Understanding Community Entrepreneurship Building: A Two-Year Reflection on Tampa Bay 6/20

By Britton, Brent; Jackson, William et al. | Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Understanding Community Entrepreneurship Building: A Two-Year Reflection on Tampa Bay 6/20


Britton, Brent, Jackson, William, Morrow, John, Scaff, Marvin, Scott, Daniel James, White, Rebecca, Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship


The Entrepreneur's Perspective section of JBE will provide an opportunity for current practice to meet current thought, providing insight into what stimulates and drives successful ventures. We look to encourage and foster a free and constant exchange between entrepreneurs, the general public, and those researching and educating the next generation of entrepreneurs.

TWO YEARS

Two years have passed since the Tampa Bay region first dedicated itself to building a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem. Two years of narrowing a direction. Two years of focusing the community's efforts. Two years of advancements for our entrepreneurs.

We didn't start from scratch, mind you, it just felt like it.

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures said "geographies matter, because at the end of the day, building companies is about people, and you need a density of people - and capital - to create startup hubs."

Our geography has its plusses. Tampa Bay is top 20 in population and media rankings, we have more students enrolled in higher education within a 2 hour drive radius than half the states in the US, and our financial services cluster is referred to as "Wall Street South" - the largest in the state of Florida and 20th in the nation in terms of domestic employment.

Our geography also has its challenges. The Tampa Bay MSA is top 20 in population and media rankings, yet is home to less than 50 homegrown private companies with revenues in excess of $100MM and only a dozen homegrown public company headquarters.

And then there was the infighting.

"You can't do that, we already do that (or were planning to)."

"I already own the [fill in the blank] space."

"If you start something, you are now my competitor."

And then there were the problems. With students graduating and leaving. With limited access to capital. With information being owned and protected by just a few sources.

Things simply had to change.

CHANGE AGENTS

Brad Feld, of Foundry Group and author of Startup Communities, says that "building entrepreneurial community takes at least a half dozen entrepreneurs that are committed to provide leadership over 20 years."

Makes sense, assuming entrepreneurs are willing and able to dedicate themselves to this leadership with consistency. However, we wanted entrepreneurs to step up that have not only committed themselves to entrepreneurship by having started at least one company, but have also committed themselves to the future of the community by having demonstrated their dedication to supporting academia, as well.

The later is important because this discussion started at the universities, specifically in discussions between students at the University of Tampa and USF St. Petersburg. They said that felt excluded from conversations regarding the future of their community.

Fortunately for them, there were already entrepreneurs readily available via the entrepreneurship programs at these institutions, and they - we - took this as a call to action.

We started as six.

1. Rebecca White, Entrepreneur & Entrepreneurship Center Director at the University of Tampa

2. Daniel James Scott, Entrepreneur & Associate Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at USF St. Petersburg

3. Marvin Scaff, Entrepreneur, Technologist & Advisor for the Entrepreneurship Program at USF St. Petersburg

4. John Morrow, Entrepreneur & Entrepreneur-in-Residence for the Entrepreneurship Program at USF St. Petersburg

5. William Jackson, Entrepreneur & Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at USF St. Petersburg

6. Brent Britton, Entrepreneur, Technology Lawyer & Adjunct Professor for the Center for Entrepreneurship at USF Tampa

On 20 June 2012, we launched a community initiative called Tampa Bay 6/20 with the support of 13 regional support organizations. Tampa Bay 6/20 was named in part for Brad Feld's challenge and in part for the launch date. …

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