Part of our October series on Jobs & The Economy, featuring written op-ed pieces and Q&As with Delaware’s business, labor and government leaders.
The Delaware Entrepreneurial Ecosystem has all the necessary parts to produce great results for the state, we just need to connect them.
Imagine a greenhouse with a box of seeds, a bucket of water, a bag of fertilizer and a bed of soil. Anyone looking at a the greenhouse from afar would say that the greenhouse should be a success. But put that same person in the center of the greenhouse, surrounded by these discrete items, and he or she would recognize that nothing will happen until these items are brought together.
The same is true for Delaware’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Delaware possesses all the components needed for converting ideas into jobs and growing new businesses in the state, we just need to focus on putting these pieces together to watch them bloom. And as we see time and time again, growing companies create strong roots in the community where they work, live, and play; resulting in great schools, communities and cultural activities.
Delaware has a tremendous advantage over other states in its size. In this small state, we have Nobel prize winners, amazing inventors, attorneys, venture capitalists, and more, all likely within two people of knowing each other. Being small means that it is easier to connect ideas to funding and guidance for success. We need to leverage Delaware’s “Two Degrees of Separation.”
Delaware needs to cultivate the “fear of failure” out of our ecosystem. For many generations, the best path was the safest path, go work for one of the big regional employers. The pay was good, the benefits great and job security strong. But no more. People need to be encouraged to take risks with their career, try new things and be willing to accept, if not celebrate failure-beacuse often times we learn a lot more from failures than success and learning is the fastest path to progress. DEDO, the banks and the community needs to encourage bright people to take the chances associated with being an entrepreneur. Every at bat won’t result in a home run. Let’s find ways to get people more at bats to ensure that they will get more hits.
The University of Delaware’s Venture Development Center is a great example of making sure the entrepreneurial greenhouse is working. Through the Lerner School of Business’ Entrepreneurial minor, students are learning how to be an entrepreneur, take risks and learn from fast failures. The center recently hosted Delaware’s first “Startup Weekend” where 50+ people assembled to turn ideas into viable businesses over a weekend. The event was attended by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and business and government leaders. This combination of people and ideas is a micro-example of what needs to be done on a broader level throughout the state.
All businesses, large or small, start with ideas. Innovation today doesn’t require the same capital infrastructure investment of our entrepreneurial predecessors. Computers have replaced factories as required startup assets. Places like the Delaware Technology Park provide life science organizations the tools they need to innovate. The pieces are already here. Delaware simply needs to focus on putting them together to turn these seeds of ideas into growing, job producing companies with strong roots in the state.
Lee Mikles has started two successful digital marketing agencies, employing over 100 combined people in the state. He is also heavily involved with the creation of the LOwer MArket (LOMA) design district in Wilmington. Lee is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Delaware, teaching Internet Marketing at the Alfred Lerner School of Business.