I love entrepreneurship and I love living in Tampa Bay. I'm on a mission to marry the two.
It seems that entrepreneurship is still a mystery to many people. It's a toss of the dice or a "lucky hand". I think my friend Brent Britton (co-founder of Gazelle Lab) sums it up nicely when he says, "When entrepreneurs finish talking about their dreams, the very next thing about 99 percent of them go on to say is, “What do I do next?” They don’t know how to turn their good idea into a company. You would think "Entrepreneurship 101" would be part of the common knowledge by now, something everyone in the developed world just sort of grows up knowing how to do. But it’s not. To most people, getting from idea to company constitutes a complete mystery. Starting a company is a solved problem, but it seems to be one whose solution you either stumble upon by chance, or obtain from moving in the right circles and knowing the right people."
Part of the reason why we are opening CoCreativ Entrepreneurial Cafe is to create a space filled with people who "know how to do entrepreneurship", similar to many places in Silicon Valley, Boston and Austin where Entrepreneurship 101 is common place --- a place where you can elbow the guy next to you and get his advice on building a successful company because chances are he's probably done it more than once.
I would like to see our tolerance for failure improve. Other cities with strong entrepreneurial ecosystems have a high tolerance for failure. They almost encourage it. It's how you prove yourself as an entrepreneur. The bigger you've failed in the past, the more investors want to fund you. Imagine that. As Brent says, "Failure, especially fast failure is a valuable part of entrepreneurship."
Growing a startup in Tampa has it's advantages. Here's how Charles Armstrong (CEO of TourWrist) puts it, "Your startup can get noticed much faster in Tampa Bay than it can in Silicon Valley." It seems TB is building a successful track record of growing successful startups... companies such as Craigslist, Wikipedia, RentACoder (now Vworker) and Woofoo, as well as, non-tech ventures such as Hooters, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Melting Pot and many more.
Could TB be a great place to launch a company before it matures and is ready to relocate to a larger entrepreneurial hotspot? Could we put Tampa Bay’s name on the map as a birthplace for acquisition targets? Could TB become a "feeder pool" of innovation for the rest of the country? Could TB become the entrepreneurial womb of America?!?!
I think we are on track to find out.
Joseph Warren is a visionary entrepreneur, startup coach, speaker and evangelist for entrepreneurship.