Startup Weekend Tampa: Ideate, Create, Build

Home to the finest example of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world, Silicon Valley routinely hosts visiting delegations from around the globe, eager to model its success.

So what's the deal? What makes them so successful and difficult to replicate?

The economic policy think tank, Milken Institute, writes, "(Silicon Valley's) unique ecosystem of collaborating agents has an unmatched ability to spawn entrepreneurial firms that create new products, services, and even entire industries, while sustaining major high-tech anchor firms that remain at the leading edge of innovation in their industries. The region's unrivaled absorptive capacity allows it to capture new internally generated knowledge, slowing the inevitable spillover to other regions, and convert it into economically viable entities better than any other location.''

Brent Britton, former dot-com era San Francisco attorney and Renaissance man (equal parts technologist, lawyer, steel) now with Gray Robinson in Tampa, goes deeper.

"Feeding Silicon Valley's success is the constant influx of startup kids and the pervasive availability of startup resources,'' Britton says. "Furthermore, there's less entrepreneurial friction combined with upward pressure; interwoven into the culture is the idea that new ideas are less risky. In fact, there is an admiration for reasonable failure -- and even more admiration for spectacular failure. Scarlet A's = Scarlet Awesomes."

That's not all, folks.  

Britton also describes some infrastructure specifics and a significant legal parameter that make the region uniquely difficult to replicate.

"There are two major universities, a diverse culture, the highest PhD quotient in the world and money -- and from a legal perspective, non-compete agreements are unenforceable. As long as you don't take a long list of trade secrets or IP with you, you can quit your job one afternoon and found a direct competitor before dinner.''

When asked whether Wufoo's departure from FL to CA is a "win or loss'' for Tampa Bay (see Tampa Bay Entrepreneur's Dilemma), Britton artfully offers a different perspective in part driven by the experiences of being a dad.

"When the best players are drafted to the Major Leagues, you wish them well and hope they are worthy emissaries of the place they used to play. I face it with my own kids. They'll likely choose to go somewhere else for school. My job then becomes: How fast can I get them back here?''

So Now What?

Well, how about a 54-hour business launch competition to birth some new companies?

Startup Weekend Tampa
will take place July 8th - 11th at Microsoft Corp., 5426 Bay Center Drive # 700, in Tampa. It promises to deliver an opportunity for those with an entrepreneurial bent to gather, ideate, build and pitch.

According to event co-producer, Kim Randall, good things will happen here, and the business community has stepped up to support this event in a big way. Prizes, mentorship, thought-leadership, and food and drink will be available to all who participate.

The national Startup Weekend organization claims that almost 2,500 companies have been founded and many of them have gone on to take investor funding and grow into big-time businesses.

It's no Panacea, but Tampa's Startup Weekend is another example of an important ingredient in the ecosystem.

Nathan Schwagler is a freelance journalist, creativity expert and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at USF St. Pete who will buy you a cup of coffee or a delicious pint if you promise to tell him something interesting -- on the record. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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