Are We Doing All We Can to Help Local Entrepreneurs?
Tribridge wouldn't be where it is today without help from an angel investor 15 years ago. The startup capital we received enabled us to focus on solidifying our business plan, secure office space and other operational essentials, and hire our first team members.
In an attempt to help other entrepreneurs, I've been involved for years with local non-profits like Tampa Bay WaVE and the Tampa Bay Technology Forum that assist technology startups with getting access to the capital they need to take root in our community. What these and other organizations are trying to accomplish is no easy feat, despite the fact that we have so many talented entrepreneurs with great business ideas in the area.
The problem is that most major investors are risk averse to technology start ups outside of the traditional high-tech regions like Silicon Valley, Boston or even Austin. It's not uncommon for start ups in those hotbeds to receive millions in capital in the concept stage, while new businesses elsewhere don't get a second look after a pre-revenue analysis. I've seen many entrepreneurs struggle to secure a big customer or generate revenue before an investor will give them a chance.
The issue is not just here in Florida - I've had similar conversations with folks in Dallas, Chicago, Rochester and other areas around the country. I know I'm not alone when I say we need to do a better job of building the image of our local communities as thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems. We all want more innovation and job creation, and here's what I think we can do to attract more outside investors:
- Elected officials - lend your public support to the non-profit organizations and community groups that are focused on helping local technology start ups. Do what you can at the local and state level to strengthen our position as a high-tech, high-growth region.
- Big companies - give business to a local entrepreneur. Work on being a company's first customer or agree to test the beta version of a product. Technology start ups need your references.
- Local angel investors - remember what it was like when you were starting out. Consider mentoring other entrepreneurs and sharing your time and expertise.
If you have other ideas on how to help local technology start ups, I want to hear them. Please feel free to comment below.