By Norris Krueger
Photos Kimberlee Miller
Boise Startup Week (BSW) may be the most fun assortment of activities to help us to celebrate entrepreneurship in Idaho and to learn how we can get better at making Idaho more and more entrepreneurial. But it clearly was missing something. Which is….
Dodgeball! (I volunteered to throw wrenches…) Seriously, though, if you are trying to build the kind of innovative culture that Idaho could be, fun has to be front and center. More important, it’s about building a community. You can only learn so much without deep experiences and that requires emotional connections, not just learning “stuff.”
Economic development and civic officials can’t help but think in terms of institutions and power players, but the reality is that innovation and entrepreneurship only grow in networks, in communities. In its third year, BSW is a sign that community is becoming visible. See why this entrepreneurial champion is so excited!
BSW chair Nick Crabbs answered a few questions recently. I mentioned to Nick that big events basically never move the needle in growing entrepreneurship. Nick laughed and reminded me that BSW is really a motley collection of smaller events. They might be called “tracks” but it’s a set of smaller communities each led by the right people with the right skills and passion. Healthy entrepreneurial communities are a network of networks, BSW is exactly that.
“Students Are Our Secret Weapon” is my favorite mantra, so my favorite track is the “youth track.” Last year, BSW hosted around 450 college students from across Idaho who got to meet entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ventures of all kinds, even got to start job hunting. Nick blew me away with the news that not only are more college students coming, he’s adding more than 200 high school students from places like Meridian Technical Charter.
We talked about our favorite events from 2017 and the new voices. Nick especially liked Nathan Barry of ConvertKit (a globally-known venture that few in Boise know is here) and Collin Lodge, talking how Albertson’s acquired OpenTable for a measly $200 million. Eye-opening to be sure!
My own favorite was a fireside chat with two leaders of Techstars, the world’s premier network of accelerators. Techstars managing director is Boise’s own Mark Solon. The Techstars talk laid out where Boise and Idaho are as an entrepreneurial/innovation culture – progress, yes, but still a loooong way yet to go. But the genius of the national Startup Week model is that if you take part, you get the lessons. Why? You start to live the lessons!
So, what’s New for 2018? More reality checks: Hard realities and new opportunities. T-Sheets’ Matt Rissell talking about the pain of the journey; Ian Edwards of Blue Cross talking entrepreneurship and innovation through the lens of Blue Cross. And local uber-innovator Jeff Reynolds asking a new set of local founders about their “battle stories.” A lot of “don’t miss” events. Startup crawls will let us drop by a bunch of great innovators around town. Last year, I saw how lightbulbs went off in students’ brain as they realized that they too can be part of a more entrepreneurial Idaho. (And here’s to 2018 seeing many more students from across the state getting great jobs with great Idaho ventures!)
Check out the program at www.boisestartupweek.org, buy a ticket and join the fun. Join BSW in helping grow a more entrepreneurial Idaho!