurs is to create the pre-conditions for the success of our businesses, and then to make our businesses successful. If that takes you to MN or Austin or Boston or SF then so be it. But please don’t stay somewhere of your own free will and then complain that your location is bringing you down. If you’re a white dude living in the United States then you’re probably not the victim.

    Warm regards,
    Clay Collins
    Co-founder at LeadPages.net

    • Mitch McLaughlin

      Why are we comparing geographically defined ecosystems and startups? These terms are very ambiguous and totally situational. Live where your happy, appreciate the resources, do your job/build a great company, and optimize for the future.

      • http://www.marketingshow.com Clay Collins

        This is a great point and I agree.

      • http://www.marketingshow.com Clay Collins

        Your comment makes no sense. On one hand you write: “Why are we comparing geographically defined ecosystems and startups?” and then you go on to say compare the ecosystems of SF and MN. Nobody is arguing that the MN ecosystem is bigger than the CA ecosystem. @TECHdotMN:disqus it looks like your article really been reduced to a debate on which ecosystem is better, which is sad.

        Look, nobody is debating whether or not MN or SF or CA or any other ecosystem “needs to step up the game” (people in SF think that SF needs to step up their game). **Everybody** needs to step up their game…that’s the nature of growth.

        The article was about being the change you want to see, rather than playing the victim game or entitlement game. This article is about the story that entrepreneurs tell when their businesses succeed or fail. This article is about our collective narrative, not about whose stats are bigger. Nobody is debating stats on SF vs. MN here.

        • Mitch McLaughlin

          Sorry if you misunderstood, was not trying to compare SF & MN ecosystems. Agree with you no one is debating stats. Overall, I am saddened to hear you think this discussion has been ‘reduced’ to just ecosystems, its much more than that. For example, you shared the story about LeadPages which is great. I wouldn’t say this post is limited to just collective narratives as well. Who knows what discussion the next commenter might spark :)

    • John Brownlee

      Everybody should read and consider what Clay says about the role of VC in a startup from the interview in the Biz Journal this week. This has been my approach in both of my businesses, too. I’m not sure the vaunted “Valley” shares his view about the role of revenue (vs. “traction”, whatever that is) in a “fundable” business. Maybe Clay is just old fashioned. The point is, we have a great place to do “this stuff”. Quoting Here:

      MSPBJ: What advice would you give an entrepreneur who’s going through the process of raising money?

      CC: Build a company that doesn’t require capital and don’t invest a lot of time into the fundraising process. We’ve raised $38 million total and there hasn’t been a single pitch deck. We didn’t take part in any startup competitions. What we did was have an awesome slide that showed our revenue growth over time. That’s the most important slide. Everything else is just lipstick on a pig.

      • PATHETIC

        ME WANT TO BE ENTREPRENEUR U OWE ME

      • http://www.marketingshow.com Clay Collins

        Thanks for shoutout and the kind words, John.

    • http://minnovation.co Joe Serrano

      While you certainly can’t disagree with the message here, I have to admit I couldn’t stop chuckling reading this due to the “Rex Kwon Do” delivery.

  • Grady

    MN is a sleeping giant in terms of tech start ups. To create a great product, most people need input and advice for ideation and context, and there’s plenty of credible people who will help you in your pursuit of product and even early customers and partners. I moved back to MN after 15 years in SF and I can say that there are a lot of switched on people here with great start ups. You do have to separate the OK advice from the great advice and that’s on you. For those who do raise, iT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE THE VC MONEY COMES FROM! There are lots of advantages to MN, low cost of living, talent at a good price, and LOTS of start up minded people and entrepreneur-centric groups like Minne*, Tech.mn, CoCo, etc. MN has been provincial, but cultural changes of the city, distance productivity tools, and the evolution of channels to market (AWS, App Stores) mean that geographical barriers are less relevant. Yes, there isn’t an incubator here, but incubators have their downsides too. Pete had a bitter moment and unfortunately it got published for everyone to see. Jeff is pithy in his delivery but is making a good point that nobody owes you anything so work with what you got. My point is people here aren’t valuing what they already have at their finger tips, or maybe they don’t know what to look for.

  • http://chuckolsen.tumblr.com Chuckumentary

    Entrepreneurs are not created in a vacuum. Ecosystem matters. Access to capital matters. So does initiative, chutzpah, the quality of your idea and (yes) who you know.

    “There is a little bit more of a conservative mindset in Minnesota,” says Foundry VC Seth Levine in MN Business – and he’s absolutely right, especially around B2C startups. Funding for my VR startup has come from outside Minnesota so far, not for lack of trying.

    One pleasantly tweed-jacketed investor we met with said he thought our prototype was really swell, but he was happy with his old Windows phone and admitted to not understanding VR or video games at all. He also suggested someone with deep pockets like Sequoia might be able to fund such cutting edge stuff.

    It’s hard to imagine the Next Big Thing coming out of Minnesota with the lack of risk-taking around B2C innovation. That said, if you really believe in your idea, you will find other means to fund your dream.

    Minnesota has a *fantastic* startup ecosystem in many ways. Like Clay says, everyone helps everybody. The fact that I even have a VR startup is in large part due to our ecosystem: Tech.MN and the many savvy startup founders I’ve filmed, CoCo, minne*, the U of M VR Design Lab, Northern Spark, Art-a-Whirl, the VR & HCI user group, The Nerdery, Clockwork – the list is as long as my gratitude.

    Peter Kane has contributed a lot to our ecosystem, too. Despite a tone of expected entitlement in his piece (“Minnesota stood by and did nothing”–dramatic!) we can’t accuse him of waiting around for some kind of handout. If this is an alarm call for us all to do more – OK! Let’s do more.

    Take a look at accel.mn, take a look at glitch.mn, get ready for beta.mn and watch for some new MNstuff brewing. What can we do to bring more diverse entrepreneurs-to-be to these efforts? Let’s stop whining and start doing!

  • http://twitter.com/casey__allen Casey Allen

    The worst quality conversation occurs when “startup ecosystem” is talked about as one thing. Much better conversation occurs when it’s treated like a set of separate buckets.

    Here’s the TL;DR:

    Minnesota sucks at many verticals. It’s true. We lack DNA, talent, early investors in many areas which make it a tough place to launch and grow many startups. We are not unique. SVBA is likely the only region that does not suffer this.

    Real founders pick up and move if it increase their chances. They should be applauded, not bemoaned.

    If you’re a B2C, consider moving. If you’re a gaming company, consider moving. If you’re mediatech, consider moving. If you’re adtech, consider moving. This won’t change anytime soon.

    If you’re B2B, stay put. If you’re Enterprise, definitively stay put. If you’re Health IT (enterprise, not consumer facing), stay put. If you’re foodtech, consider staying put. If you’re in data science, consider staying put. If you’re edtech, consider staying put. If you happen to be sportstech, definitely stay put.

    I wish we had more of these conversations so that founders could avoid being frustrated and, heaven forbid, surprised that we don’t have the cash, risk tolerance, and talent in every vertical imaginable.

  • lumpy

    If you start a startup in MN most people will treat you like you’re a loser until you are successful. Then they will act like they were on your side the entire time. The pressure you get from everyone around you in MN, your parents, your friends, your girlfriend, to just give up and go work at Target corp instead of ‘fooling around’ … is immense. Failure is not seen as learning, it is seen as failure… you are a loser and we told you that in the first place.

    This post and subsequent comments actually seems to inadvertently support this culture. It seems to be saying, quit whining, just be successful already and then you’re ok. If your startup doesn’t work out, well then yes, you’re a loser.

    In contrast, the culture in the Bay Area is much different. It’s almost exactly the opposite. The message is more like, don’t be a loser and get a regular job, you can do it if you just hang in there. You can get funded for weird ideas and you are not expected to make money immediately. Sometimes these ideas fail but you are not made to feel like a failure. Sometimes they really take off. Just look at some of the stuff in the past couple years that seemed stupid that ended up being huge Twitch.tv , Instagram, Pinterest, etc . None of that would have ever been built in Minnesota. The atmosphere is strongly geared towards proven ideas with institutional customers that can bring in revenue immediately. If your startup is off the wall or even just not immediately revenue producing it’s better to be in the Bay Area. Maybe NYC, maybe somewhere weird like Berlin… but definitely NOT in Minnesota.

    • http://twitter.com/casey__allen Casey Allen

      Although true, it should be noted that these dynamics are no different than any other city / region. We are not an odd exception here. Nor is tech.

      Trying to compare any aspect of us to SFBA is always going to be a losing proposition. Always. No city or region is them, and trying to point out ways that we can adjust to be like them will aways be an unproductive conversation because it’s not a realistic goal.

      For the same reasons that Oakdale doesn’t aspire to be Hollywood or Hopkins doesn’t have hot debates on how to transform itself to be Wall Street.

  • http://paulprins.net Paul Prins

    A little late to the party here – didn’t expect the comments section blowing up like this. I just want to say one thing.

    There are a good number of days I wish founding/growing a business was easier. Regardless of that desire, everyday I still have to grow, change, adapt, and execute well. Correcting mistakes is hard, but at the end of the day there is no-one else to do it. Friends/Family don’t understand the late nights and long hours to get to market, or to push hard for the next big step. We are a bit insane, and we shouldn’t bemoan the fact that they don’t want to be us.

    The fantasy of tech startups is cash, fame, and easy success.
    The reality of tech startups is anxiety, second guessing, and a ton of hard work.

    I applaud those that become profitable or get high evaluations. I also can’t think of anyone from that camp who isn’t willing to help those of us living in the reality of a tech startup.

    • http://about.me/chuckumentary Chuckumentary

      Love this! So true. I’m fond of telling people i have the Worst Paying Job in America: Startup CEO. ;-)

      • http://about.me/chuckumentary Chuckumentary

        Weird, I was replying to a different comment. Anyway, just wanted to report that I have my first Minnesota angel investor. HUZZAH!

  • Al Baker

    My investors aren’t supporting me because someone said they should, they are supporting me because they both A) believe in our vision with the coinciding team/market behind it, and B) they are looking for a chance at a high ROI.

    I don’t remember any of them writing a check to be ‘supportive.’

    As a startup Co-founder and CEO who has raised over $350,000 in angel funding (excluding ‘funds’), I’d like to take that lens to agree with Jeff’s statements. I also realize that isn’t a large total number in funding, but some people had to work their asses off to get it, which must be respected.

    We’re here to make money, and hopefully, make people’s lives better too. I do this because I’m compelled to, not because the ecosystem is ‘supportive.’ That said, I appreciate investing my time into communities that give back to those who help each other. I have received countless hours of unpaid mentorship and guidance from people in Seattle, Nashville, New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. For that, I will continue to pay it forward because I enjoy it, not because I read an article telling me to.

    Thanks for writing this article, Jeff and creating a public space to discuss Minnesota technology and entrepreneurship.

    Sincerely,
    Al Baker
    Co-founder & CEO @ Reemo

  • David N Woodbury

    You can accept the status quo or you can do what you believe is right for your company. As startup founders we are all inherently opportunistic and overly optimistic. If you sense that greener pastures may exist and you are personally in a position to pursue them, you would be foolish not to. Having experienced startup ecosystems in markets like Seattle, Boulder, Atlanta, Memphis, Little Rock, NYC, Austin, San Francisco, Portland, Rapid City and Chicago, I can tell you that there are hands down easier markets to raise money and find qualified support to assist you in building a world class company.

    With that being said, if you are passionate in seeing the twin cities become an up and coming startup market in the U.S., the heading of the article “be the change you wish to see” is the only way to disrupt the status quo. But what does that mean?

    First we need to celebrate failure along with success. In Minnesota our culture does not embrace failure, our four state region ranks 2nd through 5th as the most fiscally conservative states in the country. That means most of us are first generation entrepreneurs who are taking a risk for the first time and we have no support system within our friends, family, or peers. This creates the silo effect. The silo effect basically is you building a company from ground 0 on up with zero assistance or feedback from trusted mentors or qualified entrepreneurs. When people ask you how your business is doing your answer is great, even though you have no fucking clue how you’re going to make payroll, your credit cards are maxed out, and if you don’t make a car payment next week the bank is going to repo your car. Because it is our human nature to want to be accepted and respected, most of us end up one and done and go back to taking that job at Target, Best Buy, or General Mills, and just like that life is back to “normal”. As entrepreneurs, we need to band together and support each other, and lets be fucking real. Failure is part of the game. Leave the hockey stick graph for your investor pitch.

    Second is funding. There are incredibly smart people all over this state. Having hired employees from all around the country, hands down the best and most loyal employees were always my Minnesota employees. Why aren’t more of us being encouraged to innovate and start companies through seed funding programs. There is plenty of money in the area, there are just not enough funds focused on seed stage investing. The money is organized into much more conservative investments. Almost every city in the U.S. has a tech accelerator, in fact world wide there are now over 4,000 accelerator programs. Why don’t we have a tech accelerator?

    Third is creating a market identity which we may already have regarding medical technology and potentially enterprise startups. In smaller markets with limited funding options and limited access to industry leading entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors, you need to focus in on a market segment that the geographical region is uniquely positioned to excel at.

    Today I run a marketplace tech startup. I previously started and ran a cause marketing platform that I was unsuccessful in scaling. Prior to that I started a traditional retail business which I was successful in growing into a multi million dollar business. I’ve operated in multiple states and been apart of multiple startup ecosystems. Take this for whatever its worth: If I was attempting to launch a tech startup outside of Med Tech or Enterprise I would weigh my options in building and launching in another market if I required seed funding. However, once I’d secured funding I would strongly consider operating out of Minnesota due to the quality of talent we have here in our backyard.

    • lumpy

      The reason MN tech employees are loyal is they know if they lose their job there’s a big chance their next job will be working retail at REI or Joe’s Sporting Goods.

      • David N Woodbury

        I am saying in general Minnesotans are a more loyal, committed, and hard working group of people. For whatever reason, it seems to be apart of our DNA. If you don’t believe me, try operating a business south of the mason dixon and compare stats.

        Lumpy, I am not sure where you get your stats but the following cities are included in the top 10 for best job markets of 2015: Fargo, Rochester, Sioux Falls, and Minneapolis. When you look at metropolitan job markets Minneapolis currently ranks number 1 in the nation.

        This also plays into why Minnesota is not the greatest startup market. Anytime you have an exceptional job market there is less motivation for people to take risks. As evidence the latest recession spawned the second great tech boom.

        • lumpy

          I worked at a startup in Atlanta and I could say the same things about everyone who worked there. I don’t think there’s that much special about people in Minnesota. Plus I don’t know what DNA that would be. There are a lot of different groups of people here and 50% of the metro are not originally from MN.

          • David N Woodbury

            There are good people everywhere and good startups attract the good people. We may be comparing apples and oranges. My experiences I suppose, deal more with front line employees of which I have noticed a distinct difference. I have found Minnesota has a great graphic arts talent pool as well. When speaking to actual technical talent, I have hired out of San Francisco, Seattle, or Ukraine. So if you are speaking purely to tech, I suppose I do not have the relevant experience with talent in MN to speak to it as I have chosen to go elsewhere.

  • sborsch

    Startups, be they angel, VC, self or even crowd funded, is one of the purest forms of merit I know. Great ideas and innovative products and services, coupled with teams, plans and scale, *never* cease to attract investment, regardless of where they’re located.

    On Minnov8 we’ve had the “What’s it going to take to grow the MN startup ecosystem?” discussion so many times and I’m sick of it. Because of Pete’s article, and this response from you Jeff (which, frankly, could have been ‘packaged’ in a nicer, more helpful way), we talked about it briefly yet ‘again’ on today’s podcast: http://mnv8.us/1TeHfSn

    The punchline to that discussion? All four of us agreed that the startup ecosystem existence that Pete, and those who are in the ‘fingers crossed’ crowd hope for, has already begun in MN. We also all agreed that the startup ecosystem’s momentum has been accelerating for AT LEAST THE LAST TEN YEARS. At Minnov8 we’ve covered MN innovation (including startups) since Feb of 2008 so we can easily see that acceleration and momentum.

    As evidence, if you were to *only* look at the handful of meetups in, say, 2008 compared to tech.mn’s directory, you’d have a “Holy Crap that’s grown!” moment. Then look at tech.mn’s articles on investment growth over the several years of this publication’s existence and you’d have another of those moments.

    I can feel and see that momentum. Its likely you can too. In fact, tech.mn and Minnov8 wouldn’t even be around had that momentum in the tech startup ecosystem not begun in the mid-2000s and a focus on tech innovation and startup not taken place.

    Look at the startups who made it happen including Code42, SmartThings, JAMF (and their newly inked deal with IBM…wow), Sport Ngin, and others. None of those startups came out of nowhere but rather crawled, scratched and clawed their way to their current level of success (and remember, Sport Ngin was an Eau Claire, WI startup that came to the Twin Cities). Somehow, some way, they did it in Minnesota.

    I’d argue that *everything* a startup needs is right here, right now, in MN and if it’s NOT here in MN, you can attract it here or go get it and bring it back.

    In the words of a serial entrepreneur friend of mine a couple of decades ago, a guy who has started up a half dozen companies and raised (and made) boatloads of money in MN, “Everything you need to be successful is out there waiting for you—investment; partnerships; advice; promotional help; whatever you need—but it won’t come knocking on your door. You have to go knocking on *their* doors so it’s 100% up to you!”

  • http://wheniwork.com/ Chad Halvorson

    Hi Everyone! I’m working today at a coffee shop in St. Paul trying to figure out the best way to optimize our upsell strategy over the next 5 months. I think it would be just as challenging to solve from a San Fransisco coffee shop.

    I’ll be working again tomorrow in St. Paul at http://www.claddaghcoffeecafe.com at around 1:30pm. I’m not interested in debating how supportive MSP is to entrepreneurs, but if you’re interested in a real discussion about your startup, I’d be happy to help if I can.

    Chad Halvorson
    CEO / Founder
    When I Work

    • http://www.LeadPages.net Clay Collins

      Oh hell yeah.

  • Bruce Lee

    Bruce Lee

  • http://thomasknoll.info/coaching thomasknoll

    I’ll begin by posting the same response I shared with Peter:

    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.

    And, I’ll add to that a thoughts for you Jeff:

    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

    Anyone want to join me?

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