Muriel Bowser

Cities and startups

Fred Wilson’s talk with The New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin during the recent Cities for Tomorrow 2015 conference about how cities can create startup hubs is a must-watch for mayors.

The overarching point is that the objective isn’t to build the next Silicon Valley, but rather to create an environment that serves as the foundation for entrepreneurship, technology and innovation.

According to Wilson, in order to cultivate a startup ecosystem, cities need to focus on four objectives:

  • Talent: “Talent exists everywhere, but there is more talent some places than elsewhere. You need technical talent in many cases if you want to create tech companies.” I’ll add that this is becoming increasingly easier as a distributed work environment is becoming easier and easier to manage.
  • Capital: “More than anything you need angel money. When I go to places like Buffalo or Cleveland or St. Louis or Des Moines or Detroit, what I say is ‘get the rich people in your city to take their money out of bonds and put them into startups.’ You’re not going to create the next generation of companies with all of your wealth people having their money in bonds, clipping coupons. … The most critical thing is angel capital.”
  • Cheerleading: “I do it. You know, a lot of people credit me for what happened here in New York, and I don’t think that I deserve a ton of credit, but one thing I’ve been from day one is I’ve been tooting our horn and cheerleading and talking and promoting and hyping what’s been going on here in New York. And, I’ve got to tell you, I think Mayor Bloomberg did a lot of that in the last six years. He, all of a sudden, started realizing there was a tech sector here, and he started cheerleading it. They created some policies that were favorable, but I don’t think that the policies had anything to do with, were anywhere near as powerful as the cheerleading.”
  • Experience: Ross Sorkin interrupted Wilson with a question related to cheerleading, and the questioning turned to other topics, so he didn’t have a chance to expound on this point.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently discussed this same issue on the a16z Podcast.

Related to cultivating technology hubs, Brad Feld has an excellent book on building startup communities that is a must-read for every mayor and city chief technology/information/innovation officer.

The changing relationship between tech and government

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/teammuriel/19565355230/">DC Mayor's Office</a>)

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (Photo: DC Mayor’s Office)

Silicon Valley venture capital firm a16z hosts an excellent discussion with current Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and former mayor Adrian Fenty on its a16z Podcast series.

The episode, “The Changing Relationship Between Tech and Government,” touches on how the sharing economy has pushed government to let go of top-down innovation and find ways to collaborate with these new ventures, as well as get proactive in cultivating an environment that supports local startup ecosystems.

Bowser shares her thoughts on how mayors can work with these new firms to better gauge the pulse of the residents and advises tech entrepreneurs to focus on the largely untapped market market of human services, such as affordable housing, health and wellbeing and homelessness.

The discussion also underscores the importance tech firms must give to the third of Steve Case’s “3 P’s“: policy.

Listen