Monday, January 09, 2006

InnoVenture's inevitable dilemma

Ok. InnoVenture has reached an inevitable point.

In 2004, many of us on the Executive Committee personally knew high-impact companies in the region and called on them to participate. Nine emerging companies presented at InnoVenture 2004. At InnoVenture 2005, we made a broader call for solicitations and had 15 emerging companies participate. Between 2004 and 2005, we had 50-60 companies apply with 23 companies actually selected to present. (For math majors out there, 9+15=24, but one company presented both years.) So in two years, we've been through the list of obvious companies to call an invite to participate.

Now it gets tougher. For InnoVenture 2006, we have had some strong companies apply to present, but we've been through the low hanging fruit we all know about and the numbers of companies applying to present are down considerably. Last week we called entrepreneurial organizations and professional service providers in Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Asheville, and Charlotte. We had press coverage in newspapers in Columbia, Greenville, and Asheville. And we sent out a Last Call to the Swamp Fox/InnoVenture email database of 8,000.

This means there is a great opportunity for an emerging company that wants to present at InnoVenture 2006. We need you to contact us ASAP, though, so we can get you in the selection and coaching schedule.

The lack of emerging, high-impact companies highlights that in the southeast we have not been planting a lot of seeds for the past few years, so we don't have a bumper crop of high-impact companies. If we want to create wealth that stays here, we need to be proactive about stimulating entrepreneurial activity that converts innovation capacity into wealth.

How do you think we stimulate more emerging, high-impact companies in the region?


Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council said...

Maybe this should be an open discussion or a panel at InnoVenture 2006.

Brainstorm with the audience on topics such as:
1. What is the local risk tolerance in local entrepreneurs and investors?
(All entrepreneurs don't come out of the womb as talk, dark and handsome. These young companies are going to have scabs and warts. Do the influential people in the region have the patience to work with these flawed young companies?)

2. Where have all of the young people gone? The time to be an entrepreneur is before starting a family as there is less to lose. But if the best and brightest always migrate to Charlotte, Raleigh and the national leader in BRAIN GAIN Atlanta, who is left to innovate? (Need better ideas on young adult retention!)

3. In Raleigh, the professional service providers lend their credbility to young entrepreneurs and setup early stage angel investor introductions. Is that happening in upstate and mountain regions?

4. What is the best way for the community to help young entrepreneurs get early exposure to a potential client base? Who is willing to open the door to larger clients (corporations) for the entrepreneurs? Who are the early adopters that can become that test client? (Crossing the Chasm)

5. With the growing retirement community in the region, is the infrastructure in place for a mentor program?

6. Did you know that 80% of the companies in the sexy Austin, TX region take up less than 1,000 sq ft? How do you get our local economic developers excited about emerging growth companies that are smaller in size?

7. Is there a "fire in the belly" of the young executives or are they content with the softer "quality of life" issues?

A Silver Fox said...

Innovation is about more than young people and as much about resources to cover the risk of a start-up.

It may be easier for young people to take that risk BUT Kaufmann stats indicate that the entrepreneurial urge is about 1/3 greater for each of the 34-44 and 44-54 age ranges compared to the 20-34 age range.

That suggests that the issue of risk tolerance needs to be there for both the entrepreneur and the investor.

While macro-economic indicators say that the economy is up, there is more personal debt and lower savings rate for individuals.

Taken together, the three factors (age urge, investor risk tolerance, entrepreneur risk tolerance) need to be considered as a whole rather than separately.

Most new business is spawned as a part-time activity while some other income producing activity is in hand.

The fix for Innoventure may be sessions for the "part-time" ideas. A goal might be to get the best of those entrepreneurial stories out there in order to get hooked up with income stream underwriters while the idea gets evolved. This is a much lower risk exposure on all sides. In the ancient world, this was the role of the "patron". In the private equity world, this is one such tactic used by some to get a plan against which a major $ initiative is launched in a ripe sector.

Anonymous said...

You may want to contact many of the community and technical colleges' business departments. Many colleges supposedly have or are starting entreprenurial (business start-up) curricula and programs. It might be good to try to develop a network with these college program directors to help recruit locally and then funnel the recruits towards Innoventure to take the next step up in their process of starting an entreprenurial venture. Kind of like high school football coaches directing their players to certain colleges.